The Great Dictator (United Artists) (1940)

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The immortal Knight of the Baggy Pants, world’s most famous character, alters no whit from generation to generation of moviegoers and delicious manner of lashing thwarting of a. suicide at a river’s out at dictators. His stake in it, edge in “City Lights”; or the therefore, is great—greater than faun-like routine with a pair of in any picture he has ever made, monkey-wrenches when he went That he has faith in “The Great pleasantly berserk in “Modern Dictator” to bring him an ade- Times.” quate return at the box-office goes It is the same inimitable faculty without saying. But the fact re- and facility which, in the last mains, nevertheless, that he is analysis, is the essence of the backing it to the fullest with his humor of Chaplin and the fun of own money, more money than he “The Great Dictator.” has ever invested—a sum around Chaplin’s genius for satire that two and a half million dollars! is first and foremost uproariously For this picture Chaplin aban- funny is shown to superlative ad- donecl the painted backdrop and vantage in a scene in which, as the flat two-dimensional perspec- Hynkel, he does a sort of ritual tives of his earlier pictures. He dance around a terrestrial globe. His expressions, as he regards first one and then another coun- Hggp*. try on the globe, go from the ra¬ pacious to the sublime, running Hk < '' a full gamut in between; and the WUL. jj jjp — movements of his body, of course, Hill v v are perfectly attuned. 1HL Chaplin the expert—the expert A mechanic in “Modern Times,” the ' jk expert prizefighter in “City 9HEw jk Lights”—is the expert barber in ; ' ||m “The Great Dictator.” He has Jr ^ JHflk mastered the motions of barber- jflf|l p m Bm mg to super-perfection, and thus li||| wrings comedy from it. In one side-splitting sequence he lathers Chester Conklin to the music of, M and in perfect time to, “The Ilun- HjHjppi M garian Rhapsody.” -/He Of his ballroom dance, at a re- 1® t.option, with the overweight Ma- nHHHEp \ ^ m dame Napaloni, little is known beyond the fact that the action $§& had to he -topped time and again HV because the rest of the cast ruined takes with their laughter. "Modern Times”, Charlie’s most recent picture before "The Great Dictator”, satirized the mechan¬ ization of industry has been to make people laugh! In a sense, “The Great Dicta¬ tor” represents the exercising by Chaplin of his fullest preroga¬ tive: the deliverance of a hearty, side-splitting, uproarious, lusty belly-laugh at dictators. It repre¬ sents a culmination of his ac¬ quired wisdom and his matured comic genius. The fool dared laugh at Kings. Chaplin not only dares—but enjoys—a bellow at the arch-villains of the day. Chaplin talks! The phrase is something to conjure with. In the last ten years, more has been written about the question of whgher Chaplin would ever speak in phi ms than about seeihingly weightier problems. That discus¬ sion about this point has been world-wide and profound should occasion no surprise. Chaplin is a world-figure, and people take their fun seriously. ^jp'om Charlie’s own viewpoint, the decision to talk created more problems than the mere physical one of adding sound equipment to his studios. To start, he was faced with the problem of giving voice to the little tramp, the most self- Charlie plays a dual role in the film—he is both a little Jewish barber, and Hynkel, the feared dictator of Tomania. For the characterization of the barber (the familiar little tramp in a thin disguise) Chaplin has kept dialogue at a minimum, monosyllabic, in keeping with the character. As Hynkel, the dicta¬ tor, he speaks in a rich and comic guttural, a few phrases of English In Carmen (above) Charlie burlesqued the he¬ roic bombast of grand opera, and in "The Hank” (right) he paid his respects to the "idle rich” flh "The Great Dictator” Cnarlie Chaplin, continuing^his long tradition of laughing at the world’s foibles and phoneys, turns his attention to a not-too-mythical character railed Hynkyl Does "The Great Dictator” sound a new note in Charlie’s devastating comedy? Chaplin laughs at the idea ...and here’s why! IN A WORLD of flux and in- 1 stability, there is something more than moderately reassuring in the inexhaustible popularity of Charlie Chaplin. Modes of living may change, monarchies and gov¬ ernments crumble, moral values be revised, but Charlie Chaplin— the universal little guy in the baggy trousers and the trick shoes —goes on, ageless, timeless. Chaplin made his first film in 1913. Since then there have been two major wars, a half dozen minor ones, and a host of changes, spiritual and material. But none of these has affected either Chap- The amazing thing about Chap¬ lin is his adaptability. Chaplin was a pioneer in motion pictures, and today he is still a pioneer. Almost more amazing than this is the fact that he has accomplished this feat without basically chang¬ ing his theory or practice of humor one whit in the passing jears. The Chaplin conception of humor is as basic as the concep¬ tion of humor itself. It need not and could not be changed. Critics have claimed that in “The Great Dictator,” his new picture (his first in four years) Chaplin has changed his style, his constructed some of the most lav¬ ish and elaborate sets ever seen in a motion picture, props even more ingenious and expensive than those which were featured in “Modern Times.” One cannon, for example, built for the war scenes, is 100 feet long, and its construction cost was $15,000. Chaplin’s funny and biting por¬ trait of the dictator Hynkel haranguing a microphone, is al¬ ready well known through photo¬ graphs which have been printed m magazines and newspapers. Needless to say, the humor is ten¬ fold heightened in the picture it¬ self, with the added benefits of motion and Chaplin’s nonsense gutturals. “The Great Dictator” is Chap¬ lin’s first picture in four years. And it is definitely not his last. But it may very well prove to be his masterpiece. Above, "Easy Street,” Chaplin’s epic of the life of a cop on a tough heat. Left, a giddy moment from "The Rink” “City Lights” he satirized the mo¬ rality of a metropolis; in “Modern Times” he satirized industry. In “The Great Dictator” he satirizes dictators. And he is as funny, in the process, as he ever was in the most politically in¬ nocuous of his short comedies! Charlie has been, and remains, court jester to the empirical fol¬ lies of his age. Clad in baggy pants and funny shoes in place sufficient p£ of the traditional cap and bells, modern woi Chaplin has been no less a clown Up until ncu to the world than the ancient fool been confer was to his personal monarch. Like been more the jester he has dared to mock versal expri and ridicule his master; like the of pantomin jester his nonsense has often been of the gibbe wisdom; like the jester he has “Modern Ti hidden a caustic, intelligent mind had never 1 beneath his clown’s motley. And the screen. ’ like the jester his principal duty ther complic Europe which is a good deal more truth than poetry. In Ring Num¬ ber Three there is the finest sup¬ porting cast he has ever assem- interspersed with nonsense-sound bled for one of his pictures: Paul- that derives as much from Lewis ette Goddard, Reginald Gardiner, Carroll as it does from modern Henry Daniell, Eddie Gribbon, double-talk. Hank Mann, Carter de Haven and “The Great Dictator” has been the irrepressible Signor Jack referred to as a three-ring circus. Oakie, putting the spurs to a In Ring Number One there is character named Napaloni, rival Chaplin the little tramp, the wist- dictator to Hynkel. ful and unpredictable zany. In Among other things, “The Ring Number Two there is Chap- Great Dictator” is Chaplin’s per- lin the Dictator, a comic synthesis sonal contribution to the cause of the madmen who control of democracy. It is his own special There is a single camera truck shot in which the camera travels 425 feet—the longest such gambit ever recorded on the screen. These are merely examples. The same thoroughness and generous dis¬ play prevailed for the whole of the picture. But, despite everything, the es¬ sential genius of Charlie Chap¬ lin’s humor is centralized in his complete and absolute mastery of the art of pantomime. His famous Oceana Roll in “The Gold Rush” will never be forgotten; nor will such masterpieces as his poetic lin or his adulating audience all over the world. The reason is sim¬ ple; whatever else has changed, the basis of humor has remained constant. Chaplin has been called a genius, and maybe he is—he hasn’t taken the trouble to deny the charge—but more important than that, he is funny—devastat- ingly funny. He is as funny now as he was twenty-seven years ago, and as funny as his pictures will be one hundred and twenty seven years from now. approach. Chaplin, they claim, has now become a satirist. Chap¬ lin himself laughs at this apprais¬ al. His style, his approach, has always been confined to one thing —making people laugh. It still is. As for the charge that he has be¬ come a satirist, what else has he ever been? In “The Rink” he satirized fancy skaters; in “The Rounders” he satirized playboys; in “Easy Street” he satirized the police; in “Shoulder Arms” he satirized war and soldiers; in "The Pilgrim” was one of Chaplin’s early full-length comedies — and one of his funniest Chaplin is news-bigger news than anything that has happened in the entertainment world in a long time! Here's a full-page story on Chaplin that carries enormous charm and appeal, tremendous punch and will find a universal response in the hearts of newspaper readers of all ages. Your local newspaper will welcome it; see that it is run in advance of your showing! Order the 8-column Mat direct from United Artists Exploi¬ tation Dept., 729-7th Ave., New York. Price, $1.20.