Charlie Chaplin was a comic, actor and filmmaker born in the late 1800’s. He became a worldwide icon in film and he died in 1977. In one of his films “The Great Dictator” a 1940 film about fascist dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini.
Chaplin’s film advanced a growing condemnation of Adolf H,itler, Benito Mussolini, fascism and antisemitism. When it was first released, the United States was still formally at peace with Germany and neutral during what were the early days of World War II. The most interesting part about the film is that Chaplin plays both leading roles in it! A ruthless fascist dictator as well as a persecuted Jewish barber.
The Great Dictator was very popular upon release, becoming Chaplin’s most commercially successful film in his career. Modern critics have praised it as a historically significant film, one of the greatest comedy films ever made and an important work of satire for various reasons.
The film criticizes fascism as well as fascist leaders and questions the legitimacy of this archaic way of living under a Government regime.
Chaplin’s climactic speech in the film has frequently been listed by critics, historians and film buffs alike as perhaps the greatest speech in film history. Once I saw it, I’d have to agree. They also say that its quite possibly the most poignant recorded speech of the 20th century. In 1997, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The Great Dictator was nominated for five Academy Awards – Including Outstanding Production, Best Actor, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Supporting Actor for Jack Oakie, and Best Music (Original Score).
Here is that infamous speech made by the legendary Charlie Chaplin..
I don’t want to be an emperor, that’s not my business.
I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I shall like to help everyone if possible.
Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another.
Human beings are like that.
We want to live by each others happiness, not by each others misery.
We don’t want to hate and despise one another.
In this world there’s room for everyone.
And the good earth is rich, and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful.
But we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls. Has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.
We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.
Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind.
We think too much and feel too little.
More than machinery we need humanity.
More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.
Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together.
The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all.
Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.
The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish…
Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts!
You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural!
Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness!
You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security.
By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power.
But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.
Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
Crowd Cheers “yaaaah!!!!”
Before the rise of fascism in western countries (which is what we’re seeing now, if you’re unaware) this speech gave me chills. Goosebumps down my spine. I listened to it again today and it still gives me chills. His words are truer today and need to be heard and played from the rooftops. People need to wake up to their rights, their liberty, their birthright. We are human beings, we are not machines, we are not cattle.
We have the love of humanity in our hearts, and that message is worth remembering.