It’s been remarked on by more than a few people that there was a passing resemblance between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler, particularly brought on by the mustaches. Among the people who remarked on it was Alexander Korda, a filmmaker and a friend of Chaplin’s. Chaplin decided to use the resemblance to create a film to satirize Hitler and Nazi Germany, and The Great Dictator was the result.
Chaplin wrote and directed the film, as was his usual process, and starred in the film. In this case, this meant playing two roles; one role as Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania, and the other as an unnamed Jewish barber who, after an injury during the first World War, spends years in the hospital before recovering and returning to his Tomanian home town. The barber bears some resemblance to Chaplin’s famous Tramp character, particularly in light of the fact that he’s a more innocent character than most of the people around him. But where the Tramp was simply a goodhearted naif, the barber’s innocence is more due to his long illness; he simply hasn’t been around to see what has happened to his home in his absence. Continue reading →
It’s amazing how some personalities from older movies and short films are still so recognizable today. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are still easy to identify even for younger generations, even if many of those same people have never watched an actual Laurel and Hardy film. The thin man and the fat man have become almost an archetype of comedy pairings, and it’s largely due to the characters that these two actors portrayed themselves as (with Abbott and Costello also contributing to the image, in a less exaggerated form.)
I saw Babes in Toyland a few years ago, and while I enjoyed it, I could tell it wasn’t quite the archetypal Laurel and Hardy film. The Flying Deuces may come after their best-known run under producer Hal Roach — it’s directed by A. Edward Sutherland and produced by Boris Morros — but this 1939 film feels a lot more like what my generation has been told to expect from Stan and Ollie. It’s a silly, light-hearted film with a simple plot and a lot of funny gags. Continue reading →