The Great Dictator



I’m sure I have mentioned this somewhere before, but I actually inherited this blog from a friend who was no longer able to give the time to writing posts. One of the things he did write about though was the rousing speech at the end of “The Great Dictator”, the classic Charlie Chaplin film from the 1940′s.

The common assertion on the Internet is that Chaplin’s speech still holds a great deal of relevance in today’s world, and while I can certainly agree on that opinion it’s not the sole reason I am writing this post. It’s because it occurred to me that although I had seen the finale of the film several times (most notably on Youtube), I have never actually seen the whole of the film before.

Until yesterday.

With thanks to Youtube user “Faux Toez” who originally uploaded the file I watched, I finally sat down and saw the “The Great Dictator” last night. I have to say for a film that is nearly three quarters of a century old it made me laugh. A lot. Chaplin’s comic timing was just superb. Most notably in the scene as the barber, shaving a customer with perfect timing to the classical piece of music playing on the radio. Also as the dictator of Tomania, Adenoid Hynkel, dancing in the privacy of his office with an inflatable globe.

And as for that speech? In a strange way the shift at the end of the film from humour to seriousness makes it all the more powerful.

Don’t ask me why..It just does.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor, that’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, Gentile, Black man and White. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another.

In this world there is 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 will 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 and 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 as cattle, 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 seventeenth chapter of Saint 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 you the future and old age and security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their 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!”


Charlie Chaplin from the end of film The Great... Charlie Chaplin (1889 – 1977)