Maybe it's a reaction to all the political news being made lately, but yesterday and today I've been thinking about the final scene of The Great Dictator. Charlie Chaplin made the film, his first full talkie, in 1940. Alarmed and offended by Hitler's totalitarian conquest of Europe, and keenly aware of the physical similarities between the Fuhrer and his iconic Little Tramp character, Chaplin glued on his little black mustache one last time and wrote, directed, and starred in this ballsy and still-scathing satire of the Third Reich. It has never achieved the critical acclaim of Chaplin's silent masterpieces, and maybe it's not quite that good . . . but that last scene is as good as anything Chaplin ever did before or after. Most critics of the film complain that this final monologue doesn't fit with what comes before, that such a serious and sincere speech has an odd ring at the end of a farcical satire. I can't help but admire it, though, and wish we had more people around today giving speeches like this, and willing to take action to back it up.
Here's the setup: Chaplin's character, a naive Jewish barber, has been mistaken for the brutal-but-incompetent dictator of the country of Tomania, Adenoid Hynkel. Surrounded by Hynkel's thugs, placed in front of microphones that will carry his voice all across the country, the Barber refuses to carry on the charade, and instead delivers this speech. It's not an acting performance; it's Charlie Chaplin dropping every pretense and speaking directly to the audience. Watch: