THE TRAMP AND THE DICTATOR (2002) B/W & C 56m dirs: Kevin Brownlow, Michael Kloft
w/Stanley Kauffmann, Sydney Chaplin, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Bernard Vorhaus, Sidney Lumet, Al Hirschfeld, Ray Bradbury, Reinhard Spitzy,
narrated by Kenneth Branagh
From Now Playing: A Viewer's Guide to Turner Classic Movies: "The TCM original documentary The Tramp and the Dictator (2002), co-directed by Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, compares the parallel lives of Charlie Chaplin and Adolph Hitler. Born within four days of each other in April 1889, Chaplin and Hitler became, respectively, the most-loved and most-hated men of their time. The two lives intersected when Chaplin made The Great Dictator (1940), a satire of Hitler and his Nazi empire. 'Here was this huge artist standing up against this gargantuan monster,' film critic Stanley Kauffmann says in the documentary. Among others interviewed are Chaplin's son, Sydney Chaplin; politician/historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; film directors Bernard Vorhaus and Sidney Lumet; and caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who served as publicity artist for The Great Dictator. The documentary includes never-before-seen color film shot by Chaplin's brother, Sydney, during the making of The Great Dictator and recently discovered at the Chaplin villa in Switzerland."
From the San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 2002:
"Chaplin's genius, Hitler's madness
"Documentary captures collision of art, politics that led to 'The Great Dictator'
"By Edward Guthmann, Chronicle Staff Critic
"Chaplin and Hitler, probably the two most famous men of their era, had more in common than their slick, painter's-brush mustaches. They were born four days apart in April 1889, and each left his country of origin to make his mark in a world --- and in the process redefined it.
"So we learn in 'The Tramp and the Dictator,' a terrific documentary that focuses on the events leading up to 'The Great Dictator,' the Hitler spoof that Chaplin directed and starred in in 1940. Directed by British filmmaker Kevin Brownlow, who made the 1980 film 'Unknown Chaplin' and again demonstrates his impeccable scholarship, this is a rare look at the volatile intersection of art and politics. ...
"In 'The Great Dictator,' Chaplin played two roles: Adenoid Hynkel, the rigid, absurdly bombastic ruler of Tomaniam, and a Jewish barber who gets mistaken for the dictator. In the film's classic sequence, Hynkel silently tosses a helium-filled globe in the air, lightly kicks it and jumps atop his desk to catch it.
"Drunk with power and more than a little foolish, Hynkel was a pie in the face to a madman whom Hollywood and the rest of the world had come to fear. But when Chaplin announced his plans to make his courageous satire, a number of Jewish producers in Hollywood urged him to abandon it.
"'A lot of them went to him and said, "Look, Charlie, you're going to make things terribly hard for our people over there,"' remembered Chaplin's assistant Dan James in a 1983 interview. '"It's going to make Hitler furious."'
"Chaplin wavered, but with President Roosevelt's encouragement he went ahead with the film. He financed it entirely from his own pocket --- not a penny from the gutless studio heads.
"Brownlow sets a large canvas for 'The Tramp and the Dictator,' showing early photos of Hitler and family and demonstrating the context in which Hitler, a failed artist, became consumed by hatred of Jews. We learn that Hitler took acting lessons to sharpen his oratorical chops, and we see amateur films shot by Chaplin's brother, Sydney, during the making of 'The Great Dictator' --- and recently discovered at the Chaplin family villa in Switzerland.
"Even more valuable is newsreel footage of Chaplin arriving to a joyous reception in 1931 Berlin --- later included in the Nazis' 1940 propaganda 'Der Ewige Jude' (The Eternal Jew). Chaplin had already been demonized as a Jew and, in the Nazi book 'The Jews Are Looking at You,' he was described as 'a disgusting Jewish acrobat.'
"Chaplin's son, Sydney, a teenager on the set of 'The Great Dictator' and now 76, is interviewed, as is author Ray Bradbury. 'Courage isn't enough' when one is faced with totalitarian maniacs, Bradbury says. 'You have to be able to laugh in their face, throw back your head and say, "You don't count."'
"But in the documentary's creepiest interview, Reinhard Spitzy, a former SS officer and member of Hitler's inner circle, says Hitler would have been unfazed by 'The Great Dictator.' 'He wasn't a killjoy,' Spitzy contends, probably altering the truth through the selective lens of memory. 'Within the inner circle he could definitely laugh at jokes like these.'"