I first saw The Great Dictator when I was writing a grad school research paper. I’d read contemporary articles about the film and its reception, and always saw it on “top comedies” lists, but never watched it til I finally bought the Criterion Collection version.
I’m one of those people who love to watch the “making of” documentaries and the little extras discs.
Anyhoo, just about every resource I consulted had something to say about the ending, which had Charlie Chaplin break character–and the fourth wall–and give a speech that came straight from him, a message to the world.
In the time since, it’s been considered a fantastic speech, an amazing ending (considering what happened since the film wrapped production in 1940). But at the time, it got mixed feelings and some panned it as corny.
Well, either way, I won’t spoil it for you–you can look it up, but I recommend watching the whole film first before getting to this point.
The speech on its own is great, but I wonder if there was a better way to end the movie. There was a famous deleted scene where the troops were all supposed to throw down their arms and get in a folk dance (you can probably find that footage, too, taken by Sydney, Charlie’s brother). Well, that’s not what we know now.
Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to end the film, though part of me feels like because of all that came before it, it feels a little awkward and out of place. I love the speech, and as someone who spent years researching Nazi Germany and similar topics for my degree, I think it’s a great moment–in cinema and the 20th century. A heart-felt plea for common sense and decency.
I loved it–I just wonder about it’s place in the film.
Though I’ll still watch it dozens more times, of course.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen The Great Dictator, I recommend you do, and then you’ll probably see what I’m talking about (or maybe you’ll have a totally different take on it).
Either way, this one’s been making me wonder, because I really can’t think of a better way to end the film.