Charlie Chaplin's call for peace in the final speech of The Great Dictator is regrettably as relevant today as it was in 1940.
Charlie Chaplin, born in London on Apr 16, 1889, reportedly spent months drafting and re-drafting the final speech for his 1940 movie, The Great Dictator. The result was a rousing call to peace during World War II, which is as relevant today as it was then.
Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film, in fact, "The Great Dictator" was his first movie with sound. His career spanned more than 75 years, from childhood in the Victorian era until a year before his death in 1977.
Chaplin's childhood in London was one of poverty and hardship. His father was absent and his mother struggled financially - he was sent to a workhouse twice before age nine. When he was 14, his mother was committed to a mental asylum. Chaplin began performing at an early age, touring music halls and later working as a stage actor and comedian. By 1918, he was one of the world's best-known figures.
In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists, which gave him complete control over his films. His first feature-length film was The Kid (1921), followed by A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), and The Circus (1928). He initially refused to move to sound films in the 1930s, instead producing City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936) without dialogue. His first sound film was The Great Dictator (1940), which satirized Adolf Hitler.
Back to the speech. The final speech (below) comes from Chaplin's first movie with dialogue in which Chaplin plays both a Jewish barber living in the ghetto and Hynkel, the dictator ruler of Tomainia.
The final speech from The Great Dictator, by Charlie Chaplin:
"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 - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We 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 airplane 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 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 - 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 like cattle, use you 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 17th Chapter of St 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 youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that 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!"
What do you think of the speech? Do you think it remains relevant today? Let us know in the comments section below.