The Great Dictator

I spent the morning grading papers, and I gave a lecture for two hours before returning home.  I looked over my videos on my shelf.  I had “Umberto D,” which I haven’t seen in years, but it seemed too downbeat for me to watch on this night.  I watched “The Great Dictator” again, but on Blu-ray.  I thought the film looked sharper than in previous DVD editions.  One thing I noticed this time was the sweat stains on Charlie’s shirt during his speech at the end.  The movie feels a little bit too long at 125 minutes, but I was still impressed with all of the ideas in it.  I wonder how much effort it took to film the Brahms barber sequence.  I noticed that the customer still had shaving cream on his face.  Charlie still seemed agile when he jumped into the trunk.  In the past, I always laughed at the joke about carrying weight in reference to Madam Napoli.  I thought about the scene with the globe and thought that if it had been made today, the balloon could look more like a real globe, or what would be worse, it could be a CGI globe.  It must have taken a lot of takes to get everything just right.  It looked like part of it was run in reverse.  I didn’t think that Paulette Goddard was any kind of a great actress, and so I wasn’t shocked that she wasn’t cast in “Gone with the Wind.”  I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t deliver her laundry before she opened her mouth.  If this movie were anywhere close to reality, Hannah would have been dragged out of the ghetto very early in the story.  How much money could someone make as a barber in that setting?  I wondered how the people were able to survive from day to day, much less escape to another country.  I always wondered what happened to the barber, Hynkel, and Garbitsch after the speech.  I thought Garbitsch would find a way to take over.  Garbitsch reminded me of a Marx brother who was not funny.  I thought about some of the similarities and differences with “Modern Times.”  Paulette Goddard is not as youthful in this film, but it seemed she could still have been reined in a bit.  At the end of “Modern Times,” the principals walk towards the sunset together.  In this one, they are separated, but Hannah can listen by radio.  I remember moments of joy in “Modern Times.”  In “The Great Dictator,” the barber and Hannah are taking a walk down the streets when one of Hynkel’s nasty speeches comes on the air.  With all the people in the neighborhood looking in on them, I thought back to the part in “The Godfather” where Michael Corleone courts the girl he eventually marries.  Would this have been a great movie in color?  I think it would have been quite good, yes.  Chaplin had moved from silent films quite well, although in some respects he was being conservative with “The Great Dictator,” sticking with some familiar ideas for scenes.  I thought that Chaplin was still a top level film director with “The Great Dictator” and “Monsieur Verdoux.”  This was 1940.  Chaplin was much more productive during the previous 27 years than he would be during the last 27 years of his directing career.  I still have a lot of affection for “Limelight,” “A King in New York,” and “A Countess From Hong Kong,” but it felt like Charlie’s energy had dissipated.  I think that Chaplin’s films will always mean a lot to me.  I’ve been watching them for more than thirty years now.  Some of the people who died on May 11 include Juan Gris (1927), Lester Flatt (1979), Bob Marley (1981), Douglas Adams (2001), and Noel Redding (2003).  Today is a birthday for Mike Lupica (64) and Eric Burdon (75).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 11, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” premiered in the West End at the New London Theatre in 1981.  In 1984, “Firestarter,” starring Drew Barrymore and based on a Stephen King novel, was released.  In 1985, Madonna’s single “Crazy for You” reached Number One on the charts.  In 2001, Suzanne Pleshette married Tom Poston.

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