Plot & Details
One of the most compelling strokes of fate in the past millenium is the fact that the 20th century's most hated dictator and most beloved film comedian were born within four days of each other in 1889. Although Adolf Hitler probably never gave Charlie Chaplin a second thought during his rise to power, Chaplin was obsessed with the notion that there was a larger and more profound meaning to the coincidence of his age proximity to Hitler--not to mention the fact that both men became famous by sporting postage-stamp moustaches. In 1939, Chaplin inaugurated production of his first 100% all-talking picture, in which he would abandon his familiar "Little Tramp" character in favor of two new screen alter-egos: A Jewish barber in the fictional European country of Tomania, and the barber's exact lookalike, the infamous dictator Adenoid Hynkel, aka "Der Phooey." Utilizing rare color behind the scenes footage discovered by Chaplin's daughter Victoria, and complemented with commentary from Charlie's coworkers, contemporary filmmakers and movie historians, this one-hour documentary detailed the making of The Great Dictator, Chaplin's devastating (and often devastatingly funny) satire of the Nazis. Among the many topics covered in the film is Hollywood's frightened reaction to Chaplin's daring move (at a time when appeasing rather than openly opposing Hitler was the order of the day), and Hitler's own reaction upon seeing the completed film himself. Assembled by the brilliant historian and silent-movie preservationist Kevin Brownlow, The Tramp and the Dictator represented a collaboration between Britain's Photoplay Productions and Germany's Spiegel TV. In America, the film was first broadcast on October 1, 2002, as the vanguard of a TCM cable network retrospective of Hitler-related films and cartoons, beginning with the new, digitally restored version of 1940's The Great Dictator.