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Cinema: Scripteaser

3 minute read

At the Charles Chaplin Studios in Los Angeles, Calif. this week, shooting will begin on the most-discussed, most-feared-for, most-looked-for picture of 1940. The Great Dictator, written, produced, directed and acted by Charles Spencer Chaplin.* Among the speculators on what slue-footed little Charlie will do to Adolf Hitler, notably liberal British Cartoonist David Low, few knew that The Great Dictator’s provisional script has been lying in the U. S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress Annex in Washington since Nov. 16, 1938. U. S. Copyright #60332 is “A Dramatic Composition, In Five Acts And An Epilogue, entitled ‘The Dictator,’ by Charles Spencer Chaplin.” Subtitle: “A story of a little fish in a shark infested ocean.”

If Mr. Chaplin sticks to his script (he usually gets plenty of ideas on the set), The Great Dictator will open on a European battlefront in 1912, with Charlie shouldering arms for Ptomania (variant: Bacteria) against the “Alliars.” After a series of Chaplinesque trench experiences, Charlie returns home to Ptomania’s capital Ptom, soon finds everything being run by a little cock-of-the-walk named Hinkle. When “Furor” Hinkle appears, all cry Hail and even dachshunds must raise their legs. Hinkle’s sidekick is Dictator Mussemup of Ostrich, an egomaniac who stops traffic when he wants to tell a dirty joke.

A rebel against this regime, Charlie is shipped to a concentration camp, from which he escapes in stormtroopers’ uniform, is mistaken for the Furor. With the real Furor imprisoned as an impostor, masquerading Charlie is involved by his air minister, Herring, in an aggressive campaign to humble the neighboring State of Vanilla. It is to the people of Vanilla, soon humbled, that old Pantymimist Chaplin makes his first big speech: “I don’t want to conquer anybody. I want to do good by everybody. Because—because this is a big world, and there’s plenty of room for all of us in it. Yes. Even for dictators. Even for Hinkle! Hinkle. He wants to do right. He’s just full of hate and bitterness, that’s all. . . .”

That is all. With Vanillan cheers and happy song echoing in his ears, Charlie wakes up back in concentration camp, a stormtrooper glowering down at him. Charlie smiles and the stormtrooper starts to smile back. Then his lips freeze and he bellows Charlie Chaplin’s curtain line: “Get up, Jew! Where the hell do you think you are?”

*With Paulette Goddard and villainous Henry Daniell in supporting roles.

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