In 1940, before anyone was aware of the true extent of the crimes of the Nazi regime, Charlie Chaplin produced, wrote, directed, and starred in The Great Dictator, one of the greatest satirical films ever. The film was nominated for several Oscars (including best screenplay and best actor nods for Chaplin himself). And it was widely loved by American moviegoers and critics of the era.
In the film, Chaplin plays a lower class Jewish man who happens to bear a great resemblance to Hynkel, a bloodthirsty, despotic, politician with designs for world conquest. Through a series of events he replaces the dictator, as the country wages an extended and bloody war.
In the movie’s climactic scene, Chaplin gives a stirring anti-authoritarian, anti-war, anti-fascist oratory. Calling the army to embrace their humanity and imploring the people to live in a spirit of democracy and fraternity.
It would be anachronistic to think that all of what is said in this great speech is applicable to current struggles of the OWS movement. But if you give it a listen, I think you will agree not only that is one of the greatest soliloquies in the history of cinema, but also that Chaplin would have loved to see the OWS, which is after all a very real uprising against “machine men, with machine minds.”