Archive for September 6, 2022

Herring and Hawing

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 6, 2022 by dcairns

Back to THE GREAT DICTATOR.

Hynkel furiously tearing a strip out of Herring is funny. Tearing off his medals, later on, will be funnier still. Though Billy Gilbert’s Herring does not much resemble the real Goering in character, (he’s more like HIS GIRL FRIDAY’s Joe Pettibone) other than being a fat man, Goering loved his medals. Hitler knew this, and would invent special medals just to be able to reward Goering with them. Curiously, Hitler does not seem to have despised Goering for this pathetic love of meaningless ornaments, and still expected his Luftwaffe to win the war against Britain. Fortunately for us, Goering’s strategic thinking was outmoded, fixed by his experiences as a fighter ace in WWI.

Goering’s habit of dressing in green tights and makeup when at his hunting estate, a kind of Tyrolean Robin Hood drag (think Burt Lancaster in THE FLAME AND THE ARROW, but with the body of Billy Gilbert) is not reproduced here, for which we can be thankful.

Standard politician joke — Hynkel is given a baby to kiss (Monty Python Hitler joke: “Well I gave him my baby to kiss and he bit it on the head.”) and finds it unexpectedly moist. A gag Chaplin has reliably mined since I think at least EASY STREET. Beautifully played, though — we get the joke merely by the frozen position of his hand when he’s relieved of the baby (after it has relieved itself).

Then more model shots: entrusting gags to the SFX department requires faith and close oversight, but these are pretty safe: statues of the Venus de Milo and the Thinker zieg heiling. The Thinker would be even more admirable if it were simply allowed to pass by in the background, but Chaplin carefully cuts to a closer view (same footage used as rear projection plate, now presented as a shot in its own right) to make sure we notice.

Garbitsch, seen here as the brains of the outfit, encourages Hynkel to instigate more antisemitic violence, and Chaplin’s mention of the word “ghetto” motivates a cut to said place — quaintly provided with its own decorative sign.

MORE SOON