Doctrinal schemes weren’t able to harness Chaplin, just like many other great people. His mother was a member of the Church of England and he listened to first sermons in this church while looking at watch every now and then. A father didn’t have a big impact on him, he saw him only few times in his life. His ancestors were Huguenots so he could have something from the Protestant but he was often taken for crypto-Jew especially when he took theirs side during the Holocaust.
Chaplin popularized short mustache at the beginning of XXth century and then Hitler had it. The character created by Chaplin in a bowler and too big pants started living with his own life. He found it on his cost when he stood to the competition for his lookalike in San Francisco and lost it, without even being classified to final. He actually died from natural causes not really long time ago, age 88 in his home in Switzerland in the presence of his seven children. His corpse was stolen from the grave and the thief demanded $400,000 of ransom as someone thought that the movie is still on.
There’s no possibility of not knowing the speech that Charlie Chaplin – the master of the silent cinema – gave in the movie “The Great Dictator” created in the 1940. He stood in a Nazi uniform as the leader of the Reich, politely bowed before the general officer hailing to him and gave the speech. Its message is – just like Christ’s – timeless. The movie – shoot in the hottest moment of the history – laughs at the core of this heat. “The Great Dictator” was banned in The Great Britain because of the policy of appeasement directed at Nazi Germany and showing it in many countries of Europe could lead by going to jail.
This is what Chaplin wrote about his understanding of the figure of Christ. This fragment is a good introduction to watch the speech of Charlie Hitler Chaplin in the movie “The Great Dictator” that I’ll put below.
I remember an evening in our one room in the basement at Oakley Street. I lay in bed recovering from a fever. Sydney had gone out to night school and Mother and I were alone. It was late afternoon, and she sat with her back to the window reading, acing and explaining in her inimitable way the New Testament and Christ’s love and pity for the poor and for little children. Perhaps her emotion was due to my illness, but she gave the most luminous and appealing interpretation of Christ that I have ever heard or seen. She spoke of His tolerant understanding; of the woman who had sinned and who was to be stoned by the mob, and of His words to them: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The read until dusk, stopping only to light the lamp, then told of the faith that Jesus inspired in the sick, that they had only to touch the hem of His garment to be healed.
She told of the hate and jealousy of the High Priests and Pharisees, and described Jesus and His arrest and His calm dignity before Pontius Pilate, who, washing his hands, said, (this she acted out histrionically): “I find no fault with this man.” She told how they stripped and scourged Him and, placing a crown of thorns on His head, mocked and spat at Him, saying: “Hail, King of the Jews.”
As she continued tears welled up in her eyes. She told of Simon helping to carry Christ’s cross and the appealing look of gratitude Jesus gave him; she told of Barabbas, the repentant, dying with Him on a cross and asking forgiveness, and of Jesus saying: “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” And from the cross looking down at His mother, saying: “Woman, behold thy son.” And in His last agony crying out: “My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” And we both wept.
“Don’t you see,” said Mother, “how human He was; like all of us. He too suffered doubt.”
Mother had so carried me away that I wanted to die that very night and meet Jesus. But Mother was not so enthusiastic. “Jesus wants you to live first and fulfill your destiny here,” she said. In that dark room in the basement at Oakley Street, Mother illuminated to me the kindliest light this world has ever known, which has endowed literature and the theater with their greatest and richest themes: love, pity and humanity.
Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964.
What’s the difference between Charlie Chaplin and Balaam, who was a pagan prophet and foreshadowed to Israel a birth of Messiah from the tribe of Benjamin? What’s the difference between him and Cyrus, pagan leader that was called Messiah by Isaiah (Is 45,1)? The Christlike Spirit talks through the mouth of the Dictator portrayed by Chaplin and he renounces the power, tells to love fellow human being – so everyone, and preaches teaching of divesting ourselves of violence. It was an appeal to stop violence directed against Jews in times when the movie was created.
This movie was shoot and showed in movies in times when Hitler’s dictatorship and his Nazi government were growing, in times when German Christians meekly went to a tyrant, God’s voice spoke “from the outside”.