One of the most licensed elements of Chaplin’s work in the 21st century is his final speech from The Great Dictator.
“I had to do it”, explained Chaplin. “I just had to. There was no other way I could adequately express how strongly I felt. The time had come when I simply had to stop kidding. They had their laughs. And it was fun wasn’t it? But now I wanted them to listen. I wanted to make them stop being so damn contented.” (New York World Telegraph 18th Oct 1940)
It took Chaplin months to write. In the archives we find only a few notes. Some are dated November 1939 - the film was released in September 1940. However these handwritten ones seem to be earlier.
Chaplin’s secretary took many notes for the speech in May and June 1940.
The following keywords for the speech were dictated by Chaplin on June 5th 1940:
Reason. Happiness. Kindness. Gentleness. Humanity. Beauty. Imagination. Goodness. Progress. Tolerance. Freedom. Adventure. Love. Science. Democracy.
This document in Chaplin’s own handwriting shows a later draft:
“Do not despair. Hate will never conquer the world for love is eternal. This misery that is upon us is but the passing fury of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The way that leads to universal love and the brotherhood of all mankind. The hate of men will pass and dictators will die and the wind will blow way this dust and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die freedom shall never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes. Men who despise you and enslave you and themselves, who hold you in contempt, who kill your personality.”
To compare with the final version:
“Do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder.”