Historian Richard Carr reveals Chaplin’s praise for Mussolini

Historians in the News
tags: Mussolini, Charlie Chaplin, Richard Carr



Charlie Chaplin: A Political Biography from Victorian Britain to Modern America, by Dr Richard Carr, Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University, shows that despite later mocking the dictator on the silver screen, the British film star held a real life admiration for Italian leader Benito Mussolini.

Although he would satirise Mussolini in his 1940 box office hit The Great Dictator, Chaplin had long praised the Italian fascist for his success in reducing unemployment.

There were several examples of this:

• When discussing the matter with friends, in 1928 Chaplin named Mussolini as one of his “great [global] personalities” of the year because, as the film star stated, the Italian “took a nation and put it to work”.

• Travelling to Italy in 1931, Chaplin wrote that he was “impressed with its atmosphere. Discipline and order were omnipresent. Hope and desire seemed in the air”.

• Even as late as March 1938, as war neared, Chaplin was heard around Hollywood saying that the Italian leader had “made the trains run on time”.

However, Chaplin never felt the same about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany – whose anti-Semitism the book says was “always completely anathema to him”.  Despite Nazi claims to the contrary, Chaplin was not Jewish – but his half-brother Sydney and long-time romantic partner Paulette Goddard both had Jewish fathers.

Chaplin therefore became fixated on encouraging the British and Americans to declare war against Hitler – something which flew in the face of the appeasement policies of the late 1930s. ...




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