Anti-Nazi Hollywood Cinema Early Films of Charlie Chaplin
Yet, the Anti-nazi movement is the pink elephant of the industry, it stands out, defining something different which had never occured in Hollywood before and since. Anti-nazi is somewhat of a cinematic wave, along the lines of the French Nouvelle Vague of the 60s and the Italian Neorealism of the 1940s. This subject, and the films which composed it, are left little studied and are forgotten about. Modern Hollywood has distanced itself with its big budget generalised blockbusters devoid of anything which defines our era, the noughties.
The Origins of the Movement
The USA entered into the World War II conflict in the December of 1941, after the attack of Pearl Harbour. During the period of 1939-41, there was an absence of engagement in the war and a degree of neutrality. As this pacifism began to diminish, an ideological struggle developed in the USA, due to the conflict in Europe. Before December 1941, Hollywood was reluctant to produce films depicting the uprising of Nazism in Europe for many reasons. It was scared of losing its hegemony and universality.The big studios refuged themselves behind the neutrality of the USA and a clause of non-interference, which was written into the Hays Code, a code of censorship during the 30s, 40s and 50s. Yet, there were cases of anti-Nazi films filtering through the system. In 1939, the first anti-Nazi American film came to light, The Confessions of a Nazi Spy by Litvak, funded by the Warner studio. The distribution of the film was massive in the USA and in Europe. The film contained a direct anti-Nazi attack, integrating newsreel footage as well as fictionalised footage.
After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the anti-Nazi films of Hollywood became a genre in their own right. The studios were all mobilised into contributing to this ideological struggle.
The Case of Charlie Chaplin:
If Hollywood was late into the anti-Nazi combat, it could be due to the procrastinating over film production. Many Hollywood films escaped a certain naivety and Manichaeism, which many films in Europe fell victim to. The films were not only war films, unlike their European counterparts. Bourget determined three types of Antinazi film: Documentary, Allegoric (a fable with moral) and Satirical. We all know where Chaplin fits into this argument.
Chaplin produced the satirical anti-Hitler comedy titled The Great Dictator (1941). Production began eight days before the start of the war in Europe. It is the first speaking film by Chaplin, putting in danger his immense popularity at the time. He was even accused of war-mongering. Chaplin plays two roles in the film: Hynkel (Hitler) in the palace and a Jewish barber in the ghetto.