Star Wars Episode XI: Charlie Chaplin by Karina Longworth


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The most successful film of Charlie Chaplin’s career was also the most controversial: in The Great Dictator, Chaplin viciously satirized Hitler before the US entered World War II, and the comedy helped rally a previously war-shy American public. We’ll explore the connections between Chaplin and Adolf Hitler, and explain why most of Hollywood tried to stop The Great Dictator from being made. Then we’ll switch gears to discuss how Chapin’s wartime activism and his troubled personal life collided to benefit J. Edgar Hoover, who spent thirty years trying to prove that Chaplin was dangerously un-American. 

Show Notes:

The impetus for this episode was a documentary produced and aired by TCM, which I first saw about a year ago, called The Tramp and the Dictator. The film was co-directed by Michael Kloft and the great silent film historian Kevin Brownlow (if you haven't seen his series Hollywood, on the silent era, find it and watch it post haste), and it tells the story of how and why Chaplin made The Great Dictator, using previously unseen material shot on the set of the film. I thought it would be interesting to contrast this aspect of Chaplin's war experience with the section of City of Nets in which Otto Friedrich describes Chaplin's personal life and the scandals it caused during the war years as a kind of prelude to the legal issues that would get him thrown out of the US a few years later. 


Additional Bibliography:

Chaplin's War Trilogy: An Evolving Lens in Three Dark Comedies, 1918-1947 by Wes D. Gehring

Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics  By Steven J. Ross

CharlieChaplin: Jewish or Goyish?

Audio excerpts from The Tramp and The Dictator and The Great Dictator via YouTube


Preludes for Piano #2 by George Gershwin

Wonder Cycle by Chris Zabriskie

Benbient by Canton

Exlibris by Kosta T

Gagool by Kevin MacLeod

Devastation and Revenge by Kevin MacLeod

I Need to Start Writing Things Down by Chris Zabriskie

Out of the Skies, Under the Earth by Chris Zabriskie

Ghost Dance by Kevin MacLeod

I Know a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

Robocop by Kanye West

Star Wars Episode X: Errol Flynn (YMRT #36) by Karina Longworth


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ErrolFlynn arrived in Hollywood in 1934 and almost immediately became a massive star, his swashbuckler-persona propelling many of the decades biggest action hits, from his debut Captain Blood to his signature film, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and beyond. Flynn's dashing good looks, put-on posh British accent and life-of-the-party personality masked the fact that he was actually an Australian bounder with a shady past, a history of recurrent malaria and a propensity to avoid reality by any means necessary. Secretly too sick to serve in World War II, Flynn stayed home in Hollywood and instead starred in perhaps the biggest sex scandal of the decade, a rape trial from which Flynn emerged maybe even more beloved than before. And then, twenty years after his alcoholism-aided demise in 1959, Flynn was publicly accused of having been a Nazi spy during the peak of his career. 

Show notes:

Special thanks this week to Noah Segan, who played ErrolFlynn.

The story of ErrolFlynn’s life and career is one of denial and misdirection -- sometimes self-imposed, sometimes mandated by Warner Brothers -- and there’s no more entertaining example of this than Flynn’s autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Composed with a ghost writer during the last year of Flynn's life and published posthumously, Wicked portrays Flynn as a lovable rake, self-destructive and self-deprecating, but somehow heroic throughout. It's a great read. It's also hard to believe. I quoted from it because Flynn is eminently quotable, but brought in other references for most of the facts.

A star as enigmatic, and a man as conflicted, as Flynn will justifiably inspire many, many biographies. Because I couldn't read them all, I relied mostly on The Two Lives of ErrolFlynn, and The Spy Who Never Was by Tony Thomas, which is a rebuttal to Charles Higham's highly controversial ErrolFlynn: The Untold Story, which is the source of the claims that Flynn spied for the Nazis in Hollywood and Europe during World War II. What do I think about Higham's claims? I think he distorted some evidence, and made a few inferential leaps, to give his accusations form. It's hard to believe that Flynn was ignorant of the Nazi ties of his friend Herman Erben (who Flynn calls "Koets" in his autobiography, apparently because Erben couldn't be tracked down by the fact-checkers), but on balance, I think if ErrolFlynn is guilty of anything, it's most likely of having no moral center. Which is pretty bad, but it isn't treasonous. 

Some additional sources: 

Police Plan Further Inquiry Into The Life of Peggy Satterlee.” Reading Eagle, January 21, 1943

Throwback Thursday: ErrolFlynn Stood Trial for Statutory Rape in 1934, Hollywood Reporter, May 1, 2014


Make a Wish (For Christmas) by Lee Rosevere

Single by Everything But the Girl

The Insider Theme by The Insider

Intelligent Galaxy by The Insider

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

Faster Does It by Kevin MacLeod

Happy 1984 and 2001 by Joan of Arc

OLPC by Marco Raaphorst

Transparent by Peter Rudenko

Fiery Yellow by Stereolab

Blue Feather by Kevin MacLeod

5:00 by Peter Rudenko

Divider by Chris Zabriskie

Benbient by Canton