Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
May 25
October 15, 1940
The Great Comedian

More than a year before America entered World War II, Charlie Chaplin released The Great Dictator, a film that the next day, on October 16, the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther raved “turns out to be a truly superb accomplishment by a truly great artist –– and, from one point of view, perhaps the most significant film ever produced.” As Chaplin’s first talkie, The Great Dictator also turned out to be his most commercial film. Chaplin stars as both a Jewish barber and a fascist dictator named Adenoid Hynkel, a joke that played off the historically recognized resemblance between Chaplin and Hitler. Indeed radio comedian Tommy Handley had previously performed a joke song “Who is This Man (Who Looks like Charlie Chaplin)” on his BBC show. The Nazis had long had Chaplin in their own sights, naming him "a disgusting Jewish acrobat” in their 1934 booklet The Jews Are Looking at You. While Chaplin had supposedly received secret encouragement from President Roosevelt for the project, Hollywood itself kept its distance, frightened of Germany’s possible response. But after its popular reception, their tune changed. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, and led the way for other anti-Nazi comedies, most notably Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 To Be or Not to Be. Years later, however, Chaplin himself wondered in My Autobiography, if he could had made the same film had he known the real depth of Nazi atrocities.


More Flashbacks
Alien May 25, 1979
Alien opens

Ridley Scott’s Alien opened May 25, 1979, and the metallic, murderous, viper-fast monster that terrorized a deep space crew on the starship Nostromo was inspired by low-tech special effect from a sci-fi spoof, Dark Star.

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May 25, 1979
The Brood released in USA

Ask any film fan to name a film about divorce, and some predictable replies — War of the Roses, Intolerable Cruelty, Kramer vs. Kramer — will come up. But what about David Cronenberg's The Brood? The 1979 horror film stars Oliver Reed as a psychotherapist whose experimental treatment causes one patient, played by Samantha Eggar, to spawn mutant children who act out her violent impulses.

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