Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
September 21
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
Bill Murray September 21, 1950
Bill Murray born

Edgy without being mean-spirited or snarky, emotional without tipping into the sentimental, and crazily offbeat while not being alienating or obscure, Bill Murray fashioned a unique comic persona early in his career and has only deepened and expanded it as the years have gone by.

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Sep. 21, 1957
Ethan Coen Born (alone)

While it is hard to separate either Ethan and Joel Coen from the team title “the Coen Brothers,” they are, of  course, different people.

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Sept 21, 1957
O Brother, Where Art Thou

Even as the younger Coen Brother, Ethan has been essential to this filmmaking duo.

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