Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
October 20
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
101020_BelaLugosi October 20, 1882
Béla Lugosi born

Béla Lugosi – who was born in Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in the Austro-Hungarian town of Lugos – is a perfect example of a late bloomer. For the vast majority of his life, Lugosi put his energies into acting, however things only clicked when he was almost 50.

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October 20, 1982
Stalker opens

"Where is it taking place? What are these people, whose helmets are they wearing? What is this 'zone'?"

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October 20, 1931
De Oliveira's Opening Salvo

The eternally vivacious Portuguese director makes his very first film.

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