Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 23
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
Kinski November 23, 1991
Klaus Kinski dies

When it came time for his longtime collaborator, Werner Herzog, to make a movie about his relationship with the brilliant and mad actor Klaus Kinski, he titled it My Best Fiend

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November 23, 1995
Louis Malle dies

The great French film director Louis Malle passed away on this day in 1995 after a battle with lymphoma, leaving behind his wife, actress Candice Bergen, and their child together, Chloe Malle.

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November 23, 1990
Klaus Kinski Dies

Klaus Kinski, one of the most fearsome, intense and memorable stars of the cinema, fought his last battle 17 years ago this week. Born Nikolaus Karl Günther Nakszyński in 1926 in what is now Poland, Kinski will forever be best remembered as Werner Herzog's foe and frequent collaborator: together Herzog and Kinski made five films together, Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Woyzeck (1979), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982), and Cobra Verde (1987). That they made so many is miraculous as Kinski was infamously belligerent and had a relationship with Herzog (fascinatingly chronicled in the documentary My Best Fiend) which was tense at best, and all out war at worst. Married three times, Kinski was the father of actress Nastassja Kinski and –– according to his sensationalist autobiography, Kinski: All I Need Is Love –– four other children. A year after completing Kinski Paganini (1989), a film Kinski wrote, directed and starred in about the Italian composer (with whom he supposedly felt a demonic kinship), Kinski succumbed to a heart attack at his home in Lagunitas, California, aged just 65.

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