Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 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
The Crying Game November 25, 1992
The Crying Game released

“Yo, the chick’s a dude!” –– those words, shouted outside a movie theater on November 25, 1992, would most likely have earned you a punch in the nose from a ticket buyer standing in line to see Neil Jordan’s sly psychosexual drama The Crying Game.

Read more »
November 25, 2005
Pat Morita dies

On this day in 2005, the man best known as The Karate Kid’s sage sensei Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita, died.

Read more »
November 25, 1973
Laurence Harvey Dies

By the time Laurence Harvey died of stomach cancer on November, 25 1973, his actual life proved easily as strange and quirky as the characters he played. Born in 1928 Zvi Mosheh (Hirsh) Skikne to a Jewish family in Lithuania, Harvey quickly reinvented himself at the age of five when his family moved to South Africa, where he took the name Harry. After working as an entertainer in the South African army, Harvey moved to London, changing his first name to Laurence and swapping out his family name for Harvey (supposedly taken from the sherry “Harvey’s Bristol Cream”). Harvey quickly rose up through the British film world, playing a range of side characters, then moving to Hollywood and Broadway where he gained a reputation for creating quirky, nervous eccentric, often emotionally cold men (often who were never quite what they seemed). His most famous role was as the brainwashed soldier in John Frankenheimer’s 1962 The Manchurian Candidate. While known to be privately gay, Harvey went through a number of high-profile marriages, often with women considerably older than himself. In 1968, for example, he married his second wife, Joan Perry Cohn, the widow of Columbia Picture’s master Harry Cohn. In 1969, his affair with Paulene Stone led to his one daughter, a divorce from Cohn, and, in 1972, a marriage to Stone. His daughter Domino Harvey went on to fame all her own as the bounty hunter whose life was dramatized by Keira Knightley in the 2005 thriller Domino. By the time he died in 1973, his career was in decline and his health had deteriorated by years of heavy drinking, and yet he was still trying on new identities. His last film, Welcome to Arrow Beach, which came out after his death, marked his third venture as a director as well as star.

Read more »