Charlie Chaplin and the Nazis: The Long German Campaign Against the Artist

McFarland. Dec. 2023. 460p. ISBN 9781476687407. pap. $49.95. BIOG
Aping (The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy) focuses on one aspect of the career of comedian, director, composer, screenwriter, and film producer Charlie Chaplin (1889–1977). He studies the persistent Nazi agitation against the controversial, politically progressive Chaplin, starting with his 1918 antiwar film Shoulder Arms and going through the Reich’s declaration of an emphasis on physical “total war” in 1944. Animus ensued long before Chaplin’s anti-Hitler portrayal in the 1940 The Great Dictator, and the Nazis long claimed Jewish ancestry for the outsider Chaplin, a fallacy the author contends that many believed. Aping’s research in German and U.S. archives, German censorship records, Chaplin’s FBI files, and the secondary literature on the Little Tramp character are exemplary and exhaustive, as is his discussion of cinema culture in the Germany of the 1920s and 1930s.
VERDICT An incredibly detailed and successful book about Charlie Chaplin that does not lose film fans. More general readers can skip over much of the thorough analysis but still benefit from the book.
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