Jim Russell's Charlie Chaplin (And A Couple Of Nazis)

Smith's Weekly, 25 April, 1932
If I have to tell you who Jim Russell was then it's like you don't know me at all.  Again, from the late, lamented Smith's Weekly, via Trove, comes this brilliant study of Charlie Chaplin, drawn to commemorate the release of the film Modern Times.

It's very odd now, looking back to the late-1930s, to think that Chaplin was considered a communist and an enemy of America. This was due, in part, to the themes that Chaplin was exploring in his films Modern Times, and The Great Dictator, and also because he was very publicly advocating assistance to the Russians in their fight against Germany in WWII. But then, in the 1930s, and through to the 1940s, many prominent, famous and (later) legendary Americans, true, red white and blue blooded flag waving Americans, such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, were out and out Nazis who were advocating the entry of America into WWII - but on Hitler's side.

Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from a couple of Nazis in 1938. Ford loved the Nazis and, gee, did he hate Jews!!

Charles Lindbergh received his Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle from none other than Hermann Göring in 1936
Not that people like being reminded of that now. After WWII, the attacks on Chaplin continued to the point where he was effectively barred from America, while Ford, Lindbergh and Co continued to be hailed as heroes.

I don't know about you, but that's always given me pause for thought.

Anyway, enough of that. Check out the amazing artwork from Jim (brother of Dan) Russell. There's more golden gems to be discovered in the pages of Smiths Weekly, and I, for one, will be digging and digging deeply over the coming years. As I find interesting bits like this, I'll be more than happy to share them.

Good on ya Lindy. Heil Hitler like a good little Nazi, but Charlie Chaplin was the true enemy, wasn't he?


Smurfswacker said…
First let me say that you and I are on the same page, so this isn't meant as an apology for Lindbergh, Ford, Goering, and that lot..

I've read lots of news and opinion from the late twenties through the mid-thirties, and I'm always surprised to see how complex were the reactions to the rise of Fascism. Much of the pushback on "The Great Dictator" came from people afraid of "offending Chancellor Hitler," the leader of a powerful and important nation.

A few years earlier Will Rogers had interviewed Benito Mussolini. Rogers would be considered a liberal today, but he was totally snowed by Mussolini. Rogers was impressed how this "regular guy" was fixing the economy, cutting crime, and making Italy great again. In his article Rogers speculated that it mightn't be a bad idea to take "a few bottles of castor oil" to American gangsters.

In hindsight it's obvious how destructive Fascism was. Was it so clear at the time? Perhaps back then many well-meaning people (which excludes Ford), overwhelmed by the problems of the world, thought okay, a little bad stuff MAY be happening (and we don't really know that for sure, do we?) but hey, look at that booming economy!

To me it's troubling is that even WITH the benefit of hindsight, as Fascism oozes up again people are still pretending everything's fine. This suggests that 1930s attitudes may also have been less about naivete than about self-deception.

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