On December 21, 1940, George Orwell reviewed Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator for a London newspaper.
“Simply as a film,” Orwell writes, “it has very great faults.” Yet he goes on to predict the film’s future impact: “What is Chaplin’s peculiar gift? It is his power to stand for a sort of concentrated essence of the common man. . . . If our Government had a little more imagination, they would subsidize The Great Dictator heavily and would make every effort to get a few copies into Germany.”
What can we learn from such a review (besides the fact that Orwell had a barely latent crush on Paulette Goddard)? That Orwell consumed precarious amounts of pop culture, a point I try to make in my essay-slash-review of two new volumes of Orwell’s nonfiction (edited by George Packer) over at Splice.