Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Globe That Inspired Charlie Chaplin

by Trey Thomas

One of the funniest scenes in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940) is the 'Globe Scene', where, inspired by the notion of being "Emperor of the World," Tomainian dictator, Adenoid Hynkel, does a balletic number with a large inflatable world globe.
The scene ends with the globe bursting in his face.


This globe is said to be inspired by a large globe at the German New Reich Chancellery during the Nazi regime (The Great Dictator made fun of Hitler). Pictures of the globe appear before, during, and after the Second World War:

Globe in the Cabinet Room of the New Reich Chancellery

Soviet soldiers posing with the globe (inside the war-damaged Chancellery) in 1945

Soviet Soldiers pointing at Africa

Globe (with bullet-hole through Germany) displayed at the German Historical Museum. Note different styling of pedestal from the World War II pictures.

Compare with Charlie Chaplin's globe:

Of course, Charlie Chaplin's globe had to be smaller – he wouldn't have been able to juggle the balloon effectively if its size were bigger than two men like the one pictured with the Soviet soldiers:

If Charlie Chaplin was really 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and his shoes added at least 1.5 inches to his height (5'6.5" or 66.5 inches), his inflatable globe would have been roughly 26.56 inches (2.21 feet) across – definitely a far cry from the huge globe above.

Hitler's Globe

Herblock's "What 'Peace Now' Would Mean" (1940)

There are talks that Hitler's office in the Chancellery had an even bigger globe – nearly the size of a Volkswagen, says Wolfram Pobanz, but there are no known pictures of Hitler posing with it.

Allowing for human error, "nearly the size of a Volkswagen" (the original Beetle was 4.92 feet or 59.04 inches tall) would be around the size of the Reich Chancellery Cabinet Room Globe or larger:
Cabinet Room globe size adjusted so Chaplin's head is similarly sized to the head nearest the German globe. The original Volkswagen's height is in inches.

A truly Volkswagen-sized globe would be one similar in size to the huge world globe found in the Hall of Geographical Maps at the Vecchio Palace:
Mappa Mundi at the Palazzo Vecchio

Pobanz thinks the Hitler Globe could be in Moscow. Another story relates that the Cabinet Room globe was said to have been taken by a high-ranking Soviet general to his office at the then USSR (could have been at the Kremlin) and was destroyed through water damage later. But that's just anecdotal.

Apparently the pedestal of both the New Reich Chancellery and the F├╝hrer globes were of similar construction – "sharp-cornered, stepped wood base" according to Pobanz (the 'stepping' is seen in the first picture of the Cabinet Room globe in the New Chancellery), which is different from the base of the globe displayed at the German Historical Museum.

Globes made for top Nazi officials were called "Columbus Globe for State and Industry Leaders" but records of how big Hitler's globe was, if ever there was one, was destroyed with the Columbus company's archives in 1943.

War trophy

Then there's the desk globe taken as war booty in 1945 by John Barsamian from the Eagle's Nest (Hitler's mountaintop retreat) near Berchtesgaden, Germany. This globe was put up at auction and sold to Bob Pritikin in 2007 .
John Barsamian with the Eagle's Nest Globe

A replica of this globe was shown in the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie, prompting speculations of a copyright suit coming from Bob Pritikin.

I only have a Valkyrie scene showing a replica of the German Historical Museum globe supposedly in Hitler's mountain retreat:

I doubt the feasibility of such a lawsuit. Wrangling over relics left by someone responsible for the murder of millions is as full of air as Chaplin's inflated balloon globe.

Use globes safely

Ultimate Globes does have a selection of inflatable globes like this one:
Inflatable Light Blue Political Globe
At 27 inches across, this is the closest in size to Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator globe (12 and 16-inch sizes are also available). Unlike Chaplin's globe, this will not easily burst in your face.

Meher Baba describes the globe bursting scene as symbolic of greed and its consequences, the dictator's "desire to possess the world destroys it in the process."

Meher Baba concludes with a (probably apocryphal) story about the New Reich Chancellery globe:

When the Russians entered Berlin after Hitler's suicide they found the actual room upon which Chaplin's set was based. Everything in it was destroyed by bombing, the ceiling caved in, dust everywhere. But miraculously this globe, depicted in a prop in Charlie Chaplin's film, was unscathed, the sole thing remaining in the room. Symbolically speaking, God had saved the world itself.

Wanting to possess a model of the world is one thing, wanting to possess the actual world is another.

No comments:

Add This