AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Variations on a Theme from Chaplin

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Start watching “Barber of Seville” at 4:08

Start watching “Rabbit of Seville” at 3:07

These clips show how Shamus Culhane, director of the Woody Woodpecker film, “The Barber of Seville,” and Chuck Jones, director of the Bugs Bunny cartoon, “The Rabbit of Seville,” drew inspiration from the barber scene in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

In his autobiography, Talking Animals and Other People, Shamus Culhane, director of the Woody Woodpecker cartoon above, does not mention Chaplin. He does speak of the storyboard for the short as being done by Bugs Hardaway and sounding as if it was created without Culhane’s input, so perhaps it was Hardaway who drew the inspiration from Chaplin.

These variations on a theme from Chaplin are just one example of how artists borrow and steal from each other. In fact, thanks to the latest Criterion Collection release of The Great Dictator, we learn that Chaplin may have been inspired by his brother Sydney (present during the production of The Great Dictator) who did a film with a barbershop scene in 1921, King, Queen, Joker:

Or Chaplin could have been inspired by himself. Here is a barbershop scene that almost made it into “Sunnyside” (1919):

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