The March Toward War: The <em>March of Time</em> as Document and Propaganda
Introduction The Time Empire MOT as Document Marching into War Voice of Conscience Timeline/Index
The Shadow of War
Germany's Rising Power
The World Prepares for War
America Prepares for War
American Neutrality
Failure of the League
Failure of Versailles
England's Failures
Ambiguous Russia
Plight of the Jews
Humanizing Dictators
Americans All
War Zones
Italy Seizes Ethiopia
Japanese Conquests
Chinese Resistance
Spain's Civil War
The Mediterranean
Austria
Czechoslovakia
Poland
Pearl Harbor
 Polish Jews in Life Magazine

Humanizing Dictators

It's no mistake that the following clips are all from the radio show; the radio show had the most freedom to be frivolous and make alternate, unreal caricatures of the dictators. Committing such ideas to film would mean impersonating a well-known dictator whose appearance is already well known. The film also specialized in longer, more serious segments, whereas the radio program could easily commit to one- or two-minute skits. While these clips on the surface show the "lighter side" of being a dictator (you get to have silly contests and meet pretty dancers), the underlying theme is that the dictators themselves are ridiculous figures. The show makes fun of their pompousness, their insecurities, and their infinite egos. With such human weaknesses, they could not be the gods they declared themselves to be, could they? The comedy in these pieces releases and eases anxiety over the threat the men pose.

August 27, 1935: Mussolini's Son Play audio

["Dance of the Sugar Plums" from "Nutcracker" sets the children theme for the scene] Mussolini's obnoxious eight-year old son Romano wants to join the fight in Ethiopia. "Salute. I am a soldier. Hail Il Duce!" he exclaims. He wants to be a captain, since "all the men in our family are going!"

"The arm of Italy must crush out slavery in a barbaric country!" the boy exclaims. This "son of the Roman wolf" hopes the war will last long enough for the class of 1927 to be called.

May 15, 1936: Hitler's Childhood Play audio

John Schimmel, a Wooster, Ohio man who grew up in Transylvania, remembers Hitler as a schoolmate. "Even at seven, he usually got what he went after," Schimmel says. At the time Hitler was learning the trade of painter and paper hanger. When he figured out the smell of turpentine on his clothes led the teacher to dismiss class early, he made it a point to smell more odiferous "till it nearly drive all of us out of the building," Schimmel explains. When the teacher protested, Hitler said he had no other clothes. "He got a new suit out of that deal," Schimmel says. This story—true or not—offers an analogy for Hitler pushing people's buttons and always getting what he wants. The fact that his current behavior compares to that of a child downsizes Hitler the tyrant.

January 6, 1938: Italian Babies Contest Play audio

Mussolini hosts a contest and reception for Italian women who have had the most babies. One woman has had 10 babies in 11 years. Another has 13 children and her husband is in Spain. When will he come back? she pleads. "Oh, soon, very soon I hope," says Mussolini. "Remember, Senora, let Il Duce know about it, if your husband forgets how to treat you." Mussolini's paternal-sexual overture won't hide the underlying fear of the woman, who's main concern is her husband's safe return. The segment suggests the Italians are beholden to Il Duce's egotistical whims.

March 3, 1939: TAP Dancing for Hitler Play audio

"Bachelor leader" Hitler asks American tap dancer Marion Daniels to come to Munich at once—an airplane will be provided for her convenience. She performs for Hitler, and they have a brief conversation afterwards. He says her performance of the "Merry Widow" is the finest he has ever seen, and that she has a wonderful movement of the body. "Oh, you must mean my flexes," she says. Daniels (re-enacted) recounts her experience: "Mr. Hitler was terribly nice and polite and later I did a [unintelligible] for him and some of his friends in a nightclub, only of course my mother went with me. I never go anywhere without mother!" (hence preserving propriety). The Voice of Time concludes, "Such the Hitler headline of the week, made by a youthful U.S. woman tap dancer." There's a hint of relief in his voice: that the biggest news about Hitler this week is that he's a failed womanizer, a mere human after all.