King, Queen, Joker (1921)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Political Satire, Satire  |  
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When Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator was the focus of a plagiarism lawsuit in the mid-1940s, neither side recalled that back in 1921, Chaplin's brother Sydney directed and starred in a feature that had marked similarities to its storyline. Sydney, like Charlie, has a dual role -- as a barber, and as the ruler (this time a king) of a country which is on the verge of revolution. The common people kidnap the king and put the lookalike barber in his place. The impostor, completely unaware of protocol and manners, makes a fool of himself in court. The real king escapes from his captors and the barber is sentenced to be executed for treason. However, the queen (Lottie MacPherson) helps him get away and after a thrilling chase, he returns to his former vocation. The biggest difference between this picture and The Great Dictator, as you might guess, is quality -- Sydney, while not untalented, just didn't have the charisma, style or comic focus of his younger brother. And while Konrad Bercovici had definite grounds for suing Chaplin in a lawsuit that lasted from 1940 to 1946, he clearly wasn't the first one to envision a barber and a ruler exchanging places.

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Keywords

barber, chase, kidnapping, king, lookalike