Did You Know?
Jack Oakie once said that he "had made hundreds of pictures, but they only remember me as Napaloni in The Great Dictator (1940)."
When Charles Chapin had heard that studios were trying to discourage him from making the film, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a representative, Harry Hopkins, to Chaplin to encourage him to make the film.
Charles Chaplin considered Adolf Hitler to be one of the greatest actors he had ever seen, while Hitler assumed that Chaplin was a Jew.
Adolf Hitler banned the film in Germany and in all countries occupied by the Nazis. Curiosity got the best of him, and he had a print brought in through Portugal. History records that he screened it twice, in private, but history did not record his reaction to the film. Charles Chaplin said, "I'd give anything to know what he thought of it." For political reasons in Germany, the ban stayed after the end of WWII until 1958.
According to documentaries on the making of the film, Charles Chaplin began to feel more uncomfortable lampooning Adolf Hitler the more he heard of Hitler's actions in Europe. Ultimately, the invasion of France inspired Chaplin to change the ending of his film to include his famous speech.
Although this movie was banned in all occupied countries by the Nazis, it was screened once to a German audience. In the occupied Balkans, members of a resistance group switched the reels in a military cinema and replaced a comedic opera with a copy of this film, which they had smuggled in from Greece. So a group of German soldiers enjoyed a screening of this film until they realized what it was. Some left the cinema and some were reported to have fired shots at the screen.
This film was financed entirely by Charles Chaplin himself, and it was his biggest box-office hit.
Released eleven years after the end of the silent era, this was Charles Chaplin's first all-talking, all-sound film.
Charles Chaplin said that had he known the true extent of Nazi atrocities, he "could not have made fun of their homicidal insanity."
Charles Chaplin wrote the entire script in script form, except for the fake German, which was improvised. In addition, he also scripted every movement in the globe dance sequence.
At the 1940 Academy Awards, the film received five nominations. However, it failed to win any Academy Awards, and Charles Chaplin was hurt by this. He already had spent twenty-seven years in Hollywood. James Stewart, the winner of the Best Actor Award (for which Chaplin was nominated), was not even planning on going to the ceremony until someone told him to go there hours before it began. Interestingly enough, this was the first year in which the winners remained secret until the moment they won their Awards.
Charles Chaplin got the idea when a friend, Alexander Korda, noted that his screen persona and Adolf Hitler looked somewhat similar. Chaplin later learned they were both born within a week of each other (Chaplin 4/16/1889, Hitler 4/20/1889), were roughly the same height and weight and both struggled in poverty until they reached great success in their respective fields. When Chaplin learned of Hitler's policies of racial oppression and nationalist aggression, he used their similarities as an inspiration to attack Hitler on film.
When Charles Chaplin first announced that he was going to make this film, the British government, whose policy at the time was one of appeasement towards Nazi Germany, announced that they would ban it. By the time of the film's release though, Britain was at war with Germany and in the midst of the blitz, so the government's attitude towards the film had completely changed toward a film with such obvious value as propaganda.
In Italy, all the scenes that involved Napaloni's wife were cut from the movie to respect Benito Mussolini's widow, Rachele. The complete version wasn't seen until 2002.
In Spain, the film was banned until dictator Francisco Franco died, in 1975. It would be released there in April 1976.
During filming, Charles Chaplin's relationship with Paulette Goddard began to deteriorate, but both tried very hard to save it. In 1942, Chaplin proudly introduced her as "my wife" (a position that was always considered sketchy) at a New York engagement, but within months they were amicably divorced, and the notoriously finicky Chaplin agreed to a generous divorce settlement. In the 1960s, both Chaplin and Goddard were living in Switzerland, but having made no contact, they spotted each other at a café and had lunch together. It was their last meeting.
The German spoken by the dictator is complete nonsense. The language in which the shop signs, posters, etc in the "Jewish" quarter are written is Esperanto, a language created in 1887 by Dr L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish Jew.
Charles Chaplin said wearing Hynkel's costume made him feel more aggressive, and those close to him remember him being more difficult to work with on days he was shooting as Hynkel.
Charles Chaplin cast his wife Paulette Goddard as the female lead, playing a cleaner. He insisted that she scrub the floor of the whole set only for her to refuse. Chaplin stopped filming until she agreed to do so. (Their relationship was on the rocks at this stage, which could explain his treatment of her.)
General Dwight D. Eisenhower personally requested French dubbed versions of this film from Charles Chaplin, for distribution in France after the Allied victory there.
Production on the film started in 1937, when not nearly as many people believed Nazism was a menace, as was the case when it was released in 1940. However, this film was ultimately upstaged as the first anti-Nazi film satire by The Three Stooges production You Nazty Spy! (1940), which was released nine months earlier.
Charles Chaplin originally intended to call the film "The Dictator," but received notice from Paramount Pictures that they would charge him $25,000 for use of the title; they owned the rights to an unrelated novel by Richard Harding Davis. Chaplin balked at the conditions and inserted "Great" into the title. (In France, the film is known as "Le Dictateur" and in Finland, it is "Diktaattori").
Some of Charles Chaplin's associates tried to talk him out of the final speech about peace. One film salesman said the speech would cost him a million dollars at the box office. Chaplin replied, "Well, I don't care if it's five million."
Charles Chaplin named Paulette Goddard's character after his mother, Hannah.
When Charles Chaplin's young son, Sydney Chaplin, saw the scene where the artillery shell drops out of the supergun for the first time, he burst out laughing. It ruined the take.
This is the first Charles Chaplin film since The Pilgrim (1923) in which Chaplin plays a character who is actually identified by name. His famous Tramp character was rarely given a name, though he was often referred to as Charlie. The tramp-like barber in this film remains unnamed, but the Tomainian dictator Adenoid Hynkel is referred to by name throughout the film.
The scene where Charles Chaplin dances with a globe had its origins in a 1928 home movie in which Chaplin also toyed with a globe in similar fashion.
During Hynkel's speech, there are several recognizable German words used. Most popular are "Wienerschnitzel" (a Viennese style breaded veal cutlet) and "Sauerkraut" (a kind of sour preserved cabbage). Others are "Leberwurst" and "Blitzkrieg." Though some other utterances vaguely resemble words in German, the speech is actually gibberish. Several times in the film, Hynkel utters "cheese und cracken!" in the context of an obscenity.
The world premiere of the film was held at two packed theaters (the Astor and Capitol) in New York on 15 October 1940. It was a much anticipated gala affair attended by many luminaries, including Alfred E. Smith, James A. Farley, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., Fannie Hurst, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. Charles Chaplin and his wife and co-star Paulette Goddard made an appearance at both theaters. They watched the movie in a loge at the Capitol with H.G. Wells, Constance Collier and Tim Durant, among others.
Charles Chaplin spent hours studying films of Adolf Hitler to perfect an imitation of his speaking style. He would eventually do this with a combination of nonsense syllables and isolated German words.
Charles Chaplin planned shots of people all over the world accepting the message of peace, as goose-stepping German soldiers broke in a waltz and Japanese bombers dropped toys on Chinese children. He actually started shooting some of these scenes before abandoning the idea. They survive in home movies shot by his son.
As the premiere approached, Charles Chaplin had good reason to be concerned about his gamble on political commentary. Theatening letters from Nazi sympathizers poured into the studio. At one point, he even asked a friend with the Longshoreman's Union in New York if they could have some union members present at the opening, to prevent a pro-Nazi demonstration.
Some reports refute Charles Chaplin's claims of ignorance as to the true extent of Nazi atrocities, stating that Chaplin was very much aware of the various goings-on, but decided to make the film anyway as an attack on Nazi ideology.
The barber's scenes were mostly shot in the slower speed used for silent films (16 frames per second), made possible by the fact that Charles Chaplin gave the character less dialogue than Hynkel, who was shot in the standard speed for sound film.
When Jack Oakie (Benzini Napaloni) first visits Adenoid Hynkel (Charles Chaplin) in his palace, Oakie greets Chaplin with a Yiddish expression, which, loosely translated, means "How's it going?"
As originally written, Charles Chaplin's final speech, in which the barber is still masquerading as Hynkel, was a call for peace through appeasement. As news reports came in from Europe, however, he re-wrote it as a call for peace and liberty for all. Some critics, most notably columnist Ed Sullivan, claimed that the speech was pure Communist propaganda.
Charles Chaplin and Jack Oakie enjoyed their roles so much, they often stayed in character after shooting finished for the day. They even attended a party, thrown by Mary Pickford, in full costume.
To keep the characters separate, Charles Chaplin shot most of his scenes as the barber first, then moved on to Hynkel's scenes.
Jack Oakie had been on a diet before filming started. To make him large enough to contrast effectively with Charles Chaplin, the director ordered his cook to fatten Oakie up.
The part of the elderly Jewish shopkeeper, Mr. Jaeckel, is played in the film by Maurice Moscovitch, veteran of the Yiddish theater, but his wife, Mrs. Jaeckel, is played by the Emma Dunn, who often played Irish mothers and landladies.
Charles Chaplin (Adenoid Hynkel/The Jewish Barber) and Jack Oakie died only twenty-nine days apart. Chaplin died on December 25, 1977 and Oakie on January 23, 1978.
During the climactic speech, the Jewish barber refers to the gospel according to Luke, which is part of the new testament of the Christian bible.
(at around 5 mins) The machine rolling the bomb around in the beginning can be seen.
(at around 17 mins) After Hynkel's "Tighten our belts" remark, Herring tightens his belt, which breaks when he sits down. However whenever we see Herring for the rest of the scene, his belt is intact.
(at around 42 mins) When Hynkel opens the filing cabinet behind his desk to reveal and look into the full length mirrors inside of it, the studio lights can briefly be seen reflected in them.
(at around 35 mins) When the Barber is chased in the Ghetto streets by Stormtroopers, one California studio building can be seen in the upper right corner of the frame.
(at around 30 mins) When the Jewish Barber cleans the word "Jew" off his shop window, a dotted line can be seen to mark where the W would be painted again for the next take.
(at around 11 mins) When the Barber and Schultz are flying upside down, the wire waving Schultz's scarf is visible.
(at around 2h) Making his speech during the invasion of Osterlich, the Jewish Barber quotes the Gospel of St. Luke (chapter 17, verse 21) fluently from memory, Although not impossible, it is extremely unlikely that a working-class Jew living in a Jewish ghetto in the early 20th century would have read the Christian New Testament from which the quote is taken, let alone be able to recite it word for word.
Title Cards: Note, any resemblance between Hynkle the Dictator and the Jewish Barber is purely co-incidental.
Title Cards: This is a story of a period between two World Wars - an interim in which Insanity cut loose. Liberty took a nose dive, and Humanity was kicked around somewhat.
Commander Shutz: Strange, and I always thought of you as an Aryan.
A Jewish barber: I'm a vegetarian
Adenoid Hynkel: Strange, these strike leaders, they're all brunettes. Not a blonde amongst them.
Garbitsch: Brunettes are trouble makers. They're worse than the Jews.
Adenoid Hynkel: Then wipe them out.
Garbitsch: Start small. Not so fast. We get rid of the Jews first, then concentrate on the brunettes.
Adenoid Hynkel: We shall never have peace 'til we have a pure Aryan race. How wonderful. Tomania, a nation of blue-eyed blondes.
Garbitsch: Why not a blonde Europe, a blonde Asia, and blonde America.
Adenoid Hynkel: A blonde world.
Garbitsch: And a brunette dictator.
Adenoid Hynkel: Dictator of the world!
Field Marshal Herring: We've just discovered the most wonderful, the most marvelous poisinous gas. It will kill everybody.
Commander Shutz: How's the gas?
A Jewish barber: Terrible, it kept me awake all night.
Adenoid Hynkel: Garbitsch, what's the meaning of this? These appropriations? 25 million for prison camps when we need every penny for the manufacturing of ammunition's?
Garbitsch: We've had to make a few arrests.
Adenoid Hynkel: A few? How many?
Garbitsch: Nothing astronomical. Five or ten thousand.
Adenoid Hynkel: Oh.
Garbitsch: A Day.
Garbitsch: "Corona veniat electis." Victory shall come to the worthy. Today, democracy, liberty, and equality are words to fool the people. No nation can progress with such ideas. They stand in the way of action. Therefore, we frankly abolish them. In the future, each man will serve the interest of the State with absolute obedience. Let him who refuses beware! The rights of citizenship will be taken away from all Jews and other non-Aryans. They are inferior and therefore enemies of the state. It is the duty of all true Aryans to hate and despise them. Henceforth this nation is annexed to the Tomanian Empire, and the people of this nation will obey the laws bestowed upon us by our great leader, the Dictator of Tomania, the conqueror of Osterlich, the future Emperor of the World!
THE FAMOUS SPEECH THAT ENDS THE FILM:
I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don't hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the 17th chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up Hannah! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world; a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality. The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope, into the future! The glorious future, that belongs to you, to me and to all of us.
Parents Guide and Rating:
Sex & Nudity:
One short scene were a woman is washing a floor, minor cleavage, nothing sexual.
At one scene, Adenoid Hynkel calls his secretary and holds her down like he's going to kiss her, they are interrupted when he receives a phone call though.
Violence & Gore:
Some slapstick violence.
A guy wearing a bulletproof vest gives Adenoid Hynkel a pistol and tells him to shoot him in the chest. Hynkel does this, and the vest proves to be a failure as the guy drops dead.
Two soldiers try to attack the Jewish barber. They are hit on the head with a frying pan.
A man is shot to death in the Jewish ghetto when he resists arrest.
Hannah and her family are attacked by Tomanian soldiers
SUGGESTED RATING - PG
The Great Dictator (1940) Awards:
Nominated Academy Awards, USA 1941
Oscar Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role: Charles Chaplin
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jack Oakie
Best Writing, Original Screenplay: Charles Chaplin
Best Music, Original Score: Meredith Willson
National Board of Review, USA 1940 - Won NBR Award: Best Acting, Charles Chaplin
National Film Preservation Board, USA 1997 - Won, National Film Registry
New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1940: Won NYFCC Award, Best Actor, Charles Chaplin [Refused to accept the award]
Prelude to 'Lohengrin' , Act I 1850) (uncredited) Music by Richard Wagner
String Quintet in E, Op. 13 No. 5: Minuet (uncredited) Music by Luigi Boccherini Played on piano a bit by Charles Chaplin
Hungarian Dance No. 5 (uncredited) Written by Johannes Brahms Played on the radio during the shaving scene
Frequently Asked Question:
Did Hitler ever see this movie?
The story is that Goebbels had a copy of The Great Dictator seized from one of the German-occupied countries and then brought to Hitler. Hitler screened the film alone, except for his personal projectionist. When it was over, it's said that he demanded to see it again. Beyond that, his true reaction is not known. The projectionist later claimed that the only time Hitler laughed at the movie was the "barber chair scene" where Hynkel and Napoloni were attemping to tower over each other by elevating the barber shop chairs they were seated in. Chaplin wrote: "I'd give anything to know what he thought of it."
What does "Aut Caesar aut nullus!" mean?
It is a misquote of the Latin aut Caesar aut nihil, meaning "either Caesar or nothing",meaning that the only acceptable possibility is to be emperor, indicating that Hynkel will not be satisfied until he rules the entire world.
Read about The Great Dictator
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