The Great Dictator (1941)

 ●  English ● 2 hrs 6 mins

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During the last days of the First World War, a clumsy soldier saves the life of devoted military pilot Schultz. Unfortunately, their flight from the advancing enemy ends in a severe crash with the clumsy soldier losing his memories. After quite some years in the hospital, the amnesia patient gets released and reopens his old barber shop in the Jewish ghetto. However, times have changed in the country of Tomania: Dictator Adenoid Hynkel, who accidentally looks very similar to the barber, has laid his merciless grip on the country, and the Jewish people are being discriminated against. One day, the barber gets in trouble and is brought before a commanding officer, who turns out to be his old comrade Schultz. So, the ghetto enjoys protection from then on. Meanwhile, Dictator Hynkel develops big plans, he wants to become Dictator of the whole world and needs a scapegoat for the public. Soon, Schultz is being arrested for being too Jewish-friendly, and all Jews except those who managed to flee are transported into Concentration Camps. Hynkel is planning to march into Osterlich for a showdown against against Napaloni, Dictator of Bacteria, who already has deployed his troops along the other border of the small country. Meanwhile, Schultz and the barber manage to escape, disguised in military uniforms. As luck would have it, Schultz and the barber are picked up by Tomanian forces and the barber is mixed up with Hynkel himself. The small barber now gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to speak to the people of Osterlich and all of Tomania, who listen eagerly on the radio.
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard

Crew: Charles Chaplin (Director), Karl Struss (Director of Photography), Roland Totheroh (Director of Photography), Charles Chaplin (Music Director), Robert Meredith Willson (Music Director)

Rating: U (India)

Genres: Comedy, Drama, War

Release Dates: 07 Mar 1941 (India)

Tagline: The Comedy Masterpiece!

English Name: The Great Dictator

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Music Rating
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Did you know? Charles Chaplin blinks fewer than ten times during the entire final speech, which lasts over five minutes. Read More
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Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor






Screenplay Writer
Story Writer
Dialogue Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Film Type:
Feature Film
Spoken Languages:
Colour Info:
Black & White
Sound Mix:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1
The Comedy Masterpiece!
Chaplin talks . . while You Laugh ! His greatest comedy since "Shoulder Arms" and "the Gold Rush" !
Once again - the whole world laughs!
Character Error
Making his speech during the invasion of Osterlich after replacing Hynkel, the Jewish Barber quotes the Gospel of St. Luke (chapter 17, verse 21) fluently from memory, an odd accomplishment indeed for someone with the many of challenges of his religious/ethnic background, mental disability, and general ineptitude.

Revealing Mistakes
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.

Revealing Mistakes
When the Barber and Schultz are flying upside down, the wire waving Schultz's scarf is visible.

Errors in Geography
When Hynkel is chased in the Ghetto streets by Stormtroopers, one California studio building can be seen in the upper right corner of the frame.

Crew/Equipment Visible
The machine rolling the bomb around in the beginning can be seen.

Crew/Equipment Visible
When the Jewish Barber first finds his shop full of webs, you can see the shadow of the camera on his left shoulder.

When Adenoid Hynkel climbs the curtains his left leg is up/down between shots.

When the barber slides into the basement window while evading the stormtrooper, his hat falls off onto the street. In the next shot, he is wearing his hat again.

When the Barber first returns to his barber shop, he hangs his hat and coat on a coat-rack that has a hand-broom hanging on it. After his fight with the Storm-Troopers, he re-enters his shop but his coat and hat are no longer on the rack, and the broom has changed location on the rack.

When the Jewish Barber has just returned to the Ghetto and is cleaning his windows, his white overcoat changes from buttoned to unbuttoned throughout the fight scene.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

At the 1940 Academy Awards, the film got five nominations. 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.

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.

When he had heard that studios were trying to discourage him from making the film, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a representative, Harry Hopkins, to Charles Chaplin to encourage him to make the film.

The shooting for this movie took place for 539 days.

In Spain, this film was banned until dictator Francisco Franco died, in 1975. Subsequently, it was released in April 1976.

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.

Charles Chaplin accepted an invitation to perform the movie's climactic speech on national radio.

This movie was financed entirely by Charles Chaplin himself, and turned out to be his biggest box-office hit.

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.

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.

Charles Chaplin blinks fewer than ten times during the entire final speech, which lasts over five minutes.

When Charles Chaplin's young son Sydney Chaplin saw the scene where the artillery shell drops out of the super-gun for the first time, he burst out laughing. It ruined the take.

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.

Charles Chaplin said that had he known the true extent of Nazi atrocities, he "could not have made fun of their homicidal insanity".

Adolf Hitler considered Charles Chaplin to be one of the greatest actors he had ever seen, even though he was under the assumption that Chaplin was a Jew.

Douglas Fairbanks visited the set of the film in 1939, and laughed almost uncontrollably at the scene that was being played. He waved goodbye to Charles Chaplin and left. He was dead within a week and it was the last time Chaplin would see him.

Released 13 years after the end of the silent era, this was Charles Chaplin's first all-talking, all-sound film.

Color behind-the-scenes footage of this movie still exists, including the only footage of an aborted ending in which soldiers break into a folk dance.

Production on this 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.