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The Great Dictator (1940)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Drama, War  |  7 March 1941 (USA)
8.5
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 117,044 users  
Reviews: 189 user | 105 critic

Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel's regime.

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Top 250 #56 | Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jack Oakie ...
Napaloni - Dictator of Bacteria
Reginald Gardiner ...
...
...
Herring
Grace Hayle ...
Madame Napaloni
Carter DeHaven ...
Bacterian Ambassador (as Carter De Haven)
...
Hannah
Maurice Moscovitch ...
Mr. Jaeckel (as Maurice Moscovich)
Emma Dunn ...
Mrs. Jaeckel
Bernard Gorcey ...
Mr. Mann
Paul Weigel ...
Mr. Agar
...
Barber's Customer
Esther Michelson ...
Jewish Woman
Hank Mann ...
Storm Trooper Stealing Fruit
Edit

Storyline

Twenty years after the end of WWI in which the nation of Tomainia was on the losing side, Adenoid Hynkel has risen to power as the ruthless dictator of the country. He believes in a pure Aryan state, and the decimation of the Jews. This situation is unknown to a simple Jewish-Tomainian barber who has since been hospitalized the result of a WWI battle. Upon his release, the barber, who had been suffering from memory loss about the war, is shown the new persecuted life of the Jews by many living in the Jewish ghetto, including a washerwoman named Hannah, with whom he begins a relationship. The barber is ultimately spared such persecution by Commander Schultz, who he saved in that WWI battle. The lives of all Jews in Tomainia are eventually spared with a policy shift by Hynkel himself, who is doing so for ulterior motives. But those motives include a want for world domination, starting with the invasion of neighboring Osterlich, which may be threatened by Benzino Napaloni, the dictator ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Comedy Masterpiece! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

7 March 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Dictator  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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. See more »

Goofs

When Hynkel is tearing the medals off of Herring after learning that Napaloni has beaten him to Osterlich, a distant shot shows a remaining striped ribbon on the right side of Herring's jacket. In the subsequent close shot, that ribbon is gone. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film is obviously a satire on Adolf Hitler, represented by Adenoid Hynkel, and its story is based on Hynkel looking exactly like "a Jewish barber": both are played by Charles Chaplin. But it begins with a notice: "Any resemblance between Hynkel the dictator and the Jewish barber is purely co-incidental". See more »

Connections

Referenced in Iron Sky (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Prelude to 'Lohengrin' , Act I
(1850) (uncredited)
Music by Richard Wagner
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The "Pre-Mature" Anti-Fascist
5 June 2002 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

Released in 1940, "The Great Dictator" was the first Hollywood film that denounced Hitler directly (albeit in the guise of Adenoid Hynkel), took a virulent stand against fascism, and directly addressed Anti-Semitism.

Over-long, at times heavy-handed, it still has many wonderful sequences, including the famous dance with the globe, and all the scenes of Chaplin with Jack Oakie, each trying to out-do the other and prove his superiority.

One criticism that seems to occasionally rear its head is the implication that Chaplin's pre-World War II anti-fascism was somehow wrong-headed. The atrocities of the Holocaust weren't fully known to the world yet, so Chaplin's anti-Hitler diatribe is, in the minds of some, misguided. After the war this mindset would result in the debacle of the blacklist, when Chaplin, among others, were branded "pre-mature anti-fascists." In other words, it wasn't politically acceptable to be against Nazism until war broke out with the U.S. Hard to believe anyone could still see things that way now, but some do.

The film industry of the 1930s wanted no part of international politics, no matter how blatant the brutality of a given regime. Profits were at stake. It was little goyisha Charley Chaplin, playing a Jewish barber, who took a public stand.

While "The Great Dictator" may not among Chaplin's finest films, it may, historically, be his finest hour.


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