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The Great Dictator (1940) Poster

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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.
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, while Hitler assumed that Chaplin was a Jew.
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.
Released 13 years after the end of the silent era, this was Charles Chaplin's first all-talking, all-sound film.
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.
Financed entirely by Charles Chaplin himself, and his biggest box-office hit.
Charles Chaplin accepted an invitation to perform the movie's climactic speech on national radio.
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 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.
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 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.
In Spain, the film was banned until dictator Francisco Franco died, in 1975. Released on April 1976.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.)
Color behind-the-scenes footage exists, including the only footage of an aborted ending in which soldiers break into a folk dance.
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.
Charles Chaplin blinks fewer than ten times during the entire final speech, which lasts over five minutes.
Shot for 539 days.
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.
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 named Paulette Goddard's character after his mother, Hannah.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower personally requested French dubbed versions of the film from Charles Chaplin for distribution in France after the Allied victory there.
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.
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 as "Diktaattori" .)
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 was the last movie in which Charles Chaplin used the "Tramp" outfit - the bowler hat and the walking cane - but although he appears to be playing The Tramp once again, that character had actually been retired in his previous film, Modern Times (1936). Chaplin was said not to consider this movie a "Tramp" film.
This is the first Charles Chaplin film since Behind the Screen (1916) 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 Dictator is clearly referred to by name.
This movie was Charles Chaplin's biggest-ever box-office hit, grossing about $US 5 million at the time.
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.
Jack Oakie once said that he "had made hundreds of pictures, but they only remember me as Napaloni in The Great Dictator (1940)."
Hynkel's storm troopers are wearing WW1-era, Imperial-German spiked helmets (Pickelhauben) with their top spikes removed. Furthermore, they are wearing them reversed, i.e. what is actually the neck guard became the front visor, and vice versa.
The 'Big Bertha' artillery piece mentioned in the beginning of the film was not actually used to shell Paris, as stated in the film. In fact, the Big Bertha was simply a heavy artillery piece used by the Germans in the beginning of the war to smash Belgian forts during the invasion of Belgium. The large howitzer used to shell Paris by the Germans during WWI was simply called "The Paris Gun".
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According to his biographer David Robinson, Charles Chaplin despised script girls and refused to abide by their guidance, resulting in continuity lapses in this movie.
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.
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Charles Chaplin spent some time attempting to simulate the sound of an airplane motor with various methods, only to be upstaged by one of his sound technicians who simply went to an airport for the appropriate sounds.
Playwright Daniel Lewis James, who was associated via Erwin Piscator with Charles Chaplin's friend Hanns Eisler, helped Chaplin with the screenplay.
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When Jack Oakie as 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?"
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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.
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Although she had appeared in "Modern Times" and her father Carter DeHaven appears in this film, Gloria DeHaven does not appear in "The Great Dictator" although she has been credited as appearing in it.
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