The Great Dictator (1941)

127 mins | Comedy-drama | 7 March 1941

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HISTORY

The working title of this picture was The Dictator . In the cast credits at the end of the film, Charles Chaplin is listed in both the "People of the Palace" and "People of the Ghetto" sections. An article in LAT adds that Charles Chaplin originally had difficulty in securing the title The Great Dictator , which was registered by Paramount. Through the efforts of Y. Frank Freeman, a Vice President at Paramount, Chaplin was finally accorded the privilege of using the title. Sources disagree about the production history of this film. A modern source states that in 1937, Alexander Korda suggested that Charles Chaplin produce an Adolf Hitler story based on mistaken identification. A Jun 1939 news item in HR , however, states that preliminary production work on the picture was begun after a three year postponement. According to materials contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, in Oct 1938, George Gyssling, German Consul, wrote Joseph I. Breen a letter objecting to Chaplin's intention to make a film that would "burlesque" Hitler. In response, Breen denied any knowledge of such a film. In Mar 1939, Brooke Wilkinson of the British Board of Film Censors cabled Breen and Alfred Reeves, the Vice President of Charles Chaplin Film Corp., that he had heard rumors that Chaplin was making a film about Hitler and requested a story outline and treatment. Breen then spoke to Chaplin, who replied that he had no script and no story. According to news items in HR , on 22 Jun 1939, set construction began for the picture, but preliminary production was halted by early ... More Less

The working title of this picture was The Dictator . In the cast credits at the end of the film, Charles Chaplin is listed in both the "People of the Palace" and "People of the Ghetto" sections. An article in LAT adds that Charles Chaplin originally had difficulty in securing the title The Great Dictator , which was registered by Paramount. Through the efforts of Y. Frank Freeman, a Vice President at Paramount, Chaplin was finally accorded the privilege of using the title. Sources disagree about the production history of this film. A modern source states that in 1937, Alexander Korda suggested that Charles Chaplin produce an Adolf Hitler story based on mistaken identification. A Jun 1939 news item in HR , however, states that preliminary production work on the picture was begun after a three year postponement. According to materials contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, in Oct 1938, George Gyssling, German Consul, wrote Joseph I. Breen a letter objecting to Chaplin's intention to make a film that would "burlesque" Hitler. In response, Breen denied any knowledge of such a film. In Mar 1939, Brooke Wilkinson of the British Board of Film Censors cabled Breen and Alfred Reeves, the Vice President of Charles Chaplin Film Corp., that he had heard rumors that Chaplin was making a film about Hitler and requested a story outline and treatment. Breen then spoke to Chaplin, who replied that he had no script and no story. According to news items in HR , on 22 Jun 1939, set construction began for the picture, but preliminary production was halted by early Aug for Chaplin to doctor the script. Filming finally began in mid-Sep 1939. Another news item in HR notes that Fanny Brice was originally to have portrayed the dictator's wife. Articles in NYR add that Chaplin stated that he included footage of crowd scenes actually shot in Germany during Hitler's regime, and that Chaplin demanded secrecy on the set because he feared that someone might steal his idea.
       Although Chaplin's 1936 Modern Times had a synchronized score and sound effects, this was the first Chaplin film that had dialogue, a NYT points out. Contemporary reviews of the film criticzed it for dwelling too strongly on the Jews' plight in Germany and objected to the final speech as too preachy. The film received the following Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor (Chaplin); Best Supporting Actor (Jack Oakie); Best Original Score (Meredith Willson) and Best Original Screenplay (Chaplin). It was also included in the National Board of Review's "ten best" list of 1940. A news item in NYT notes that Chaplin refused the New York Film Critics Award as Best Actor because he disapproved of the competition it created among actors and disliked the electioneering process of the critics. Actor Maurice Moscovich, who portrayed "Mr. Jaeckel," died soon after the completion of this film.
       The film engendered several law suits and much controversy. According to MPH , Chaplin sued and won an injunction against Life magazine over the publication of a bootlegged photo picturing Chaplin as the dictator. In 1941, LAT reported that writer Konrad Bercovici filed a suit against Chaplin and United Artists for $5,000,000, charging that he had the original idea for the screenplay. Chaplin settled the suit for $90,000 and damages. An article in the NYT adds that after the film was completed, Chaplin was subpoenaed to testify before a Senate Subcommittee investigating the dissemination of war propaganda in films. The MPAA/PCA Files also contain a letter written to Senator Robert R. Reynolds of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Relations in which the writer, an American citizen, protests against Chaplin, an "alien", using the United States as a sounding to board to air his grievances against a foreign power. The writer warns of international repercussions.
       Modern program notes contained in the AMPAS library files report that the sequences of the barber were filmed at 16 frames per second and those of the director at 25 frames per second. The program also adds the following credits: Al Kay (musical librarian); Alex Finlayson (assistant director); Henry Bergman (general assistant); Dick Fritsch (assistant film editor); Rollin Brown (laboratory contact); Ed Boyle (set decorator); Clem Widrig (props); Frank Testera (electrical chief); William Bogdanoff (construction foreman); Eddie Voight (makeup); Frank Veseley (paint department); Oscar Wright (purchasing department). Modern sources also add Gloria DeHaven to the cast. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 Oct 40
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Oct 40
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 40
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 40
pp. 12-13.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 40
p. 2.
Life
2 Sep 40
pp. 53-56.
Life
22 Sep 41
pp. 24-25.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jul 1940.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald
22 Jun 40
p. 53.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Oct 40
p. 34.
New York Times
8 Sep 1940.
---
New York Times
14 Oct 1940.
---
New York Times
16 Oct 40
p. 29.
New York Times
20 Oct 40
sec 4, p. 8.
New York Times
20 Oct 40
sec 9, p. 5.
New York Times
5 Jan 1941.
---
New York Times
14 Sep 1941.
---
Variety
16 Oct 40
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
MUSIC
Asst
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr clerk
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Dictator
Release Date:
7 March 1941
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 15 October 1940
Production Date:
mid September 1939--early February 1940
Copyright Claimant:
Charles Chaplin Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
31 October 1940
Copyright Number:
LP10041
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
127
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
PCA No:
6611
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the end of World War I, an Army private who in civilian life is a little Jewish barber, saves the life of the German officer Schultz as the two flee the conquering army. After their plane crashes during their escape, the Jewish barber suffers amnesia and is confined to a hospital during the rise of dictator Adenoid Hynkel. Years later, the barber returns to his shop in the ghetto of a city, unaware that the state is now under the sign of the double cross, that Jews are cruelly persecuted, and that the all powerful ruler of the land is megalomaniac Adenoid Hynkel, to whom the barber bears a striking resemblance. The barber tries to resist the treachery that he sees going on all around him, but is beaten and arrested with his friend Schultz, who has also spoken out against the persecution of the Jews. Schultz and the barber are sent to a prison camp, and Hynkel, his opposition quelled, plans the invasion of the neighboring country of Osterlich. As Benzini Napaloni, the Dictator of Bacteria, and Hynkel argue over control of Osterlich, Schultz and the barber escape from their prison. On the eve of the invasion of Osterlich, Hynkel is mistaken for the escaped barber and arrested. The barber then takes the place of the dictator on the parade platform and delivers an impassioned plea for human kindness and brotherly ... +


At the end of World War I, an Army private who in civilian life is a little Jewish barber, saves the life of the German officer Schultz as the two flee the conquering army. After their plane crashes during their escape, the Jewish barber suffers amnesia and is confined to a hospital during the rise of dictator Adenoid Hynkel. Years later, the barber returns to his shop in the ghetto of a city, unaware that the state is now under the sign of the double cross, that Jews are cruelly persecuted, and that the all powerful ruler of the land is megalomaniac Adenoid Hynkel, to whom the barber bears a striking resemblance. The barber tries to resist the treachery that he sees going on all around him, but is beaten and arrested with his friend Schultz, who has also spoken out against the persecution of the Jews. Schultz and the barber are sent to a prison camp, and Hynkel, his opposition quelled, plans the invasion of the neighboring country of Osterlich. As Benzini Napaloni, the Dictator of Bacteria, and Hynkel argue over control of Osterlich, Schultz and the barber escape from their prison. On the eve of the invasion of Osterlich, Hynkel is mistaken for the escaped barber and arrested. The barber then takes the place of the dictator on the parade platform and delivers an impassioned plea for human kindness and brotherly love. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.