‘The Great Dictator’

Fight for a world of reason, where hate of men will pass and liberty will never perish is the concluding speech of The Great Dictator. Released in the US in 1940, a subversive Charlie Chaplin, in his first talkie, takes a stand on European politics and the rise of fascism as war raged.

Following injury in the Great War, an amnesiac Jewish barber (Chaplin) spends years in a Tomainian hospital. Finally returning home and business, he is totally unaware of the fascist, anti-Semitic dictator, Adenoid Hynkel (also Chaplin) and the dangers now posed to him and his community. With brutal stormtroopers marauding the streets, through the love of Paulette Goddard (Modern Times, Hold Back the Dawn), Chaplin finds himself involved in the Resistance.

Made before the US joined the allies in World War II, The Great Dictator was hugely controversial – production began in 1937 when Hitler was seen as an ally rather than an enemy by many. But, whilst at its best The Great Dictator is sublime satire, more often it slips into farce and pure silliness. Hynkel’s speeches are pure baloney, made in a fictional, guttural, germanic-like language whilst the realities of fascist politics of the day are trivialised (Chaplin himself acknowledged post war that his treatment of genocide would have been very different had the true extent of those politics been known at the time).

Nominated for 5 Oscars in 1941 including best film, actor, supporting actor (Jack Oakie as Dictator Napaloni (Mussolini)) & original screenplay.

Rating: 44%

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