The Great Dictator

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Charlie Chaplin’s classic anti-war movie

The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical comedy-drama film written, directed, produced, scored by, and starring British comedian Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood filmmaker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, Chaplin made this his first true sound film.

Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany and neutral during what were the early days of World War II. Chaplin plays both leading roles: a ruthless fascist dictator and a persecuted Jewish barber.

The Great Dictator was popular with audiences, becoming Chaplin’s most commercially successful film.

On the Western Front in 1918, a Jewish Private (Charlie Chaplin) fighting for the Central Powers nation of Tomainia valiantly saves the life of a wounded pilot, Commander Schultz (Reginald Gardiner), who carries valuable documents that could secure a Tomainian victory. However, after running out of fuel, their plane crashes mid-flight, and the Private subsequently suffers memory loss. Upon being rescued, Schultz is informed that Tomainia has officially surrendered to the Allied Forces, while the Private is carried off to a hospital.Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel.

Twenty years later, still suffering from amnesia, the Private leaves the hospital to return to his previous profession as a barber in the ghetto. The ghetto is now governed by Schultz, who has been promoted in the Tomainian regime under the ruthless dictator Adenoid Hynkel (also Chaplin).

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