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Year: 1940
UK: BFI (Collections)
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert, Grace Hayle, Carter De Haven, Paulette Goddard, Maurice Moscovitch, Emma Dunn, Bernard Gorcey, Paul Weigel, Chester Conklin, Esther Michelson, Hank Mann, Florence Wright, Eddie Gribbon, Robert O. Davis, Sig Arno, William Arnold, Henry Bergman, Max Davidson, Wheeler Dryden, Eddie Dunn, Ethelreda Leopold, Peter Lynn, Jules Michelson, Nellie V. Nichols, Jack Perrin, Nita Pike, Lucien Prival, Ann Sheridan, Leo White
Director: Charles Chaplin
Country: USA
UK: 125 mins
UK Certificate: PG contains mild violence
UK Release Date: 22 August 2003 (Limited Re-release - London)


"This is the story of the period between two world wars - an interim during which insanity cut loose, liberty took a nose dive, and humanity was kicked around somewhat."
Opening title

THE GREAT DICTATOR is the first all-talking feature from the first media superstar of the twentieth century. The British Film Institute will release a superb restored new print in association with Warner Home Video as part of a major series of Chaplin projects in 2003/2004.

In a highly controversial project, Chaplin took on the role of the world's conscience; its best-loved star standing up to its most hated dictator. For political reasons he was strongly discouraged by everyone from the British government to Jewish Hollywood producers. Ignoring them, he financed the lengthy shoot himself. Bravely speaking out against Nazism with brilliant parody, he lampooned Hitler and Mussolini in this bittersweet farce. Playing dual roles as a humble Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel, the ranting dictator of Tomania, Chaplin combined trademark slapstick with sharp political satire.

When Chaplin began work on the script of THE GREAT DICTATOR in 1938, there had still been no anti-Nazi films from mainstream Hollywood. By the time editing had begun, France and Denmark had fallen, and he considered shelving the film, feeling that "Hitler is a horrible menace to civilisation rather than someone to laugh at". Instead he decided to close the film speaking as himself in an impassioned plea for tolerance.

On its release in 1940 the film received standing ovations, especially in Blitz-torn Britain. Although banned in occupied Europe, South America and Ireland, THE GREAT DICTATOR became Chaplin's biggest money-maker and was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture. It contains some of Chaplin's most delectable sequences, including Hinkel's balletic pas de deux with a luminous globe and a spaghetti-tangled food fight with Jack Oakie's scene-stealing Napaloni ('Mussolini', in a masterful piece of casting).

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