When Charlie Chaplin imitated Adolf Hitler

Deutsche Welle
2 Min Read

Premiering 75 years ago, it was the first major Hollywood production that took a clear stance against the Nazis. Parody and satire: Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” was a stroke of genius.
World War II raged in Europe when “The Great Dictator” premiered in London on December 16, 1940, just two months after the film was released in the US.

According to the “New York Times,” the satirical comedy film is a “truly superb accomplishment by a truly great artist – and, from one point of view, perhaps the most significant film ever produced.”

At the time, Charlie Chaplin was one of the biggest stars in American cinema. Many people were surprised that he chose such a touchy subject matter for his first true talking picture. Chaplin later acknowledged that he couldn’t have made the movie if the extent of the Nazi terror had already been evident: “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator.”

18 years later in Germany

“The Great Dictator” reached German theaters in 1958 only. Even though viewers reacted positively to test screenings organized right after the end of World War II, the US authorities decided to wait a few years before releasing the film in the country.

A new book, “The Charlie Chaplin Archives,” recently published by TASCHEN, provides more background on Charlie Chaplin’s career.

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