THE GREAT DICTATOR, released October 15th, 1940

Chaplin played dual roles in the film: dictator Adenoid Hynkel & the Jewish barber.

Chaplin’s first talkie was naturally a highly-anticipated film. But the fact that it was a satire of Hitler, made during the war, also made it highly controversial. In defense of the film, Chaplin said:

“I had to do it. They had their laughs [meaning his earlier films] and it was fun, wasn’t it? Now I wanted them to listen. I did this picture for the Jews of the world. I wanted to see the return of decency and kindness. I’m no communist, but just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy and freedom from this infernal regimentation which is crawling over the rest of the world.” (Chaplin: The Immortal Tramp, R.J. Minney, 1954)

The Great Dictator became Chaplin’s most financially successful film to date.

Ad for the world premiere. 

Above: Images from the program for The Great Dictator with artwork by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

The film premiered simultaneously at the Capitol and Astor theaters. Charlie and Paulette Goddard (who played Hannah) appeared at both. During a speech before the Capitol theater premiere, Chaplin surprised the audience by saying, “My wife, Paulette Goddard, and I hope you enjoy the picture.” It was the first time Chaplin ever publicly referred to Paulette as his wife. In the lobby, he participated in a radio broadcast hosted by Jack Oakie (who played Napaloni in the film) on WHN.

Photos from the premiere in Picture Post magazine, Dec. 28th, 1940

Charlie & Paulette dancing at the Monte Carlo following the premiere.

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