The Great Dictator (1940)

The Great Dictator (1940)

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie

I was really impressed with Modern Times because it showed Charlie Chaplin’s ability to keep his silent movie comedy style intact even with the inclusion of spoken words, but The Great Dictator takes it even further, as the entire movie has sound, and both of Chaplin’s dual roles use speaking as a significant part of the comedy. Charlie Chaplin is a hilarious guy, whoda thunk it?

In the fictional country of Tomania, a despot named Adenoid Hynkel comes to power. He distracts the people from his building of military power by villainizing the Jewish people of the country, which directly affects a Jewish barber (also played by Chaplin). After a couple hours of Hitleresque Hijinks, the barber accidentally gets mistaken for Hynkel before a big speech, and this thoughtful, caring man instead delivers a heartfelt plea about equality for all mankind.

The thing everyone remembers about this movie is that final speech, and for good reason. It’s well-written, well-spoken, and very touching. However, because of that speech, it’s easy to forget that this is actually a pretty damn funny comedy. I particularly enjoy Chaplin’s use of faux-German ranting for comedic effect (which, again, reminds one of the gibberish song the Tramp sings in Modern Times). It’s maybe not Chaplin’s best film, but if you take into account the subject matter and the time it was made, it’s a pretty ballsy film. And funny. Gotta keep reminding myself that it was funny, too.

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