This week in the War, 14–20 October 1940: The Great Dictator






To quote Charlie Chaplin: “Dictators are comic. My aim is to make people laugh at them.”

This week in the war, on 15 October 1940, the movie The Great Dictator, premiered in New York City.

Chaplin starred in the role of a Jewish barber who is inadvertently mistaken for his country’s evil dictator, Herr Hynkel. The obvious (and hilarious) parallel with Hitler and  the Nazi regime delighted American cinema audiences in the USA, even before the USA had entered the war. The movie became more popular still after Pearl Harbour. Actor Jack Oakie played Benzino Napaloni—a zany take-off on Italy’s Benito Mussolini.

The plot in a nutshell: The Jewish barber (played by Chaplin) is wounded in the trenches during WWI. Twenty years later, his country’s leader, Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Chaplin) is persecuting the Jews and about to invade neighbouring Osterlich. Note that Osterlich is similar to Osterreich, German for Austria.

When the barber escapes from a concentration camp, border guards mistake him for Hynkel. In the meantime, the real dictator has fallen out of a boat while duck hunting. When discovered, he is mistaken for the escaped barber and arrested.

The movie ends with the barber’s triumphant victory speech from the Osterlichian capital, and who should hear him over the radio but Hannah (played by Paulette Goddard). [I hadn’t mentioned Hannah earlier. I was saving her for last].

Hannah is the love interest from the barber’s ghetto days. Finally, they can be reunited.

I wonder if anyone has ever considered the similarity in looks between Paulette Goddard, shown on left during the filming of the movie, and Hitler’s long time mistress, Eva Braun, shown below at the Fuehrer’s Berghof residence, near Berchtesgaden.

Surely, it’s coincidental. Eva was one of the Reich’s best-kept secrets. The Hollywood producers could not possibly have known about her. (Or could they?)


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