Project Description

Charlie Chaplin: The Great Dictator

We are delighted to present this collection of limited edition photographs from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic, The Great Dictator.

The images that follow are available to purchase in limited editions as museum-quality archival handmade silver gelatin photographs, in a range of sizes from 10 x 12 inches to 48 x 60 inches.

Since 2019—the 130th anniversary of the birth of Charlie Chaplin—we have been curating a collection of important Charlie Chaplin photographs—all of which are available to purchase and hang on your walls at home or in your office. You can see photographs from other films here.

Scroll down and select an image for full details.

THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940)

The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin’s vehicle for combining satire, politics and comedy to make a mockery of tyrannical regimes and provide a strident condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. The film was his first true talking picture, and followed his previous release, the mostly dialogue-free Modern Times (1936).

In the film, Chaplin plays both leading roles: Adenoid Hynkel, a ruthless fascist dictator; and a persecuted Jewish barber, who is nameless throughout. At the time of its first release in 1940, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany and neutral during what were the early days of World War II. The Great Dictator was popular with audiences, becoming Chaplin’s most commercially successful film. Modern critics have also praised it as a historically significant film and an important work of satire. In 1997, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Chaplin prepared the story throughout 1938 and 1939, and began filming in September 1939, six days after the beginning of World War II. He finished filming almost six months later. In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated: “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator, I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis”.

The film was directed by Chaplin (with his half-brother Wheeler Dryden as assistant director), and written and produced by Chaplin. The film was shot largely at the Charlie Chaplin Studios and other locations around Los Angeles.The elaborate World War I scenes were filmed in Laurel Canyon. Chaplin and Meredith Willson composed the music.

In the 1930s cartoonists and comedians often built on Hitler and Chaplin having similar mustaches. Chaplin also capitalized on this resemblance in order to give his Little Tramp character a “reprieve”. In his memoir My Father, Charlie Chaplin, Chaplin’s son Charlie Jr. described his father as being haunted by the similarities in background between him and Hitler; they were born four days apart in April 1889, and both had risen to their present heights from poverty. He wrote: “Their destinies were poles apart. One was to make millions weep, while the other was to set the whole world laughing. Dad could never think of Hitler without a shudder, half of horror, half of fascination. “Just think”, he would say uneasily, “he’s the madman, I’m the comic. But it could have been the other way around.”.

Chaplin arranged to send the film to Hitler, and an eyewitness confirmed he saw it. Hitler’s architect and friend Albert Speer denied that the leader had ever seen it. Hitler’s response to the film is not recorded, but another account tells that he viewed the film twice.

The limited editions

Schultz and the barber escape

Schultz and the barber escape
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In the last days of the 1918 war, the barber (a corporal in the army) and the pilot, Schultz, attempt to take important despatches back to headquarters, in one of the opening scenes from the film. Later they will meet again on the streets of the ghetto where commander Schultz intervenes to spare the life of the barber.

Adenoid Hynkel addresses the masses

Adenoid Hynkel addresses the masses
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Meet Adenoid Hynkel, Chaplin’s parody of Adof Hitler. Here he addresses the massed crowds in an early scene from the film, using his own particular brand of German. Chaplin studied newsreels of Hitler carefully in constructing this caricature of his oratory style. Paulette Goddard said: “After you hear Charlie’s speech in German double-talk, Hitler will not be able to make another speech without the whole world laughing.”

The barber returns

The barber returns
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Meet the barber, also played by Chaplin, who returns to the ghetto after twenty years in hospital, still suffering from amnesia developed during the 1918 war.

The official portrait

The official portrait
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For Hynkel, it isn’t sufficient to have a formal portrait – a marble bust is also de rigeur.

Take a letter

Take a letter
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Hynkel is involved in a clandestine relationship with his secretary, played by French actor Nita Pike.

A makeover for Hannah

A makeover for Hannah
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The barber is encouraged by a male customer, Mr Jaeckel, to expand his business to include a beauty salon for women. Step forward the feisty Hannah, played by Paulette Goddard, for a transformation.

Dictator of the world

Dictator of the world
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In one of the most famous scenes from the Great Dictator, Hynkel imagines himself as dictator of the world. He picks up the globe—in reality a balloon—and begins a choreographed dance routine. A combination of judicious use of wires and filming some of the movements backwards gave the performance its fluidity.

Globe Dance I
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Globe Dance II
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The barber dances

The barber dances
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Chaplin filmed this dance scene in the ghetto but it was subsequently cut from the finished movie.

An altercation

An altercation
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The barber confronts one of Hynkels soldiers.

Food Fight

Food fight
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Adenoid Hynkel and Benzino Napaloni argue over the invasion of Osterlich. It descends into a food fight.

Hynkel and Madame Napaloni

Hynkel and Madame Napaloni
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Adenoid Hynkel and Madame Napaloni at the ball.

Hynkel and Madame Napaloni dance
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Hynkel in uniform

Hynkel in uniform
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Adenoid Hynkel in uniform with medals

Adenoid Hynkel – The Great Dictator

Adenoid Hynkel – The Great Dictator
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Adenoid Hynkel in characteristic pose

Hynkel and Schultz

Hynkel and Schultz
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In an offscreen moment, Hynkel blows a raspberry, much to the amusement of Commander Schultz. This candid photograph was taken by assistant director Dan James.

Toward the sunlight

Toward the sunlight
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In one of the final scenes of the film, Hannah hears the barber’s message to her on the radio: “Look up, Hannah. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow, into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us.” Then she turns to face the sunlight.

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Charlie Chaplin ™ © Bubbles Incorporated SA 2019
Photographs © Roy Export S.A.S / Roy Export Co. Ltd
Scans by Cineteca di Bologna / Musée de l’Elysée