The Great Dictator saw Charlie Chaplin return to the screen following an absence of four years since 1936’s Modern Times. It also marked his first true talkie, a departure from the silent cinema which had for a time made him the most famous person on the planet. From a script written in 1938-39, The Great Dictator satirised the Fascist regimes of Italy and Germany and in particular the moustache stealing Adolph Hitler. Despite pre-production condemnation from Hollywood and a Hitler appeasing British Government, the film which was financed solely by Chaplin himself became a huge critical and commercial success, no doubt spurred on by its staggered release in 1940-41 by which time Europe and then the whole world was at war.
Chaplin who had by this time become increasingly political in his film making can be considered as somewhat of a visionary in his approach to the film. While writing the script much of the world was seduced by Hitler and saw him and his Nazi Party as the antidote to the spread of Communism. His strong, conservative Germany formed a vital buffer between the Soviet Union and the West and became an important trading partner once again. While many politicians were unable to see beyond Hitler’s immeasurable charisma, Chaplin focussed his film on those in the firing line of Hitler’s new Europe, specifically the Jews.