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The Great Dictator (movie)

Last modified: 2016-03-19 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: the great dictator | movies | charlie chaplin | tomania | bacteria | double cross |
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Introduction

The Great Dictator is a black and white Charlie Chaplin's movie, a parody of Germany.
Mac Rosevelt, 3 October 2002

The title was translated into French as "Le Dictateur", but this film was of course banned by the French State during the German occupation. It was seen in France only in 1945 and translating literally the title into "Le grand dictateur" was probably avoided because everybody knew who the Dictator had been. On the other hand, Chaplin's movie was planned in 1938-39 as a way of warning America of what would happen if Hitler was not stopped. Chaplin's premonitory skills were definitive.
Ivan Sache, 16 May 2003

About Flag Colours in the movie

In a programme about the movie there is colour footage made from the set of the movie that shows some flags. The armbinds were skyblue with the emblem white crosses on a black oval. There were also yellow flags with the two black crosses, and vertical banners that appeared to be black, white & grey, like Antonio's image.

The cover/poster of the movie shows a red flag, and a red armbind on Chaplin. The grey and skyblue was probably chosen because they "appear" as red in black & white.
Jostein Nygård, 4 March 2003

The TV channel France5 has produced a series of short films called "Chaplin aujourd'hui" (Chaplin Today). The first film analyzed in the series is "The Great Dictator". During the making of the film, Chaplin's brother Stanley filmed some scenes with his personal camera, and therefore we have a few colour images of the film. Stanley Chaplin filmed the last scene of the movie, when the Jewish barber replaced Hynkel and gave his speech. There are standard bearers in the scene and the flags of Tomania are shown to have black double crosses ... but a yellow field, not red.
Ivan Sache, 16 May 2003

You can be sure that the colors were chosen for how they would appear in B&W; I doubt there was a real attempt on the part of the director at any kind of consistent vexillography, at least in the color department. So that last sentence is probably very close to the truth.
Al Kirsch, 11 October 2002

The feature film itself was shot in black & white, and any color of similar intensity would do. Where the studio did display color for public consumption – e.g. promotional posters – the flag had a red field.
Ned Smith, 17 May 2003


Tomania

Tomania is a parody of Germany.
Mac Rosevelt, 3 October 2002

Name of the country

I checked imdb.com and found this listing of the cast members:

Charles Chaplin .... Adenoid Hynkel (dictator of Tomania)/A Jewish barber
Jack Oakie .... Benzino Napaloni (dictator of Bacteria)

Note that the "Mussolini" character is head of Bacteria. So I suspect that Hynkel is head of Ptomainia, given the other medical references (like Adenoid H.) At least ever since I saw the movie (and I've seen it a few times), that's the way I spelled it in my head. Chaplin himself could not have missed his own pun.
Al Kirsch, 26 January 2004

The "true" spelling may be Tomania, though acknowledging the pun from "ptomaine", since "Ptomainia" and "Tomania" sound the same in English.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 27 January 2004

In the shooting script, or some other pre-production version of the story, the country's name is spelled Ptomania. In the film as produced, though, it is spelled out on signs (or newspapers? I don't have it here to refer to!) as Tomania.
David Gerstein – author of Chaplin, Charlie, and Fascism, 27 January 2004


National flag

[Flag of Tomania]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2002

I've found a poster showing Chaplin in front of the flag. The double cross emblem appears on Chaplin's hat in the poster even as he obscures it on the flag. But it is a clear parody of the Nazi flag, with a red background and a black double cross on a white ellipse (major axis vertical).
Albert Kirsch, 10 October 2002

The flag (the sign of the double cross) is a pun, both visual and verbal. Visual, because it resembles the swastika flag, and verbal, because a "double-cross" (with hyphen) is a deceitful act.
Albert Kirsch, 26 January 2004

In a programme about Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" there is colour footage made from the set of the movie that shows some flags. The armbinds were skyblue with the emblem white crosses on a black oval. There were also yellow flags with the two black crosses, and vertical banners that appeared to be black, white & grey, like António's image on FOTW.

The cover/poster of the movie shows a red flag, and a red armband on Chaplin. The grey and skyblue was probably chosen because they "appear" as red in black & white.
Jostein Nygård, 3 March 2003


Vertical Banner

[Banner of Tomania]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin,
11 October 2002
Some footage of the movie shows also vertical hanging flags, with the emblem in inverted colors (white crosses on white-rimmed black ovals) on a medium background. It seems too light to be red, even if it would be so to go along with the national flag (documented red in color promo material, as Al has shown), but I didn't want to risk it and colored it grey instead.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2002

Parade flag

[Parade flag of Tomania]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2002

Some footage shows yet another Tomanian flag, held by parading soldiers. It shows hanging windless, so I had to guess a bit.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2002


Standard

I watched this movie yesterday and noticed, that as the barber is being driven by the Tomanian military in their invasion near the end of the movie, there are a lot of flags and banners along one street, with the Tomanian insignia, the double cross. It being a black and white picture, I can't be exactly sure what the colors are, but from what I can tell, it would be black and white, and shows a pair of crosses together in the center of the flag, in a diagonal arrangement. The arm band and banner insignias are different, resembling the Nazi arm bands more closely, with the double cross symbol in a white oval.
Mac Rosevelt, 3 October 2002

Stanley Chaplin filmed the last scene of the movie with his personal camera. There are standard bearers in the scene and the flags of Tomania are shown to have black double crosses The flags are fairly furled, but it seems that all the flag field is yellow and that the crosses are placed in the middle, without a white oval or disk around them.
Ivan Sache, 16 May 2003


Car flag

There's a flag on the car. It's white, with a black double cross on it. The difference is: The cross is rather small and stands upright.
Michael Metzler, 2 August 2003


Other flags

In this scene, there are another two variants (besides the upright double cross flag on the car) of the double cross flags. At first, the one in the foreground: a white (maybe light grey?) flag with an black oval with a white cross on it. And, more in the background, you see a number of flags which look like this: A white (maybe yellow like the flag above?) background, with a light grey (!) double cross on it, which is put into the left corner of the flag, near to the pylon.
Michael Metzler, 2 August 2003


Bacteria

[Parade flag of Tomania]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2002

Bacteria is the parody of fascist Italy. This is an attempt for the national flag, using an analogous pattern to that of the parade flag of Tomania and using the double diamond emblem in the cap of character Napaloni.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2002


 
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