Filmsite Movie Review
The Great Dictator (1940)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
The Story (continued)

Hynkel in His Immense Palace - A Plan to Invade Osterlich:

In his grandiose palace, Hynkel was busily commanding his military empire and hierarchy of military troops, to subdue the Tomainians and acquire further territories:

Hynkel's palace was the center of a gigantic enterprise - an enterprise that would build the world's greatest war machine. Behind this undertaking was the dynamic energy of Adenoid Hynkel, whose amazing genius ran the entire nation, whose ceaseless activity kept him busily occupied every moment of the day.

The dictator's "amazing genius" wasn't exactly in evidence. After signing a letter and putting it in an envelope, Hynkel lazily had his attending guard stick out his tongue to moisten and seal the envelope. He then posed as a model for two artists for their tribute creations (a bust and a portrait) - a sculptor (Gino Corrado) and a painter - but only for ten seconds, and then said "Enough!"

Hynkel was summoned to meet with Field Marshal Herring, who announced the development of a new "bulletproof uniform - material as light as silk." During a one minute demonstration in the ante-room, conducted by its creator Professor Herr Kibitzen, Herring claimed the new uniform was "one hundred percent perfect." Hynkel's single test gunshot killed the man, after which he bluntly assessed - with a total disregard for life: "Far from perfect."

Hynkel took time out from his busy schedule to play a few melodies on a piano, then summoned his secretary from the outer office (with a trumpet call) to take a letter. However, Hynkel voraciously advanced on the woman, animalistically snorted at her, embraced her, and bent her backwards for a kiss as she resisted - an approximation of rape. He was again interrupted by a phone call from Herring to view a second demonstration in the tower room, and promptly dropped the woman onto a couch.

Herring bragged about another miraculous invention - "A parachute. The most compact in the world. Worn like an ordinary hat. It will open in 25 feet." A professor (Sig Arno) with the compact parachute on his head jumped from a window in the tower room - to his death below. Hynkel was exasperated with Herring: "Herring, why do you waste my time like this?"

Back in his office, after ten more seconds with the two artists, Hynkel spoke to his Minister of the Interior Garbitsch about the regime's finances, and a way to keep the population of Tomainia diverted from their social problems. While they discussed various issues, the self-possessed Hynkel preened in front of full-length mirrors on the inside of his false-fronted file cabinets behind his desk.

Hynkel: What's the meaning of this - these appropriations? Twenty-five million for prison camps when we need every penny for the manufacturing of munitions.
Garbitsch: We've had to make a few arrests.
Hynkel: A few? How many?
Garbitsch: Not very astronomical. Five or ten thousand - a day....Just a few dissenters, that's all.
Hynkel: What do they dissent about?
Garbitsch: The working hours, the cut in wages, the cheap synthetic food, the quality of the sawdust in the bread.
Hynkel: What more do they want? The finest lumber our mills can supply.
Garbitsch: Nevertheless, the condition is getting dangerous. The people are overworked. They need diversion.
Hynkel: The people, bah!
Garbitsch: We might go a little further with the Jews. Burn down some of their houses. A spectacular assault on the ghetto now might prove diverting.
Hynkel: We must do something more dramatic. Now is the time to invade Osterlich. How soon can we be ready?
Garbitsch: According to Payne, three months.
Hynkel: I can't wait that long. Besides, Napaloni's army might invade Osterlich before me. We must strike now.

Garbitsch informed Hynkel that they did not have enough capital to engage in an invasion of the neighboring country of Osterlich (Austria). Most financial banks refused to do business with Tomainia and lend it money (for the financing of Hynkel's obsessed invasion). It was suggested that they acquire a loan from a Jewish financier named Epstein. However, that would mean that they would have to soften or relax their anti-Semitic stance on the Jewish populace of Tomainia in the ghetto, at least for the time being, in order to convince Epstein to provide the loan:

Garbitsch: In that case, we should require foreign capital.
Hynkel: Borrow it! Borrow it!
Garbitsch: The bankers have all refused. But wait. One man might make us a loan: Epstein.
Hynkel: Epstein? He's a Jew, isn't he?
Garbitsch: Yes.
Hynkel: Hmm. Well, let's be big about it. We'll borrow the money from Epstein.
Garbitsch: It might be difficult, in view of our policy towards his people.
Hynkel: Very well then, we'll change our policy towards his people. Tell Commander Schultz that in future, all persecution of the Jews must cease, at least - until we have negotiated this loan.

Relaxed Policies and Tolerance Toward the Jews - Hannah's Flirtations with the Barber:

As the barber gave Mr. Jaeckel a haircut in his refurbished shop, Jaeckel talked about the turnabout in anti-Jewish persecution in the ghetto. He was completely perplexed by the sudden change:

I don't understand it. The whole ghetto is so quiet now. You can't imagine what was going on while you were away. Uh, this Hynkel business. You weren't here, you were in the hospital, unconscious. Believe me, you don't appreciate what a good time you were having....Well, if things get worse, we can go to Osterlich. That's still a free country. Sooner or later we'll have to go. Anyway, it's nice to see you back. It's like the old days again, eh?

Jaeckel suggested a way for the barber to expand his "very slow" business to service women as a hair salon: "The trouble is, the men are all in concentration camps. You should go in for fixing up the women. Nice money in the beauty parlor business." Hannah sat in the barber's chair for a practice hair-styling session. She was also prodded by Jaeckel to flirt with the barber ("I've seen you making eyes"):

Jaeckel: Hannah, get up in that chair. We are going to make you look beautiful.
Hannah: Beautiful? What for?
Jaeckel: He's going to practice on you for a beauty parlor.
Hannah: You're not gonna put mud on my face, are ya?
Jaeckel: Ah, we're going to take some off!

Hannah: You're gonna make me look beautiful?
Jaeckel: Sure, he can't make you look any worse.

Hannah complimented the barber on his shop, but acknowledged her impoverishment, and then went into a long-winded, mostly one-sided conversation about her beliefs, as he thoughtlessly prepared her for a man's shave with shaving cream and a straight-edged razor:

I wish I had a business like this. There's no future in housework. Maybe if I save my money I can have a barbershop some day. But I can never save. Money slips through my fingers like that. The trouble is, I've always lived up to every penny I've earned. Why shouldn't I? You're here today and gone tomorrow, and then where are you? Do you believe in God? I do. But if there wasn't one, would you live any different? I wouldn't. Life could be wonderful if people'd leave you alone. Things are looking brighter now. Maybe you're the reason saving Commander Schultz' life. Funny how they've left us alone. Seems too good to be true.

Do you ever daydream? I do. That's the only time I'm really happy. Dreaming. Sometimes I get so carried away, I don't know what I'm doing. Aren't you like that? Do you know we're very much alike?...Yeah! We're both absent-minded....Yes! I like absent-minded people. Do you know the story about the man who put his watch in boiling water and held the egg in his hand? They say all great men are absent-minded. It's a sign you're smart. My folks didn't think so. Of course, there's an excuse for you. You were injured in the war. I was born that way. I wonder why women never grow whiskers.

It suddenly dawned on both of them that the absent-minded barber had been shaving her as if she was a male client. He admitted: "Isn't that foolish of me? I could kick myself in the shins, I could," as they both shared a laugh. The barber decided to give her a shampoo instead, and soon after, she was amazed by the results in a mirror - newly-curled hair with a bow: "Gee! Ain't I cute!"

After leaving the shop, Hannah bought a kettle-full of potatoes (sold at four pecks a pound) from a street vendor. When she fell on the sidewalk in front of a few storm troopers and spilled her apron carrying the potatoes, she was shocked when they assisted her - proof of the sudden change in Hynkel's Jewish policy. She faced the camera and expressed her hopes for a peaceful, persecution-free future:

Something's happened, I know it. The storm troopers - they helped me up.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if they stopped hating us, if they'd leave us alone and let us go about our business like we used to?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't have to leave and go to another country.
I don't want to go away. With all the hardship and the persecution, I love it here. Perhaps we don't have to go.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if they'd let us live and be happy again?

Hynkel's Reversal of Jewish Policy:

In his palace, Hynkel was dictating a letter to one of three female stenographers or typists. At first, after Hynkel's dictated a stream of mock-German, the typist only made a few keystrokes. But then, after hearing him say only one Tomainian word ("Der fleuten"), she clacked out a lengthy letter. The inept Hynkel projected his own personal frustrations onto his "incompetent" support staff and his desk pen holder when he couldn't extricate a pen from its base:

Nothing works! Not a decent pen. Not even a sharp pencil! I'm surrounded by nothing but incompetent, stupid, sterile stenographers!

Intensely irritated, he ripped up the letter and curtly dismissed the three secretaries, Hynkel was informed by the portly Herring about a mass-extermination invention - "We've just discovered the most wonderful, the most marvelous poison gas. It will kill everybody..."

[Note: This was an historical reference to the Nazi's use of Zyklon B, a cyanide-based gas deployed in gas chambers to murder over a million prisoners during the Holocaust.]

Garbitsch reported that it was hopeful and favorable that their loan would be approved by Epstein: "Our agent reports that all the board of directors are Aryan, so the loan is bound to go through." Herring's secret female Agent B-76 entered to tell Hynkel about an uprising and strike at one of his arms plants by all 3,000 workers. According to her, the five strike leaders had already been shot. Hynkel went further and ordered the elimination of all the disgruntled workers: "Have them all shot! I don't want any of my workers dissatisfied." Garbitsch advised against curtailing production altogether:

But, your Excellency, these men are skilled craftsmen. Why not let them work until they can train others and then shoot them...The whole rhythm of production will be affected if we shoot them now.

Although reluctant, Hynkel relented and changed his mind: "Rhythm of production? All right, have your rhythms." Garbitsch relayed orders to Secret Agent B-76: "You may permit your operatives to spare the strikers and permit them to return to work. But to mark them for future reference." Hynkel noted that all five of the strike leaders were brunettes ("Not a blonde amongst them"). Garbitsch further suggested that "Brunettes are troublemakers! They're worse than the Jews."

Garbitsch promoted his desire to completely exterminate the Jewish race (and then all brunettes). Thus, Hynkel (and Garbitsch - both brunettes!) would be left in charge of an entirely blonde, blue-eyed, pure Aryan race throughout the world. Garbitsch urged Hynkel on with his engineered vision of future destiny - a "pure Aryan race" - his assertions were completely laughable, hypocritical and crazy:

Garbitsch: We'll get rid of the Jews first. Then concentrate on the brunettes.
Hynkel: We shall never have peace until we have a pure Aryan race. How wonderful! Tomainia, a nation of blue-eyed blondes.
Garbitsch: Why not a blonde Europe, a blonde Asia, a blonde America?
Hynkel: A blonde world.
Garbitsch: And a brunette dictator.
Hynkel: Dictator of the world!
Garbitsch: Why not? Aut Caesar aut nullus. [Latin: "Either Caesar or no one."] The world is effete, worn out, afraid. No nation would dare to oppose you.
Hynkel: Dictator of the world!
Garbitsch: It's your destiny. We'll kill off the Jews, wipe out the brunettes, then will come forth our dream - a pure Aryan race.
Hynkel: Beautiful blonde Aryans.
Garbitsch: They will love you. They will adore you. They will worship you as a god!
Hynkel: (frightened by the prospect) No-no you mustn't say it! You make me afraid of myself.

Hynkel raced over to the long window curtain-drapes and climbed up the fabric for a higher vantage point - and then smiled back at Garbitsch, who proposed world domination within just a few years. It was proposed that Hynkel could become the "dictator of the world" - beginning with the invasion of neighboring Osterlich.

Garbitsch: Yes! Dictator of the world! We'll start with the invasion of Osterlich. After that, we won't have to fight, we can bluff! Nation after nation will capitulate. Within two years, the world will be under your thumb!
Hynkel: Leave me. I want to be alone. [Note: These were words immortalized by Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939).]

Hynkel's World-Domination Balloon Dance:

The next sequence was one of filmdom's most splendid pantomime sequences. The Hitler-like, uniformed Herr Hynkel, left alone in his large imperial palace office, slid down to the floor from the curtain. He became obsessed with the idea of taking over the world. He performed a slow-paced, "Emperor of the World" ballet or acrobatic dance to visualize his idea - to the tune of the Overture or Prelude (Act 1) of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin.

He approached a giant, balloon-like globe of the world in its wooden stand, and repeated Garbitsch's Latin phrase: "Aut Caesar aut nullus. Emperor of the World! My world." He grasped the inflatable plastic orb, held his hands out delicately to surround it, and imagined himself possessing, caressing and caring for it, as if he was dominating the world. Hynkel gently removed the globe from its stand and raised it aloft - he spun and balanced it with one hand, while letting go with a sick, maniacal laugh. He sent it from his fingertips to sail into the air over his head - it floated from one hand to the other and back.

As the toy balloon drifted down, he gave it a light rear kick with his heel and it soared toward the high ceiling in the room. When it descended, he bounced it upwards with his head - while his hands were interlaced in front of his waistline. When it floated down again, he let it bounce on the floor and then adoringly caught it in his outstretched arms. He sized it up for a moment, and then repeated the kicking action with his other foot and the head-bounce. After a few more gentle tosses with both hands as he moved toward his desk (behind which was the vertical 'double-cross' symbol), he caught the globe. While reclining on his back on the top of his desk, he swiftly kicked it into the air with his left foot. When it descended a second time, he twisted slightly, sent it upwards again from his hand, and then when it descended again, he contemptuously projected it upwards with two gentle bounces off his butt. He caught it once more with his extended arm, spun it close to his face, and stared lovingly at it.

After a few more soft tosses, he jumped onto the top of his desk with both feet, sent it aloft again, jumped to the floor in front of the desk, and grabbed it on the way down. As he held out the conquered world and brought it toward his torso, it suddenly exploded and burst in front of his face - he held up the tattered rubber rag - all that was left of his world. Distressed, he whirled away, put his head down on his desk behind him, and with his back to the camera, he collapsed into sobbing tears.

The Barber Shop Hungarian Dance:

A second two-minute pantomime sequence commenced in the Jewish barber's shop during the shaving of a white-haired elderly customer (Chester Conklin), to the rhythmic tune of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5 playing on a radio broadcast ("the happy hour program"). The radio announcer suggested: "Make your work a pleasure. Move with the rhythm of music."

The barber stirred shaving cream in a mug, then applied the lathered up substance onto the face of the reclining customer in his barber chair, with the strokes perfectly timed or synchronized to the music. He rubbed in the cream, wiped his hands clean, and honed his straight-edged razor with a strop by running the blade up and down the stone block, and tested it sharpness by pulling out one of his own hairs and slicing through it. Next, he vigorously moved the blade back and forth on a long leather strap attached to the barber chair. He applied wide but precise strokes to the sides of the face and under the chin of his customer. He wiped the excess shaving cream onto a white cloth towel and continued until he had completely shaved the man's entire face.

He ended the session by again stropping the blade on the leather strap, squirting a post-shave balm or moisturizer into his palms, and vigorously applying it, before wiping the man's face clean with a cloth. Every stroke in the process was timed to the violin chords. Afterwards, the customer's hair was combed and brushed at the same time, the sheet was removed, and his hat was applied to his head. He held out his hand for payment: "Fifteen cents, please."

[Note: Chuck Jones' Warner Bros' animated Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny (and Elmer Fudd) cartoon Rabbit of Seville (1950), paid homage to the barber shop shaving sequence, and to the later scene of the two dictators competing for height in two adjacent barber chairs.].

The Changed Policy of the Treatment of the Jews by Hynkel:

When the "happy hour program" signed off on the soundtrack, the scene segued into a close-up of a chess-board - a game in progress between Mr. Jaeckel and another elderly friend Mr. Agar (Paul Weigel). The radio announced that another 'address' was about to be delivered by Adenoid Hynkel. The two men discussed the current treatment of the Jews:

Agar: It seems like the old days again, don't it?
Jaeckel: I wonder how long they're going to last?
Agar: Don't you read the papers? It's rumored that Hynkel is going to give the Jewish people back their rights.
Jaeckel: Hmm, maybe.
Agar: What do you want? Business is much better. Nobody interferes with us any more. Now don't that make you feel good?
Jaeckel: No, sir.
Agar: The trouble, Mr. Jaeckel, is you're so used to bad times, you're unhappy without them.

At the same time, Hannah was preparing to go out with her 'beau' (the Jewish barber) for an evening date. When she was concerned about the rough calluses on her hands, she was advised to wear a pair of mittens. Meanwhile, young Aggie (Francesca Santoro) reported that the barber next door was finishing up with a shiny bald customer (Torben Meyer): "He's polishing a bald man's head."

Meanwhile, in Hynkel's palace, the dictator received "bad news" from Garbitsch about Epstein's anticipated loan: "The invasion of Osterlich will have to be delayed....Epstein refuses to lend us the money." Jewish financier Epstein had not been fooled by the sudden change in policy toward the persecution. [Note: This was an historical reference to the pre-war pogrom against the Jews, or Kristallnacht, conducted by the Nazis in November of 1938.] Epstein decided to refuse to lend the Tomainian government funds to finance the invasion. Hynkel was furious, calling Epstein "contemptible" as he agitatedly cracked walnuts.

Garbitsch explained Epstein's decision: "He complained of the persecution of his people and said under no circumstances would he have any dealings with a medieval maniac." Commander Schultz was summoned and ordered by Hynkel to retaliate against Epstein by purging the Jews. Hynkel called for the reinstatement and intensification of the persecution of the Jewish people, although Schultz - who was sympathetic to the Jews, vehemently objected to their inhumane treatment:

Hynkel: First I shall deal with his people....Schultz, call out the storm troopers. We're going to stage a little medieval entertainment in the ghetto!
Schultz: At such a time, your Excellency, I think it's ill-advised....Demonstrations of this kind are demoralizing the whole country.
Hynkel: Indeed! And since when have you been so concerned about the ghetto?
Schultz: I speak in the interests of our party and the cause of humanity.
Hynkel: Schultz, you need a vacation. Fresh air. A little outdoor exercise. I'll send you to a concentration camp. Guards! Place Commander Schultz under arrest.
Schultz: Very well, but remember my words. Your cause is doomed to failure because it is built on the stupid, ruthless persecution of innocent people. Your policy is worse than a crime. It's a tragic blunder.
Hynkel: Traitor! Traitor! You're a doubley-eyed democrat! (Hynkel angrily peeled a banana as he swore in quasi-German) Schultz, why have you forsaken me?

As a result of Schultz' opposition to Hynkel's changed policy that he feared would destroy Tomainia, he was denounced as a traitor and as a double-crossing supporter of democracy. Schultz was promptly arrested, and ordered into a concentration camp. Hynkel was preparing to deliver another speech via radio to the people of Tomainia, to denounce the Jewish people. He told Garbitsch that he wouldn't need notes and promised: "What I say tonight will not be directed to the children of the double-cross, but to the children of Israel!"

At the same time, the barber - who was smartly dressed up for his date - proceeded next door to escort Hannah, in view of all the gathered and curious neighbors. Out on the street, as Hynkel's loud tirade of a speech was being broadcast (and viewed in extreme close-up in inter-cut scenes), they purchased two Hynkel buttons (with a photo) from a street vendor - and then realized that the ghetto was again being targeted for violence as Jews were being labeled as state enemies. They changed their mind on the sale, returned the two buttons, and watched as the street was rapidly deserted. They fled back to Jaeckel's courtyard to evade storm troopers who were now on the march, shooting their guns into the air, and threatening the ghetto neighborhood with "a social call." The couple hid with other frightened Jews who sought shelter in the courtyard. Jaeckel encouraged everyone to resist: "We've got to make a stand. We might as well die as to go on living like this."

The storm troopers invaded the courtyard, but then one of them remembered Commander Schultz' orders to not harm the Jews ("Commander Schultz gave strict orders not to molest anyone in this court...The orders were to keep out of here"). The marauding troops reluctantly left but soon after they learned of Schultz' arrest for being a traitor and "friend" of the barber, they quickly returned to target the barber and the other Jewish neighbors. Hannah and the barber hid on Jaeckel's adjacent rooftop, and watched as the nearby barber shop was demolished and burnt to the ground. Hannah had a degree of optimism - she suggested that they escape to Osterlich:

Never mind. We can start again. We can go to Osterlich. That's still a free country. Mr. Jaeckel says it's beautiful there. Wonderful green fields and they grow apples and grapes. Mr. Jaeckel's brother's got a vineyard in Osterlich. And when Mr. Jaeckel goes there, he said he'd take me with him. Now we can all go together. It'll be wonderful living in the country, much better than a smoky old city. And if we work hard and don't eat much, we can save money and buy a chicken farm. There's nice money to be made in chickens. (She began to cry) Look at that star! Isn't it beautiful! One thing, Hynkel with all his power can never touch that.

Schultz' Escape and Plotting with the Jews - The Pudding Test - A Suicide Mission to Assassinate Hynkel:

Mr. Jaeckel announced that the coast was clear and that Commander Schultz had escaped from captivity. He had fled to the ghetto and was hiding in the cellar. During a meeting to be held that evening at midnight, with the barber and other residents present, Schultz was plotting a revolt to overthrow Hynkel's tyrannical regime (Hannah: "He wants us to blow up the palace"). Five puddings (or ramekin muffins) would be set out for the meal, and the one agent who selected a pudding with a gold coin inside would identify the one chosen to be a martyr for the cause. Mr. Jaeckel's wife (Emma Dunn) was concerned about the Jews getting involved in deadly politics: ("We Jewish people shouldn't get mixed up in such a business"). When Hannah learned of the mischievous plot, she claimed that she "fixed everything," and told Mrs. Jaeckel not to worry. [Note: She sabotaged the foolhardy plan by placing a coin in all five puddings.]

During the late-night meeting, Schultz attempted to organize resistance to Hynkel by recruiting five residents as conspirators (including the barber, Mr. Jaeckel, Mr. Agar, Mr. Mann, and one other). The five men were lined up on one side of a table, resembling The Last Supper. Imploring the men, Schultz described his plan for a sacrificial, suicide mission to infiltrate Hynkel's palace with a bomb.

We are here tonight to rid the country of a tyrant. In order to carry out this plan, one of us must die. In ancient times, the Aryan tribe of Langobardians made human sacrifice to the god Thor. At a feast, by lottery, the victim was chosen. Tonight, at this feast, one of you will be chosen. Each man will receive a pudding. Concealed in one of these is a coin. Whoever gets that coin must give up his life for the liberation of his people. But - he will join the long line of history's noble martyrs and will rid his country of a tyrant. I know that it is the wish of all of us to be chosen this night to die for Tomainia.

However, Schultz would not be one of those to be randomly selected (in the lottery) to be the Jewish "liberator" - since he was too "well-known" or recognizable.

During the hilarious, mostly silent five-minute pudding cake test, the barber gingerly and nervously handed out each plate to his compatriots, carefully comparing the weight of each plate to determine the heaviest one with a coin. He cheated to try and avoid being randomly picked as the 'winner' for the deadly mission, but failed miserably.

He took his first bite, had a look of shock on his face, and painfully consumed (swallowed) one of the coins, aided with a sip of water. As he turned away to get a tablespoon of sugar, the man in an adjacent seat deftly and surreptitiously scooped his coin onto the barber's plate. The barber took a second bite and realized he had now discovered two coins - he swallowed again with another gulp of water. Ultimately, he ended up swallowing three coins - the third one was also passed down onto his plate. When he hiccuped, the coins jangled deep in his throat.

When Mr. Jaeckel heroically admitted that he had discovered a coin in his pudding, the barber regurgitated three of them out at the last moment, like winnings spit out from a slot machine. Hannah admitted her ploy to curtail the desperate, self-destructive, absurd and counter-productive mission: "Blowing up palaces and wanting to kill people! We're in enough trouble as it is!" The scene ended with the barber stealthily pocketing the three coins from the table, and Jaeckel's agreed-upon assessment:

Hannah's right. We've all been foolish. Our place is at home, looking after our own affairs.

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