HITLER IN THE MOVIES
In pre-World War II,  Hitler was played for laughs
in several American movies. Before the horrors of
the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities were
discovered, Hitler was often portrayed by
Hollywood as a clown. And it all started with
Charlie Chaplin. After the War, everything  
changed and  nobody had the bad taste to make
a fool of Hitler considering the atrocities
committed against so many races and so many
people.  Today, those  films are rarely seen or
even known from the general public and it is well
regrettable because they depict Hitler as he really
was : a mentally sick, selfish, grotesque
megalomaniac.  The post-WW2 movies are more
dramatic and less satirical. It is as  though the
Holocaust has  killed political laughter and made
everybody politicalyl correct and dramatically
boring..
The Great Dictator
The Devil with Hitler
Das Testament des Dr Mabuse
The Three Stooges
The second  movie to make fun of Adolf  Hitler was made
by Charles Chaplin who wrote, directed, and starred in
the classic anti-war comedy
The Great Dictator  in 1940.
The title dictator was named Adenoid Hynkel, tyrant of
Tomania,  but everyone could see it was supposed to be
Hitler. The movie is also starring Paulette Goddard as
Hannah  and  Jack Oakie as  Benzini Napaloni as dictator
of Bacteria.  
In the film, Chaplin depicts Nazi politics as laughable and
Hitler as an arrogant, stupid, and crazy politician.  It was
exactly what he was but his double face personality was
capable to hide it from the German public and a lot of his
Generals like Admiral Raeder who said in 1945:" Hitler
was a devil but I realized it too late."

Even after World War II erupted, Hitler was always
portrayed as a joke. For example, in the short (44
minutes only) comedy film
The Devil with Hitler  
released in 1942, the Board of Directors in hell threaten
to replace the Devil with Adolph Hitler, unless the Devil
played by actor Alan Mowbray can trick Hitler into
performing a good deed. Hitler is played by actor Bobby
Watson as a moron who speaks of the Rudolph Hess
'trip" to England as one in which "I lost my Hess" or is
heard bragging about his skills as a two-handed house
painter by claiming : "I could switch hands and never miss
a stroke."

Then in 1942 director Ernst Lubitsch who fled Germany in
1933  like  Fritz Lang directed the  movie
To Be or Not to
Be  
that staged an actor from a Polish stage group who
imitates Hitler to enable the escape of the troupe to
England.  The  film starred Carole Lombard  as  Maria
Tura,  Jack Benny as Joseph Tura and  Robert Stack as Lt.
Sobinski.  When Jack Benny's father went to see this
movie, he was outraged at the sight of his son in a Nazi
uniform in the first scene and even stormed out of the
theater. Jack convinced his father that it was satire, and
he agreed to sit through all of it.

The very complicated narrative is presented virtually
flawlessly and the comedy is never allowed to hold up the
narrative. The principle actors,  Carole Lombard   and Jack
Benny in particular, but many of the supporting cast as
well,  throw themselves into the affair with gusto. Apart
from the satirical aspect of the story and the way in which
Hitler and the Nazis are mercilessly ridiculed for their
authoritarianism and the fear which is their only
motivator, the film pokes gentle fun at the vanity of actors
in a warm and happy manner.

Also Hitler was caricatured in numerous animated shorts
during World War II, including
Der Fuehrer's Face, a
1943 Disney wartime propaganda cartoon featuring
Donald Duck, and Herr Meets Hare with Bugs Bunny.  It is
extremely well done and very hilarious. It was banned for
obscure reasons probably because the censors feared
that the American  public was too dumb to see the satire
and the irony.(1)
The first to make fun of Adolf  Hitler were the  Three
Stooges before the entry of the USA  into the war :
several
Three Stooges shorts, the first being You Nazty
Spy
(1940) in which the boys are made dictators of the
fictional country Moronica. This short in particular implies
that business interests were behind Hitler's rise to
power. It was also the first Hollywood production to
satirize the Nazis. In other Three Stooges shorts, Hitler is
referred to as "
Schicklgruber" in reference to his father
Alois Hitler's birth name.

But the first  movie to have allegedly made fun of Adolf
Hitler was  
Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The
Testament of Dr. Mabuse) in 1933 by director Fritz Lang
that was   promptly banned by Paul Josef  Goebbels,
minister of propaganda, who found the political portrait
implicit in Mabuse too close to home.  In later years,  
Lang was to suggest that the film was intended as a
political parable, although this might have been
exaggerated.  Lang  fled Germany in 1933 after having
refused to become  President of the Film German  
Industry.
Many critics consider Fritz Lang's depiction of a homicidal
maniac masterminding a criminal empire from within the
walls of a criminal asylum to be an allegory of the Nazi
ascent to power in Germany. Lang never said it was not  
true but a slight doubt  lingered about the real goal of
the movie.
Adolf Hitler and  his English
lookalike Charles Chaplin
were born the same month of
the same  year, April 1889,
Chaplin four days  earlier
only. As Chaplin said after
the release of the Dictator :"I
will always have a small
advance upon this clown."
"Ernst Lubitsch is the sort of
young man who is prepared
to give his unqualified
endorsement to anything
American. He is very
good-natured: smiles
continually. He has a
personality that is both
gracious and pleasing. He
says he likes Charlie Chaplin
better than any actor he has
ever seen and the last time
a Chaplin picture played in
Berlin he went three times.
Harold Lloyd is also a great
favorite of Mr. Lubitsch. He
thinks he is one of our best
actors." Louella Parsons in    
                 The New  York
Telegraph, 1922. Lubitsch
was  born in 1892 and died
in Hollywood in 1947 of a
heart attack, his sixth.
Der Führer's face was banned
and it is vert pitty because it
is probably the best anti
propaganda cartoon of all
times but the American
censors were too stupid to
anticipate the real effect it
could have on the public.
In 1942, Bobby Watson who apparently made a career of impersonating Hitler had a
second chance in the  
Hitler Dead or Alive  in which Hitler is targeted for
assassination by American gangsters. The plot centered on a rich American who
offered a million-dollar bounty on Hitler. Three American crooks (Ward Bond, Paul Fix,
and Warren Hymer) muscle their way into Germany to collect the reward.  Viewing the
assassination of Hitler as just another hit on another mob boss, the trio joins the
Canadian Air Force, hijacks a plane, and heads into the Fatherland for a
confrontation.  It’s explained that the crooks speak fluent German because they had
a bootleg beer racket during prohibition in Wisconsin.  They are captured by the
Gestapo and escape a prison camp with help from the anti-Nazi underground. They
finally capture Hitler, and then shave his mustache and cut his hair. When the Nazi’s
catch up with them, they don’t believe this “inferior specimen” (
untermensch) is
their beloved Führer and he’s shot. The film concludes with the idea that even if Hitler
was killed the German military would simply find someone to impersonate him to keep
the Nazi ideal alive. The crooks realize that Hitler is just a symbol, and (sadly) Nazism
would continue to thrive without him.

Apparently the success of  
The Devil with Hitler was popular enough for a sequel.
In
That Nazty Nuisance (1943)   Bobby Watson again played Der Führer. This time
Hitler, Mussolini, and a Japanese madman named Suki Yaki   journey to a tiny island
for a secret meeting. Their conference is ruined by a shipwrecked American sailor and
a pretty island girl. The humor is the kind of broad burlesque that people would deem
too predictable or too much like The Three Stooges.

Then there was
The Strange death of Adolf  Hitler  (1943) directed   by James P.
Hogan who died the same  year  in  which Ludwig Donath plays an actor who is given
plastic surgery by the Gestapo to look like Hitler. Why? Because they want to install
their own Hitler so they can control him. However, the actor is anti-Nazi and tricks the
Gestapo — only to be killed by his own wife who thinks he really is Hitler.  Some critics
thought that this movie was funnier than the Great Dictator to which it stole bits of
plot.
Drawing of SS soldiers  killing
Jewish and Slavs  
Untermenschen in Poland in
1930-40. In  
Nazty Nuisances,
director Glenn Tryon casted his
heroes going on a secret
mission to sign a treaty with an
Arab sheik. Once in the desert
the trio run into not only the
sheik but also a sailor with a
talent for magic.
After the war Nazi atrocities were fully revealed and  for a long period
of time nobody dared to represent Hitler and the Nazis as simple
fools. It is only in 1963 that  American film director David Bradley started
again to put Hitler on stage with a movie called  
They Saved Hitler's
brain
(also known  as The Madman of Mondoras and The Return of
Mr. H) as another  Hitler movie of note. Many sources list this odd film
as a comedy,  considering it funny. Others say it isn’t. It’s a really,
really boring story that was actually an uncompleted 1950s movie with
added footage.  Hitler’s head (in what appears to be a pickle jar) barks
orders to dim witted henchmen.

Then Brooks successfully used Nazis for laughs in the original
version of
The Producers in 1968. However, this movie featured a bad
(and, it was implied, stoned) actor called LSD doing a bad impersonation
of Hitler. Although Hitler and Nazism are essential to the plot, Hitler as a
real person is not there.  But  the movie is more a satire on  Broadway,
with Nazis and Hitler as a subplot : featured a play-within-a-play called
Springtime for Hitler, featuring dancing Nazis and songs about the conquest of Europe. Brooks' later comedy,
History of the World Part I, featured "Hitler on Ice."    In 1985, Brooks directed  a remake of
To be or not to be .
Hitler actually does have a cameo in this movie (played by Roy Goldman), and although Nazism is addressed more
directly than in The Producers, Hitler and his henchmen are not the stars — they are just bit players.

In 1973 Italian director Ennio De Concini  directed
Hitler, The Last Ten Days with Alec Guinness as Hitler and Doris
Kunstmann as  Eva Braun who is quoted as saying to her lover:" What a pity for the world you couldn't have
devoted your life to art." Beginning with a celebration of the Führer's last birthday, the atmosphere grows gradually
more and more depressing, while Hitler from time to time peppers his entourage with his disoriented visions of an
actual victory to come; this is foiled with very brief "real" vignettes of historical truth what is actually happening as
Hitler speaks.

In 1981 director American director George Schaefer  (1920-1997) directed
The Bunker starring Anthony Hopkins and
Richard Jordan as Albert Speer in a movie which was a dramatization depicting the events surrounding Adolf Hitler's
last weeks in and around his underground bunker in Berlin before and during the battle for the city.  The US version
of the film is cut down to 90 minutes from an original running time of 2 hours and 34 minutes.
Hitler masturbating by  Salvador Dali was
painted in 1973, a long time after the war and a
bit late to be taken seriously. It would  have had
a more detrimental effect if it had been done in
1943 when Dali was 39 years old.
IN  2002 The film Max directed  by Dutch director  Menno Meyjes starred Noah
Taylor as Hitler during his days as a failed artist in Vienna just after World War I.  
John Cusack plays the title character, Max Rothman, a Jewish art dealer who takes
Hitler under his wing out of pity, only to find that the angry young loner is
becoming dangerously popular as the rabidly anti-Semitic speaker for the
emerging German Worker's Party (which later became the Nazi Party.)  This is
complete falsification of  history as Hitler discovered the German Worker's Party
only in 1919 after WW1 and as this party was created in 1918 only.  Hitler  lived in
Vienna from 1908 to 1913. The film is extremely slow, boring and is a bad parody
of what actually took  place in Hitler's life in Vienna.  Director Meyjes did not did
seriously his  homework.

Finally we had the  final days of Hitler's life  been turned into a German film,
Der
Untergang
(2004) directed  by German Oliver Hirschbiegel starring Bruno Ganz as
the dictator. The stated intention of the director was to portray Hitler's "human
side", which garnered a certain amount of criticism.  The plot is very simple : Traudl
Junge (Lara), the final secretary for Adolf Hitler , tells of the Nazi dictator's final
days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WW2.  A kind of unsettling feeling grips you
when you see seemingly ordinary people commit astonishing atrocities and sins
towards mankind, just for their faith and loyalty to one man, Hitler, who himself
walks the edge of reason.

One can not conclude this review of movies about Hitler without mentioning the
play by  Bertolt Brecht,
Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (The Resistible
Rise of Arturo Ui)  in which Hitler, in the persona of the principal character Arturo
Ui, a Chicago racketeer in the cauliflower trade, is ruthlessly satirised.
 It was
written by Brecht in 1941 in Helsinki while he awaited a visa to enter the US. The
play was not produced on the stage until 1958, and not until 1961 in English.
Director Menno Meyujes made
this sadly unremarkable film
about young Hitler in Vienna,
Max. The film misses all the
main characteristics of Hitler at
that time of his life and only
shows a rabid antisemite who
is hallucinated by a political
party that does not yet exist in
the early 1900s. An abysmal
failure.
The play is highly satirical of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, whose rise
Brecht considered parallel to that of Ui. All the characters and groups in
the play have direct counterparts in real life, with Ui representing Hitler,
his henchman Ernesto Roma representing Ernst Röhm, Emanuele Giri
representing Göring, the Cauliflower Trust representing the Prussian
Junkers and so on. In addition, every scene in the play is based on a
real event, with a warehouse fire representing the fire at the Reichstag.

The play has been criticized for emphasizing the gangster aspect of the
Nazis and ignoring their strong ideological and racist appeal. It is
probably the most violent satire and critic of the Nazi regime and its  
henchmen. In my opinion, Brecht justly considered that the Nazis were
as much a bunch of
mafiosi (like Göring,  Kaltenbrunner, Frank and Ley)
as a clique of  devious ideologues and bloody racists (like Goebbels,
Rosenberg, Heydrich and Himmler). Hitler, the mad King, being the   
Supreme Arbiter between those two demented clans.
Playwright Bertolt  Brecht  was the only one
to depict  Hitler and his  henchmen as they
really were, i.e. a team of fanatical mafiosi
practicing terror, blackmail, looting and
summary executions.
(1) The cartoon was available on the net through a lot of video displaying sites like YouTube but was suddently
withdrawn without any explanation. Probably a matter of copyright. It is very regrettable because the film was
extremely brilliant and funny.