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Looking Back

March 1941

Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in March 1941. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.

For more information about these theaters, see Cinema Treasures or Water Winter Wonderland.


The Great Dictator, Charles Chaplin's first movie since Modern Times (1936), opened in Detroit on Friday, March 14, 1941, at the Michigan (Bagley at Grand River). It had earlier premiered in New York on October 15, 1940, and then played road show engagements before coming to Detroit.

"A new Charlie Chaplin, whom Hitler and history have transformed from a laughable and lovable clown into a self-conscious satirist, has arrived on the screen of the Michigan this week in his latest production, 'The Great Dictator'," wrote Detroit Free Press Motion Picture Editor Frank P. Gill on March 15, 1941. "The new Chaplin, like the old, can still send an audience into shrieks of laughter, but his humor, hitherto sly and subtle, is now barbed and his pantomime is tinged with acid. International events are in the director's chair and Chaplin is the star performer."

"It was a capacity crowd that welcomed Charlie Chaplin back to the screen at the Michigan after an absence of five years," wrote Al Weitschat of The Detroit News in "The Local Screen in Review" column on March 15, 1941. "It took that long for Chaplin to do his one-man job of creating 'The Great Dictator,' and the public curiosity had mounted in the meantime. The local showing is the first at popular prices, and the opening day turnout indicates that the picture is going to fare much better than it did as a road show attraction."

Other Detroit movies on March 14 included John Ford's Tobacco Road at the Fox; Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers in an Oscar-winning role) at the Broadway Capitol; Walt Disney's Fantasia at the Wilson; and, in a return engagement, Gone with the Wind at the United Artists. The Redford was showing a double bill of Santa Fe Trail (Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHavilland) and The Bank Dick (W.C. Fields).

The Great Dictator topped a double bill that also included Father's Son, a sentimental family comedy. This twin bill played at the Michigan for two weeks before moving over to Woodward to the Palms State on March 28. Both the Michigan and the Palms State were part of the United Detroit Theatre chain. On Friday, April 11, The Great Dictator dropped to second billing at the Palms State, behind the Preston Sturges comedy The Lady Eve, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.

The first Detroit run of The Great Dictator ended on April 17, 1941, and the next day the Palms State switched over to a double bill of Road to Zanzibar (Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour) and The Trial of Mary Dugan. Also on April 18, the Cinema at 58 E. Columbia started showing a "Charlie Chaplin Festival" of short films ("The one and only Charlie (the way you love him)").

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of The Great Dictator at the Majestic on Sunday, April 20. It played for a week before being replaced by The Sea Wolf (Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, John Garfield). Also playing in Ann Arbor on April 20 were Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (Mickey Rooney and "introducing" Kathryn Grayson) at the Michigan; Come Live with Me (James Stewart, Hedy Lamarr) at the Wuerth; and Lucky Devils (Richard Arlen, Andy Devine) at the Orpheum.


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Launched November 25, 2005.

Last updated August 30, 2014.

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