The Great King
Der große König.jpg
Directed byVeit Harlan
Written byVeit Harlan
Gerhard Menzel
Hans Rehberg
StarringOtto Gebühr
CinematographyBruno Mondi
Edited byFriedrich Karl von Puttkamer
Distributed byDeutsche Filmvertriebs
Release date
  • 3 March 1942 (1942-03-03)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryNazi Germany
Budget4.779 million ℛℳ[1]
Box office6 million ℛℳ[2]
Otto Gebühr played Frederick the Great in 16 films.
Otto Gebühr played Frederick the Great in 16 films.

The Great King (German: Der große König) is a 1942 German drama film directed by Veit Harlan and starring Otto Gebühr.[3] It depicts the life of Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786. It received the rare "Film of the Nation" distinction.[4] It was part of a popular cycle of "Prussian films".

The film is a depiction of the Führerprinzip, with the analogy to Adolf Hitler being so clear that Hitler sent a print to Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Goebbels warned against the drawing of the comparison in print, in particular, because of the pessimistic mood that opens the film.[5] After a sergeant gives an unauthorised order, the king orders him simultaneously promoted and punished. His decision to desert after this results in his death, because no disobedience is justified.[4] Goebbels declared that the parallels were not a matter of propaganda, but an obvious result of the parallels of history.[6]

Goebbels also regarded it as instructive that current sufferings would be a source of strength.[7] Goebbels had some difficulty with the Army High Command over this film, because it depicted the king left in the lurch by his general. He complained that the army felt that any depiction, however historical, reflected badly on them.[4]




  1. ^ Noack 2016, p. 186.
  2. ^ Noack 2016, p. 196.
  3. ^ Hal Erickson. "New York Times: The Great King". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p116 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
  5. ^ Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p113-4 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
  6. ^ Pierre Aycoberry The Nazi Question, p10 Pantheon Books New York 1981
  7. ^ Cinzia Romani, Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich p93 ISBN 0-9627613-1-1


  • Noack, Frank (2016) [2000]. Veit Harlan: "des Teufels Regisser" [Veit Harlan: The Life and Work of a Nazi Filmmaker]. Lexinton: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813167008.