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To Be or Not to Be

To Be or Not to Be

5.0 2
Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack


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Ernst Lubitsch directs the 1942 political satire classic To Be or Not to Be, which marked the final screen appearance of comedienne Carole Lombard. In Warsaw at the beginning of WWII, Maria Tura (Lombard) and husband Joseph (Jack Benny) perform anti-Nazi plays with their theater troupe until they are


Ernst Lubitsch directs the 1942 political satire classic To Be or Not to Be, which marked the final screen appearance of comedienne Carole Lombard. In Warsaw at the beginning of WWII, Maria Tura (Lombard) and husband Joseph (Jack Benny) perform anti-Nazi plays with their theater troupe until they are forced to switch to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack) falls for Maria and meets up with her during Joseph's famous "To Be or Not to Be" speech as Hamlet. When Stanislav is eventually dispatched for war, he implicates Maria with Professor Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), who has a secret plan to destroy the Warsaw resistance. The Polish theater troupe is then forced to use their theatrical skills to ensure their survival. Eventually, they turn to impersonating Nazi officers -- and even Hitler himself -- in order to outwit the enemy and keep the resistance safe from spies. To Be or Not to Be opened to a controversial release in 1942, when the U.S. was still very much involved in WWII. It was remade in 1983 starring Mel Brooks and real-life wife Anne Bancroft.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
When you take two of the screen’s most skillful comic actors, give them a superb script, and get a legendarily gifted filmmaker to direct them, the result is generally outstanding. Certainly that was the case with this brilliant 1942 black comedy, which managed to find humor in Poland’s occupation by the Nazis and the determined efforts of a ramshackle theatrical troupe to outwit them. Jack Benny and Carole Lombard play a ham actor and his tart-tongued wife, respectively, with Robert Stack as a gallant young patriot who falls for Lombard. The gimmick is that Benny assists the Polish underground while diverting the attention of deadly but dim-witted Nazi soldiers. Director Ernst Lubitsch, the undisputed king of sly farce, develops humorous situations with a sure hand, but he also sustains a tense dramatic pace and makes his improbable premise seem logical. Benny is nothing short of hysterical as the egotistical star, and his reactions to audience members walking out on him are alone worth the time it’ll take you to watch the movie. Sadly, this was the last film to feature Lombard, who died in a plane crash just before it was released. Her breezy, assured performance made a triumphant finale to an illustrious career.
All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
To Be or Not to Be remains one example of a wartime propaganda film that retains its freshness and entertainment value outside its original historical context. Made during World War II by German expatriate Ernst Lubitsch, the film features anti-fascist themes that never overwhelm the characters, and it allows star Jack Benny to fashion a likeable performance that transcends the story's political content. Where many topical comedies veer into either serious drama or excessive sentimentality, To Be or Not to Be maintains its satiric edge without descending into self-parody. The film works as a comedy, as a political thriller, as an anti-fascist satire, and as an allegorical parable. The dialogue contains sharp, ironic observations aimed at the absurdity of totalitarian dogma. While Nazis and Hitler were Lubitsch's specific targets, the film retains a more universal mockery of government oppression and the willingness of bureaucrats to accept their tasks without questioning them.

Product Details

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[B&W, Full Frame]
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Special Features

Disc One: New audio commentary featuring film historian David Kalat; ; Disc Two: Pinkus's Shoe Palace, a 1916 German silent short directed by and starring Ernst Lubitsch, with a new piano score by Donald Sosin; Lubitsch Le Patron, a 2010 French documentary on the director's career; Two episodes of The Screen Guild Theater, a radio anthology series: Variety (1940), starring Jack Benny, Claudette Colbert, and Lubitsch, and To Be Or Not To Be (1942), an adaptation of the film, starring William Powell, Diand Lewis and Sig Ruman

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Carole Lombard Maria Tura
Jack Benny Joseph Tura
Robert Stack Lt. Stanislav Sobinski
Felix Bressart Greenberg
Lionel Atwill Rawitch
Stanley Ridges Prof. Alexander Siletsky
Sig Rumann Col. Ehrhardt
Tom Dugan Bronski
Charles Halton Producer Dobosh
George Lynn Actor-Adjutant
Henry Victor Capt. Schultz
Maude Eburne Anna, the Maid
Armand "Curly" Wright Makeup Man
Erno Verebes Stage Manager
Halliwell Hobbes Gen. Armstrong
Miles Mander Maj. Cunningham
Frank Reicher Polish Officer
Peter Caldwell Wilhelm Kunze
Wolfgang Zilzer Man in Bookstore
Olaf Hytten Polonius in Warsaw
Charles Irwin Reporter
Leyland Hodgson Second Reporter
Alec Craig Scottish Farmer
James Finlayson Scottish Farmer
Edgar Licho Prompter
Robert O. Davis Gestapo Sergeant
Roland Varno Pilot
Helmut Dantine Copilot
Otto Reichow Co-Pilot
Maurice Murphy Polish R.A.F. pilot
Gene Rizzi Polish R.A.F. Flyer
Paul Barrett Polish R.A.F. pilot
John Kellogg Polish R.A.F. Flyer
Leslie Denison Captain
James Gillette Polish R.A.F. pilot
John Meredith English wireless operator
Sven Hugo Borg German soldier

Technical Credits
Ernst Lubitsch Director,Original Story,Producer
Gordon Bau Makeup
Lawrence W. Butler Special Effects
Julia Heron Set Decoration/Design
Werner Richard Heymann Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Irene Costumes/Costume Designer
J. McMillan Johnson Art Director
Alexander Korda Producer
Vincent Korda Art Director,Production Designer
Melchior Lengyel Original Story
Frank Maher Sound/Sound Designer
Rudolph Maté Cinematographer
Edwin Justus Mayer Screenwriter
Walter Mayo Production Manager
William McGarry Asst. Director
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
Dorothy Spencer Editor
William Tummel Asst. Director

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- To Be or Not to Be
1. Opening Credits [1:47]
2. Adolf In Warsaw [6:00]
3. The Young Aviator [8:43]
4. The Polish Tragedy [8:04]
5. Professor Siletsky [9:27]
6. Anna Karenina [12:25]
7. "A Very Determined Man" [5:03]
8. "Playing For Our Lives" [12:01]
9. Colonel Ehrhardt [10:07]
10. The Hotfoot Department [12:11]
11. Heil Hitler! [9:45]
12. "To Be Or Not To Be" [3:25]
1. Color Bars [:20]
Disc #2 -- To Be or Not to Be
1. Tailor And Master [8:56]
2. Screenplays [9:50]
3. Talkies [11:28]
4. Costumes And Shakespeare [17:57]
5. Fragile World [4:54]
1. Chapter 1 [10:11]
2. Chapter 2 [9:06]
3. Chapter 3 [11:24]
4. Chapter 4 [10:32]
5. Chapter 5 [3:36]


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To Be or Not to Be 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago