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William A. Wellman
In occupied Poland during WWII, a troupe of ham stage actors (led by Joseph Tura and his wife Maria) match wits with the Nazis. A spy has information which would be very damaging to the Polish resistance and they must prevent it's being delivered to the Germans. Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Joseph Tura and his wife are part of an actors troop in pre-WW2 Poland. When a handsome young pilot is forced to break off his affair with Mrs Tura to go to England and join the RAF, he sends a message through an English agent who offers to take messages to families of all the pilots when he goes to Poland. Realising too late that Professor Siletsky is a double agent taking addresses to the Nazi's, Lt Sobinski alerts Tura who is forced to play several roles to try and outwit the Nazi's and protect the underground resistance.
Despite having heard it mentioned (and avoided the remake) I had still never seen this film until earlier today. I wasn't sure what to expect as I knew that it had been made during the war and that it's humour might not seem as mocking or sharp today. However I was surprised how funny it actually was while it also dealt with the Nazi issue at the same time. The mocking tone of the film is balanced nicely by a real vein of wit with sharp word play all around. The plot is kept ticking over by this humour until Tura is able to drive the film by his many performances!
The Nazi's are mocked without taking away from the horrors of what they were. The cast are what really makes the film work for me though. Although he takes second billing, I can't help but feel that Benny is the star of the film as he has all the best characters and the lion's share of the lines. Lombard does very well indeed and shows a real ability for quick witty lines the fact that she died in a plane crash leaving this her last movie should be considered a great loss. The whole support cast, whether Polish actor or German commander, all play very well managing to bring both wit and pathos to the film.
Overall a film that is not as uncomfortable to watch as I suspected it might have been, in fact one that is downright hilarious at times and has all the sharpness and wit that I want in a comedy. When Jack Benny says `so they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt' for the 5th time, I defy you not to be rolling!
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