110 user 72 critic

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Not Rated | | Comedy, War | 6 March 1942 (USA)
During the Nazi occupation of Poland, an acting troupe becomes embroiled in a Polish soldier's efforts to track down a German spy.



(original story), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:


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 <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Comedy | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

6 March 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ser o no ser  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ernst Lubitsch held the film in high regard as one of his best pieces of work. In a letter to a reviewer for the Philadelphia Enquirer who had panned the movie, he wrote, "What I have satirized in this picture are the Nazis and their ridiculous ideology. I have also satirized the attitude of actors who always remain actors regardless how dangerous the situation might be, which I believe is a true observation. It can be argued if the tragedy of Poland realistically portrayed in To Be or Not to Be can be merged with satire. I believe it can be and so do the audience which I observed during a screening of To Be or Not to Be; but this is a matter of debate and everyone is entitled to his point of view..." See more »


In the scene early in the movie when Carole Lombard is arguing with the play director about her dress, they begin onstage, in the Gestapo office set. At one point the director switches to a closer shot and they are suddenly backstage, facing in entirely different directions than they were onstage. See more »


Maria Tura: Think of me being flogged in the darkness, scream, suddenly the lights go on and the audience discovers me on the floor in this gorgeous dress!
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Referenced in Frasier: Ask Me No Questions (1997) See more »


Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, No. 1, 'Military'
(1838) (uncredited)
Written by Frédéric Chopin
Orchestral arrangement by Aleksandr Glazunov
Heard during the opening and closing credits
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User Reviews

4 October 2002 | by See all my reviews

This movie proves that comedy can be sublime. At a time when the gods are crazy, this movie swims with the current, seeking to outdo their craziness. That's why it's also very touching. The outcome of the craziness was unknown at the time. That also makes this film daring. Whether intentionally or not, the film implies that Hitler himself was a Hitler-impersonator, that Hitler is a kind of unattainable ideal, a Platonic idea of pure evil. A similarly sublime and bold and touching film made during another craziness (not twenty years thereafter, as its more applauded cousins!) is "THE GAY DECEIVERS" (1969). It too dances with the gods, and breaks your heart as it makes you laugh.

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