A bad Polish actor is just trying to make a living when what should intrude but World War II in the form of an invasion. His wife has the habit of entertaining young Polish officers while ... See full summary »
Circa 1861, Angelina, ruling countess of an Italian principality, is at a loss when invaded by a Hungarian army. Her lookalike ancestress Francesca, who saved a similar situation 300 years ... See full summary »
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
Amateur plumber Cluny Brown gets sent off by her uncle to work as a servant at an English country estate. While there, she becomes friendly with Adam Belinski, a charming Czech refugee. She... See full summary »
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>
Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006. See more »
When Maria types the memo to put under the pillow, she types two lines with a total of 18 keystrokes. However, the actual memo is four lines of about 80 plus keystrokes (not counting spaces). See more »
One of the very few people who would think to remake an Ernst Lubitsch picture would be Mel Brooks who satirized just about every genre there was in Hollywood. But I doubt that Jack Benny, Carole Lombard and Robert Stack would have lent themselves to the slapstick type film that Brooks turned To Be Or Not To Be into and Mel's version is very funny.
When the film opens the biggest problem that Jack Benny has on his mind is who's this secret admirer who keeps sending flowers to his wife Carole Lombard every night while they're on stage. Although it's helped his Hamlet performance, the angst Benny is feeling about Lombard being faithful, pretty soon Benny, Lombard, Polish airman Robert Stack and the whole touring company that Benny heads are all caught up in the Nazi German invasion of Poland which inaugurates World War II.
Stack joins the Polish squadron of the RAF and there's a nice little Polish colony as with other occupied nations during World War II. One of them is Stanley Ridges who does propaganda broadcasts for the BBC. And he gets to be good pals with the airmen. But after he leaves for Germany on a 'secret' mission it's discovered in reality he's a German agent and is going back to Germany with a list of exiled Poles so that the Nazis could retaliate against families. Stack goes back to Poland after Ridges.
Where he meets up with Lombard and Benny and the rest their troupe and let's just say that their talents as actors are never more needed than in the series of performances they give the occupying Germans.
Whether dealing with marital problems or Nazis breathing down their necks Lombard, Benny, and Stack have no shortage of wits about them. Carole and Jack are old hands at comedy, but Bob Stack showed a nice gift for it as well. Of course Ernst Lubitsch's type of comedy is a great deal more sophisticated than Mel Brooks. He also was making his film at a time when the USA wasn't in the war yet and the outcome for Poland and the rest of the world remained in doubt. Not to mention what was left of a liberal spirit in Germany where Lubitsch was an exile from.
This was Carole Lombard's farewell performance. Completed in 1941 To Be Or Not To Be was released just in time for Pearl Harbor and it certainly beats a lot of hastily made propaganda films that came out to tap into the national anger. It also got the same kind of knocks The Great Dictator did in satirizing the authoritarianism of the Nazis. But both films have stood the test of time. And it's not as preachy as The Great Dictator, but Lubitsch gets his point across. As for Lombard she went on a war bond tour which ended abruptly in a plane crash outside Las Vegas. FDR from the White House proclaimed she was as much a war casualty as any GI at the front and there were few who would disagree.
If your taste runs to an earthier form of comedy Mel Brooks will certainly satisfy you. But for those who value sophistication as embodied in that phrase the Lubitsch touch, this To Be Or Not To Be still pulls in the laughs.
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