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To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Passed | | 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.

Director:

Writers:

(original story), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Felix Bressart ...
Greenberg
...
Stanley Ridges ...
...
Tom Dugan ...
Bronski
...
...
Actor-Adjutant
...
...
Anna
Halliwell Hobbes ...
General Armstrong
...
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Storyline

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 | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | War

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

6 March 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ser o no ser  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Jack Benny's daughter, Joan, he loved his director and "would have done anything for Lubitsch." But even after the encouraging words, he remained nervous about his role. According to Robert Stack, "Jack was an innocent. He'd never done a movie that worked. He'd always ask me, 'Is this funny?' and I'd say, 'Jesus, don't ask me.' 'But you're an actor,' he'd say. Basically he was scared to death." Benny seemed to appreciate having Lubitsch act out his scenes for him, saying later that he was "about the only director who ever really directed me... The trouble was that I knew lots about radio comedy, a little about stage comedy and nothing about movies." See more »

Goofs

During the flight to Warsaw, the wire holding the obviously model airplane is visible. See more »

Quotes

Dobosh, Theatrical Producer: [referring to Siletsky] Now you take him back to the hotel.
Joseph Tura: Alright.
Dobosh, Theatrical Producer: As soon as you're in his room, you hit him over the head with the butt of the gun.
Joseph Tura: Alright.
Dobosh, Theatrical Producer: Then you take his keys, open his trunk and burn the papers. And then you shoot him.
Joseph Tura: Alright.
[starts to leave - then comes back]
Joseph Tura: Just a minute... what'll happen to me? They'll kill me.
Dobosh, Theatrical Producer: Well... we're going to keep our fingers crossed.
Joseph Tura: Good.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sunny Side Up (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

German National Anthem (Das Lied der Deutschen)
(1797) (uncredited)
(Also called "Deutschland über alles")
Music by Joseph Haydn (1797)
Lyrics by August Heinrich Hoffman von Fallersleben (1841)
Sung by German military men
See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the great romantic/satirical comedies of all time
20 November 2005 | by (France) – See all my reviews

There is a famous review of this film by the late Sunday Times critic, Dilys Powell which begins 'Is the joke funny?'... what Miss Powell was getting at was that, given the horror of the Holocaust, it is appropriate to laugh at the Nazis. The answer is, ultimately, irrelevant to the viewing of this modest masterpiece.

Lubitsch was, by this time, coming to the end of an exquisite career that defined the nature of sophistication in 'light' cinema. 'To Be or Not To Be' skips lightly over all of the minefield of a subject like this and it is difficult or impossible to think of any other filmmaker who might have managed it (if you look at Mel Brooks' limp remake, you can see why).

In 1996, I presented a massive season of 'the greatest' films in Belfast for the centenary of cinema - 250 titles in 9 months. Of all of them, this was the film which got the greatest ovation - about 5 minutes with a nearly full house standing and applauding! They may have applauded for many reasons, but here are certainly some of them...

The very complicated narrative is presented virtually flawlessly and the comedy is never allowed to hold up the narrative. The principle actors - Carole Lombard (breathtakingly beautiful) and Jack Benny in particular, but many of the supporting cast as well - throw themselves into the affair with a gusto that is completely infectious. Apart from the satirical aspect of the story and the way in which Hitler and the Nazis are mercilessly ridiculed for their authoritarianism and the fear which is their only motivator, the film pokes gentle fun at the vanity of actors in a warm and happy manner. Finally, and most important, is the notion of farce. Farce rarely works in the cinema, but here it does, and in the grand manner - just look at how many times the situation regarding Professor Siletsky changes profoundly during the film - it is dizzying - yet the characters manage to come up with (often self-defeating or inappropriate) schemes on every occasion.

This is a wonderful work that, I have no hesitation in saying, is absolutely vital for anyone who wants to really understand the glory of the cinema. But to answer Dilys Powell's question... yes, the joke is deliriously funny.


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Greatest quote... lordxur
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