8.2/10
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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.

Director:

Writers:

(original story), (screenplay)
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On TV

Airs Wed. Jan. 24, 4:30 PM on TCM

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

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Actor-Adjutant
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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 | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | 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 the book 'The United Artists Story' by Ronald Bergan, "Unfortunately, at its release, Pearl Harbor had been attacked, Germany was sweeping across Europe, and the film's star, Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash while on a war-bond selling tour. Therefore, neither critics nor public were in the mood to laugh, finding the picture tasteless and callous. Over the years, however, it recovered its production costs and became a classic." See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Maria Tura: It's becoming ridiculous the way you grab attention. Whenever I start to tell a story, you finish it. If I go on a diet, you lose the weight. If I have a cold, you cough. And if we should ever have a baby, I'm not so sure I'd be the mother.
Josef Tura: I'm satisfied to be the father.
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Connections

Referenced in Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Classic Satirical Comedy That Gets Even Better As It Goes Along
28 October 2004 | by See all my reviews

Beneath all the one-liners and amusing gags, this classic comedy has an undertone of satire that is quite effective. Jack Benny plays his role with just the right amount of exaggeration for it to work perfectly, and he, Carole Lombard, and the rest of the cast help Ernst Lubitsch to tell a lively yet worthwhile tale. There are a few slow spots early in the movie, but after it hits its stride, everything fits together well.

Very few film-makers can make something like this succeed, because they take themselves too seriously. Lubitsch does not, and as a result this film provides a caricatured but relatively insightful portrayal of the Nazis, with a light-hearted yet appreciative look at those who opposed them in the occupied countries. The right kind of lighter touch can sometimes be more effective in commenting on important issues than the heavy, emotionally laden harangues that are all too common.

While providing good entertainment, this movie also brings out the Nazis' inherent insecurity, pettiness, and short-sightedness, while also demonstrating their growing capacity for destroying the innocent. For example, the wonderful character actor Sig Ruman is greatly entertaining as a Nazi bureaucrat, yet he also cleverly brings out the pathetic side of such persons.

Aside from a couple of good gags, it starts off just a little slowly. A lot of time is spent on Robert Stack's character, who is (through no fault of Stack's) not very interesting. Likewise, the subplot involving him and Lombard takes up a lot more time than it was worth. Other than that, though, it moves briskly, with many entertaining scenes while it develops the story. As the pace picks up, the members of Benny's acting troupe get some fine moments of their own, Benny himself has some fine scenes with several other characters, and everything builds up nicely towards a good finale.


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