To Be or Not to Be (1983)

PG  |   |  Comedy  |  1 February 1984 (France)
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Reviews: 33 user | 25 critic

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 »



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ronny Graham ...
Zale Kessler ...
Lewis J. Stadlen ...
James 'Gypsy' Haake ...
Sasha (as James Haake)
Scamp ...
Prof. Siletski (as Jose Ferrer)


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 he's on stage which is also a source of depression to him. When one of her officers comes back on a Secret Mission, the actor takes charge and comes up with a plan for them to escape. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


That is the movie!




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 February 1984 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Soy o no soy  »

Box Office


$13,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


A made-for-television show An Audience with Mel Brooks (1983) starring Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft was released as a promotional tie-in with this film. See more »


Obvious stunt double for Mel Brooks during the first musical when he and Anne Bancroft are flipping one another over each other's backs. See more »


Anna Bronski: They say its going to be a really cold winter.
Capt. Schultz, of Erhardt's Staff: I don't know anyzing about zat!
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the credits at the end, Anne Bancroft's name first appears in parenthesis, until Mel Brooks "waves" them off. This is a reference to a poster in the movie that has Anna Bronski's name in parenthesis. See more »


Referenced in Beat This!: A Hip Hop History (1984) See more »


A Little Peace
Music & Lyrics by Mel Brooks and Ronny Graham
Performed by Mel Brooks (uncredited), George Wyner (uncredited) and George Gaynes (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

The Lubitsch Touch Or The Brooks Touch
5 June 2009 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Rather than a satire of a film classic like Frankenstein or a genre of films like the western was done in Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks chose for the one and only time to do a remake of an already very funny film with the classic To Be Or Not To Be. 40 years later the Brooks remake has lost none of the laughs from the original, in fact Brooks could now talk about things unmentionable when Hollywood was under the Code.

The 1942 original film that starred Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, and Robert Stack in the roles that Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, and Tim Matheson play here, was a sophisticated comedy that was not well received when first out, many thought the Nazis were no subject to joke about during wartime. Over time it gained acceptance as yet another of the masterpieces that Ernest Lubitsch did over his career. It may have been Jack Benny's best big screen performance. It was also Carole Lombard's farewell performance.

Benny's comedy was droll, Brooks's humor hits you with a sledgehammer. Still the different approach works out in this remake. Anne Bancroft is more than a good substitute for Carole Lombard, in fact she's as funny in this as Lombard ever was on the screen.

Many years ago one of my supervisors knew Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft and he told us at work that her image as a great dramatic actress, whose two career roles are in The Graduate and The Miracle Worker was a total fabrication. Mel Brooks he said was as zany a man in private as he was in film. But he also said that Bancroft was even zanier than he was and had few times to display that in public. In that sense the two were a perfectly matched couple. My supervisor said he lived in the same building as they did in Greenwich Village and got to know both of them.

Mel Brooks got to show the effect of the Holocaust to come on gays in one of the first films to acknowledge that publicly. One of the touching performances in the supporting cast is by James Haake as Sascha the dresser for Bancroft who gets a one way ticket to a concentration camp, but the trip gets put on hold permanently by his friends in the theater. Charles Durning also does well as Gestapo head in Warsaw who gets constantly bamboozled almost like World War II era film Nazis by Brooks's ingenuity and his theater troupe who give the best performances of their lives. And we can't forget Jose Ferrer adding yet another ethnic group to his repertoire as the Polish traitor Siletsky.

If you're not a fan of Mel Brooks you will become one after you see any of his films. And this review is dedicated to the late Robert Peregoff, one of my supervisors at work who provided me the insights I got into the Brooks-Bancroft screen and life partnership.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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