8.2/10
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To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Passed | | Comedy, Romance, 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:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writers:

Melchior Lengyel (original story), Edwin Justus Mayer (screenplay)
Top Rated Movies #194 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Carole Lombard ... Maria Tura
Jack Benny ... Joseph Tura
Robert Stack ... Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski
Felix Bressart ... Greenberg
Lionel Atwill ... Rawitch
Stanley Ridges ... Professor Siletsky
Sig Ruman ... Colonel Ehrhardt
Tom Dugan ... Bronski
Charles Halton ... Producer Jan Dobosz
George Lynn ... Actor-Adjutant
Henry Victor ... Captain Schultz
Maude Eburne ... Anna
Halliwell Hobbes ... General Armstrong
Miles Mander ... Major Cunningham
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Storyline

Joseph and Maria Tura operate and star in their own theater company in Warsaw. Maria has many admirers including a young lieutenant in the Polish air force, Stanislav Sobinski. When the Nazis invade Poland to start World War II, Sobinski and his colleagues flee to England while the Turas find themselves now having to operate under severe restrictions, including shelving a comical play they had written about Adolf Hitler. In England meanwhile, Sobinski and his friends give Professor Siletski - who is about to return to Poland - the names and addresses of their closest relatives so the professor can carry messages for them. When it's learned that Siletski is really a German spy, Sobinski parachutes into Poland and enlists the aid of the Turas and their fellow actors to get that list back. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Picture Everyone Wants To See. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance | War

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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 Ernst 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

[first lines]
Narrator: Lubinski, Kubinski, Lominski, Rozanski, and Poznanski. We're in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It's August 1939. Europe is still at peace. At the moment, life in Warsaw is going on as normally as ever. But, suddenly something seems to have happened! Are those Poles seeing a ghost? Why does this car suddenly stop? Everybody seems to be staring in one direction. People seem to be frightened, even terrified! Some flabbergasted! Can it be true? It must be true! No doubt! The man with ...
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Alternate Versions

In the German version there are two changes made to the original score: first, with the Germans marching into Warsaw we hear the fanfares of the Deutsche Wochenschau (i.e. the German News Reel) instead of "normal" music. Then, during the opera scene we hear the Nazis singing all three verses of "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" in the background. However, in the Third Reich it was common (and was thus later inserted into the German sound track) only to play the verse one, directly leading into the "Horst Wessel Lied", which was something like the official party anthem. See more »

Connections

Featured in Friends and Romans (2014) 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

Witty and mocking
20 September 2003 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Joseph Tura and his wife are part of an actors troop in pre-WW2 Poland. When a handsome young pilot is forced to break off his affair with Mrs Tura to go to England and join the RAF, he sends a message through an English agent who offers to take messages to families of all the pilots when he goes to Poland. Realising too late that Professor Siletsky is a double agent taking addresses to the Nazi's, Lt Sobinski alerts Tura who is forced to play several roles to try and outwit the Nazi's and protect the underground resistance.

Despite having heard it mentioned (and avoided the remake) I had still never seen this film until earlier today. I wasn't sure what to expect as I knew that it had been made during the war and that it's humour might not seem as mocking or sharp today. However I was surprised how funny it actually was while it also dealt with the Nazi issue at the same time. The mocking tone of the film is balanced nicely by a real vein of wit with sharp word play all around. The plot is kept ticking over by this humour until Tura is able to drive the film by his many performances!

The Nazi's are mocked without taking away from the horrors of what they were. The cast are what really makes the film work for me though. Although he takes second billing, I can't help but feel that Benny is the star of the film as he has all the best characters and the lion's share of the lines. Lombard does very well indeed and shows a real ability for quick witty lines – the fact that she died in a plane crash leaving this her last movie should be considered a great loss. The whole support cast, whether Polish actor or German commander, all play very well managing to bring both wit and pathos to the film.

Overall a film that is not as uncomfortable to watch as I suspected it might have been, in fact one that is downright hilarious at times and has all the sharpness and wit that I want in a comedy. When Jack Benny says `so they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt' for the 5th time, I defy you not to be rolling!


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

6 March 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

To Be or Not to Be See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,270,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,578,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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