8.2/10
31,446
150 user 81 critic

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:

TRULY, this is the picture everyone wants to see. An exciting romantic comedy keyed to an ever-mounting tempo of suspense. Carole Lombard in her greatest role. Jack Benny at his best in a surprisingly different situation. Here is a Lubitsch picture---brilliant in its acting---spectacular in its scope. Be among the first to see this great motion picture. (print ad - Lubbock Morning Avalanche - Lindsey Theatre - Lubbock, Texas - March 28, 1942) See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance | War

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ernst Lubitsch had never considered anyone other than Jack Benny for the lead role in the film. He had even written the character with Benny in mind. Benny, thrilled that a director of Lubitsch's caliber had been thinking of him while writing it, accepted the role immediately 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

[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 Poland the movie edited in a brief introduction by Polish actor Kazimierz Rudzki who assure the audience that the movie was done with best intentions by their "American friends", as the time it screened in Poland many people still lived in trauma from the World War II events and some could find a comedy about the German invasion of Poland in poor taste, offensive or hard to swallow. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) 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
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User Reviews

 
The Nazis have never been mocked better
20 December 2013 | by gogoschka-1See all my reviews

Comedies rarely stand the test of time - this one does: one of the funniest films I have ever seen.

When I was 16 (20 years ago, sigh...), this was re-released for a short time in a local art-house cinema, and my father insisted I go watching it with a friend. Well, teenagers don't normally line up to see 50 year old black and white comedies, but - man, was I glad I did!

This is a pitch black comedy that feels as fresh today as it must have then; in fact, this must have been kind of a shock in 1942. There are no cheesy clean characters or cringe-worthy lines: this is a firework of fast, witty dialogue with an edge and the sexiest, cleverest (and most morally ambiguous) female protagonist I have ever seen in a film before the "New Hollywod" era.

Even the structure and the way the story evolves are very modern; there are flashbacks and twists and turns that might be very common in contemporary films but must have seemed almost "avant-garde" at the time.

The biggest fun, of course, is how Lubitsch takes the pi** out of Hitler's blind, fanatic followers. I don't believe the Nazis have ever been mocked better than in this comedy masterpiece (and I only hope old Adolf has seen it, too). Mel Brooks' remake is not bad, but the original is simply killer.

See it, and then see it again (and again).

Priceless. 10 out of 10

Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/


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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

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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