8.2/10
22,572
114 user 77 critic

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:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writers:

Melchior Lengyel (original story), Edwin Justus Mayer (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:
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 Dobosh
George Lynn ... Actor-Adjutant
Henry Victor ... Captain Schultz
Maude Eburne ... Anna
Halliwell Hobbes ... General Armstrong
Miles Mander ... Major Cunningham
Edit

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:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

6 March 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ser o no ser See more »

Edit

Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,270,000, 31 December 1942

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,578,000, 31 December 1942
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Romaine Film Corporation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Micky Dolenz song of the same name, recorded in October 1981, was inspired by this movie. It was released in Japan in December 1981. See more »

Goofs

When Tura is disguised as Colonel Ehrhardt in his meeting with Siletsky he is wearing the uniform of a Major General (actually an SS-Gruppenfuehrer). 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 ...
See more »

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 Beetlejuice: To Beetle or Not to Beetle (1991) 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
See more »

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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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