To Be or Not to Be

  • Ernst Lubitsch
  • USA (1942)
  • PG
99 min

For the master of subtlety and allusion, there is no ambiguity in Lubitsch’s position in To Be or Not to Be, an archly screwball comedy of Shakespearean proportions, which ridicules the Nazi regime, and puts the downtrodden Poles back in the director’s seat. While the famed actress, Maria (Carole Lombard) indulges in a backstage affair with a lieutenant, she must also work with her blowhard husband, Joseph (Jack Benny), and their troupe of fellow Polish actors to outwit the occupying Nazis. A daring real-time political satire, and a meta-commentary on the mischievous process of narrative construction, this film is also dearly remembered for featuring the last, and arguably best, screen appearance of the much-loved Lombard, who died tragically in a plane crush just before the film’s release.

“A film about theater, weaving in countless notes on the perils and uneasy joys of improvisation and impersonation.” – The Criterion Collection

  • Language
    English, German
  • Director
    Ernst Lubitsch
  • Cast
    Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack
  • Screenwriter
    Edwin Justus Mayer
  • Genre
    Comedy, Drama, Theatre, War

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