in about 100 words or less
US 99m, B&W
Director: Ernst Lubitsch; Cast: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Sig Ruman
As a secret lover’s code, the utterance of the phrase “To be, or not to be” during a production of Hamlet implicates an actress, her husband, and their stage troupe in the Gestapo’s plans to uncover an underground spy ring in Nazi occupied Poland. As wartime black comedy, To Be or Not to Be is a sophisticated, cleverly written, and very funny satirical commentary on Nazi ideology. Much of the film’s effectiveness is derived from the wonderfully fast-paced and witty dialogue, which is remarkably crafted around the not so funny issues of Poland’s invasion, Nazi doctrine and anti-semitism – which make this seemingly outrageous production all that more remarkable, especially considering the near contemporaneous nature of the events (Klaus Ming June 2011).