To Be or Not to Be (1942)



Critic Consensus: A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.

Movie Info

Ernst Lubitsch directs the 1942 political satire classic To Be or Not to Be, which marked the final screen appearance of comedienne Carole Lombard. In Warsaw at the beginning of WWII, Maria Tura (Lombard) and husband Joseph (Jack Benny) perform anti-Nazi plays with their theater troupe until they are forced to switch to Shakespeare's +Hamlet. Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack) falls for Maria and meets up with her during Joseph's famous "To Be or Not to Be" speech as Hamlet. When Stanislav is … More

Rating: PG (adult situations)
Genre: Drama, Classics, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Melchior Lengyel, Edwin Justus Mayer
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 1, 2005
United Artists



as Joseph Tura

as Maria Tura

as Lt. Stanislav Sobins...

as Greenberg

as Rawitch

as Prof. Alexander Sile...

as Col. Ehrhardt

as Bronski

as Wilhelm Kunze

as Copilot

as Copilot

as Maj. Cunningham

as Actor Playing Adjuta...

as Capt. Schultz

as Anna, the Maid

as Stage Manager

as Gen. Armstrong

as Captain

as Polish Official

as Man in Bookstore

as Polonius in Warsaw

as Reporter

as Prompter

as Gestapo Sergeant

as R.A.F. Flyer

as R.A.F. Flyer

as R.A.F. Flyer

as R.A.F. Flyer

as German soldier

as Scottish Farmer

as Scottish Farmer

as Polish R.A.F. pilot

as English wireless ope...

as Gestapo Sergeant
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for To Be or Not to Be

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Critic Reviews for To Be or Not to Be

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (6)

To Be is a very funny comedy, salted to taste with melodrama and satire.

Full Review… | August 20, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Lubitsch's guidance provides a tense dramatic pace with events developed deftly and logically throughout.

Full Review… | August 20, 2008
Top Critic

It's certainly one of the finest comedies ever to come out of Paramount.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

To say it is callous and macabre is understating the case.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

It's not all-time championship Lubitsch.... But the film is operating in two totally distinct comic modes and both of them are executed perfectly.

Full Review… | April 26, 2015
Antagony & Ecstasy

one of Lubitsch's greatest works and one of the most inventive anti-Nazi films to emerge from Hollywood

Full Review… | September 20, 2013
Q Network Film Desk

Audience Reviews for To Be or Not to Be


Many comedies giftwrap the jokes so that the poor rubes (which'd be us) know that that is what they're hearing and/or seeing (think of Mel Brooks or a pie in the face or Vines), but not so here. The Lubitsch touch involves leaving the humor for one to discover - or not - and therein the charm. Benny, f'instance, is totally unbelievable as the leading man, or as a leading man whatsoever, but that works for him here as a insecure ham actor constantly seeking approval. Lombard (braless mostly) shimmers in her last effort gracefully. A delight, and better than Lubitsch's other classics in my opinion.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds lovingly ripped dozens of pages straight from the books of cinema history. From "actors" playing Nazis to trick the Gestapo to a climactic theater "Nazi Night" including a surprise visit from the Fuhrer, Tarantino was perhaps influenced by few more than Ernst Lubitsch's zany satire To Be Or Not To Be. Set in 1940's Warsaw during the German occupation, a raucous theater troupe, led by the arrogant "great, great actor" Joseph Turan (Jack Benny), take on the Gestapo in the name of the Polish Resistance. Variably a farce and a film of vital importance, this 1942 classic took whip-smart shots at Nazi servitude and Jewish sacrifice even before they were known to the American public. (The war would last for three more years.) In 2011 To Be Or Not To Be could be seen as a mockery or a gem. In any case it's a seminal comedy and, like Casablanca, a saavy look at World War II when its outcome was still indeterminable.

Bob O'Reilly

Super Reviewer


This movie is hilarious, it has a great cast and a good director, and the story is interesting. It's even funnier than Brooks' 80s remake. I highly recommend this movie.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

To Be or Not to Be Quotes

– Submitted by Christopher B (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Christopher B (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Christopher B (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Christopher B (2 years ago)

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