To Be or Not to Be

About The Film

Husband-and-wife thespians become caught up in a dangerous wartime escapade in Ernst Lubitsch’s screwball anti-Nazi masterpiece, perhaps the most daring motion picture of its day.

With a high-wire range of tones from romance to suspense, often salted with slapstick and black humor, TO BE OR NOT TO BE centers on a Polish theater company, and a Nazi spy plot that threatens to expose both the underground Warsaw resistance and the secret mission of handsome pilot Stanislav (Robert Stack). The performers are headed by narcissistic stars, Joseph and Maria Tura (Jack Benny in a rare big screen role, and Carole Lombard in her last film before her death in a plane crash). Careening through harrowing plot complications and ham antics, the acting troupe uses theatrical sleight of hand to foil the occupying Nazi forces and the traitorous Professor Siletsky (Stanley Ridges).

Opening just months after America went to war, TO BE OR NOT TO BE was criticized for what was seen as poor taste: juxtaposing comedy against Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Today, it is considered a satirical classic, touted by Chicago film critic Dave Kehr as “one of the most profound, emotionally complex comedies ever made.” The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is proud to present a special 75th Anniversary screening of this culturally and historically significant American work, named to the National Film Registry. 

Film Details

Running Time 
99 minutes
Turner/Turner Classic Movies