A marvelous late entry in the Screwball genre, German émigré director Ernst Lubitsch’s film is a startling (and sophisticated) use of comedy in a time of war. Carole Lombard, in her final screen appearance, and Jack Benny play married and frequently feuding darlings of the Warsaw stage. Their theatre troupe falls on hard times when their new comedy, “Gestapo,” gets shut down and they turn to “Hamlet” to appease Poland’s new German occupiers. But all the world’s a stage, and before long the thespians take their acting skills into the streets to help a downed American flyer elude capture (and keep themselves one step ahead of the Nazis). The stakes rise even higher when Hitler himself visits Warsaw!
To Be Or Not To Be is a marvel for subversively tackling the realities of Nazism with a secret weapon – comedy. Lubitsch’s legendary “Touch” is evident throughout the film, especially when an aspiring Jewish actor diverts the Gestapo with Shylock’s famous universalist soliloquy: “If you prick us do we not bleed, tickle us do we not laugh, if you poison us do we not die…” – a fitting punctuation to Lubitsch’s master class in comedy as resistance. Charles Horak
All I can say is this is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time! The audience thought so too. A must see if you can.