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To Be Or Not To Be (1942) [2021]

To Be or Not to Be (1942) is Berlin Germany-born director Ernst Lubitsch's sophisticated screwball masterpiece, with satirical comedy, romance, and suspense. The controversial anti-war comedy about espionage and politics from producer Alexander Korda - marked by incisive black humor - was a bold cinematic work during the World War II years that skewered and lampooned the tyrannical leader Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and the Third Reich, while still being completely entertaining in its story of marital conflict.

To Be or Not to Be (1942)


The marvelous farcical comedy - an effective example of political propaganda, received only one Academy Award nomination (among a total of 18 nominees!): Best Musical Score (for a Drama or Comedy). The award was won by Austrian-American composer Max Steiner for the romantic drama Now, Voyager (1942). Neither of the two leads, hilarious comedian and radio star Jack Benny (in the most significant film of his career) or Carole Lombard received nominations - probably because the film was considered too insensitive, tasteless or offensive (and politically dangerous), or too close to home for homefront audiences. Two lines in particular were criticized - (1) the impersonated Colonel's callous joke: "We do the concentrating and the Poles do the camping," and (2) the Nazi Colonel's comment about poor acting: "As a matter of fact, I saw him [Joseph Tura] on the stage when I was in Warsaw, once before the war....What he did to Shakespeare we are doing now to Poland."

Ernst Lubitsch was a German immigrant to Hollywood who made some of the most memorable works of its Golden Era. His suave, sexy romantic comedies brought a touch of European elegance to Hollywood and helped found a genre that thrives till date. His sophisticated sense of screen comedy, characterized by subtle, effortless and precise exposition and seamless technique, has influenced comedic filmmakers ever since, not the least of all Billy Wilder, who was a screenwriter on two of his films. Lubitsch worked for almost all the major companies in Hollywood, but his finest achievement was a picture made outside of these studios. To Be or Not to Be (1942) was produced by Romaine, a house set up by Alexander Korda, and distributed by United Artists. Arguably the greatest Hollywood comedy of the sound era, To Be or Not to Be is a daring, intellectually provocative work that stands testament to the power of life-sustaining humour in face of unspeakable horror. 041b061a72


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