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To Be or Not To Be Film Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 23 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of To Be or Not To Be.
This section contains 1,468 words
(approx. 5 pages at 300 words per page)

Characters

Maria Tura played by Carole Lombard

Description

Maria Tura is one of the most beautiful and famous actresses in Poland. She has won the love and admiration of both men and women in the country. Young Stanislav is completely in love with her, and he tries to convince her to run away with him. Although Maria refuses, she does have a difficult, often strained relationship with her husband, the actor Joseph Tura.

Maria is shocked when her beloved Poland is captured by the Nazis, but she bravely becomes part of an underground movement to free Poland from their hands. Maria has lost touch with Stanislav, but after he realizes that Siletsky is working for the enemy, he quickly finds and warns Maria. By dating Siletsky to keep an eye on his plans for the rebel movement in Poland, Maria places herself in grave danger.

Analysis

Maria's attitude seems to be that of a careless woman who delights in taunting men and making her husband furiously jealous. She seems to have few higher motivations in life than to be loved and admired. As we watch the film, we see that Maria grows and matures when she and her country are in danger.

Maria's bravery is to be admired. She is dedicated to her country and willing to do anything to save it from falling permanently into Hitler's hands. She first becomes involved in underground plans to spy on the Germans along with her husband and the other actors.

After Stanislav arrives, Maria risks her life further by becoming involved with Siletsky. She pretends to be interested in helping spy for the Germans so that she can learn more of their plans for her friends. Maria's love for her husband also grows as they work together and risk their lives to save their country.

Joseph Tura played by Jack Benny

Description

Joseph Tura is a popular stage actor in Poland before the war. He and his wife, Maria, are two of the most popular actors in the country, and he is proud of his abilities. Joseph is an extremely arrogant and jealous man who feels that his wife is trying to cheat on him all of the time. The two have a very intense relationship both on and off the stage.

Joseph changes after the war begins. He and Maria become involved in the movement to save Poland from Hitler, and Joseph finally seems to grow up. Joseph becomes a leader of the movement, and he tries to protect his wife as she puts her life in danger for the cause.

Joseph is very proud of his acting skills, and he decides to use them to play the role of Professor Siletsky in order to save Maria. Joseph easily convinces the Germans that he is indeed Siletsky and eventually his skills help save Maria and the other members of the movement from certain death.

Analysis

Joseph acts like a foolish, arrogant boy when we first see him. He and Maria have many passionate, but silly, arguments as they perform, and we are sometimes unsure of their love for one another. Joseph becomes insanely angry and jealous after Stanislav walks out in the middle of his famous soliloquy. Instead of behaving like a gentleman, Joseph becomes a raving lunatic for a short time.

Joseph quickly matures once the war begins. He can no longer act foolish when his country, his life, and his loved ones' lives are in danger every moment. Joseph bravely becomes part of a movement to free Poland. He is angry when he sees that Stanislav has returned, but he is willing to work with him to save Maria and Poland.

Joseph reaffirms his love for Maria when he plays the role of Siletsky before the Germans. He realizes that the only way to free Maria is to become the person who is holding her hostage. Joseph plays his role well, and he even continues playing roles until Maria and all the other actors are safe as well.

Lt. Stanislav Sobinski played by Robert Stack

Description

Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski is a young Polish man who becomes a member of the British R.A.F. after his country is invaded by Hitler. Stanislav is madly in love with the beautiful actress, Maria Tura. Before leaving the country, he attends many of her performances, leaving each night during Joseph's soliloquy.

Although Stanislav believes that he and Maria could be together, she realizes that he is young and naïve. Maria's love for her husband keeps her from running away with Stanislav, but she continues a serious flirtation with him throughout the film. While in Britain, Stanislav discovers that Professor Siletsky is actually a German spy, and he hurries to Poland to warn Maria and the other members of the movement to free Poland.

Stanislav works with the actors and other members of the movement to outwit Professor Siletsky. Stanislav's courage helps these people to trick Siletsky, save members of the movement, and escape the country.

Analysis

Stanislav is a brave young man who loves his country. He risks his life to fight with the R.A.F. so that he can see his country free from Hitler's grasp at some point in the future. He fights overseas, and he is the only person among his fellow soldiers to realize that Professor Siletsky is a fraud.

Stanislav bravely parachutes into his home country so that he can warn Maria and the others of the danger. He courageously finds their apartment and hides there until he can speak with Joseph and Maria. Stanislav's courage saves many lives including those of the people he loves the most.

Prof. Alexander Siletsky played by Stanley Ridges

Description

Professor Alexander Siletsky is working with the British R.A.F. when we first meet him. He claims to be from Poland and is spending time with the flyers from Poland who are now living in Britain. Siletsky kindly offers to contact their families and friends to check on them while he is in Poland on a secret mission.

Siletsky takes the names, but when Stanislav mentions Joseph and Maria Tura, Siletsky does not recognize their names. Stanislav knows that everyone from Poland knows Maria Tura, so he suspects Siletsky of being a German spy. Stanislav reports his findings to his superiors and offers to parachute into Poland to warn members of the freedom movement.

Siletsky does turn out to be a German spy who is trying to help squash the freedom movement in Poland. After meeting Maria, he takes a fancy to her and tries to convince her to date him. In the name of the movement, she agrees and begins to spy on him. Joseph and the others finally murder Siletsky so that Joseph can impersonate him and save Maria.

Analysis

Siletsky is a normal, intelligent man who has decided to fight on the wrong side of the war. He seems no different from any other professor, but he naively denies having ever heard of Maria Tura and blows his cover. Siletsky's plans are then compromised.

Siletsky is not particularly cruel, but he believes intensely in the Nazi goals. He wants to murder those in Poland who are standing against the Nazis, but he finds Maria to be attractive. Since he cannot give up a chance with a beautiful woman, Siletsky ends up being tricked and murdered by Joseph and the others.

Greenberg played by Felix Bressart

Description

Greenberg is one of the other actors who works with Joseph and Maria. Greenberg also plays his parts well as they try to fool the Germans.

Analysis

The roles that Greenberg and the other actors play help Joseph and Maria to play their roles more effectively. Working as a team, everyone can survive.

Rawitch played by Lionel Atwill

Description

Rawitch also performs in shows with Joseph and Maria Tura. Although he is a talented actor, he receives his biggest break as he plays roles to help outwit the Nazis.

Analysis

Rawitch and the others are integral parts in the scheme to outwit Siletsky and the other Nazis.

Col. Ehrhardt played by Sig Ruman

Description

Colonel Ehrhardt is the leader of the Nazi occupation in Poland. He is an arrogant man who loves the praise that Joseph, disguised as Siletsky, offers him. Joseph shares with Ehrhardt that he is known as "Concentration Camp Ehrhardt" in Britain. Joseph had learned this information from Siletsky who spoke to Joseph while he was disguised as Ehrhardt.

Analysis

Colonel Ehrhardt is behind most of the evil plans in Poland. He, like Siletsky, strongly believes in the Nazi mission. In fact, Ehrhardt has been an integral part in forming the deadly concentration camps. Ehrhardt shows no remorse, and Joseph and the others are happy to trick him.

Anna played by Maude Eburne

Description

Anna is Maria's maid while she is performing on the stage. Anna tries to keep Maria in line when Maria flirts too freely with Stanislav and other men.

Analysis

Anna seems to serve as Maria's conscience early in the film. Maria has a tendency to become too flirtatious with men, and Anna's influence helps to keep these impulses under control.

This section contains 1,468 words
(approx. 5 pages at 300 words per page)