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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 560 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)

To Be or Not To Be embraces the all too common theme of World War II during a time when America had just entered the war. Although the filmmakers in Hollywood, especially those such as Ernst Lubitsch from Germany, wanted people to support the Europeans during the war, Lubitsch refused to make this into a preachy film.

Instead we see a hilarious group of actors who fight and love together. When Maria Tura, a famous actress, is courted by Stanislav, a pilot for the R.A.F., her husband Joseph becomes extremely angry. As we watch their interactions at the beginning of the film, we can't help but laugh.

As the film continues, the topic becomes more serious as the actors attempt to put an end to the German reign in Poland. At the same time, the film keeps up an amusing play of acting as Joseph pretends to be both "Concentration Camp Ehrhardt" and the traitor, Professor Siletsky. Eventually, the whole group escapes the country, after a final performance by an actor portraying to be Hitler.

Ernst Lubitsch was considered one of the greatest directors of his time. He was invited by Mary Pickford to come to Hollywood from Germany in 1922. Eventually in 1935, Lubitsch lost his German citizenship when the Nazis rejected him. Lubitsch directed a number of successful films such as Kiss Me Again (1925), So This is Paris (1926), Monte Carlo (1930), Trouble in Paradise (1932), If I Had a Million (1932), The Merry Widow (1934), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and Heaven Can Wait (1943). After Lubitsch suddenly died of a heart attack on the set in 1947, a distraught Billy Wilder is quoted as saying at his funeral, "No more Lubitsch," to which fellow filmmaker William Wyler replied, "Worse than that. No more Lubitsch pictures." Lubitsch was a much loved director.

Carole Lombard, who plays Maria Tura, was a beloved actress in her time. Lombard's primary start was in a few Fox films such as Hearts and Spurs (1925). After an injury that scarred her face, she lost her contract but continued acting after her recovery. She performed in Man of the World (1931) and No Man of Her Own (1932) before her career began to take off again with her hilarious performance in Twentieth Century (1934). Her first and only Oscar nomination came from her performance in My Man Godfrey in 1936. Before To Be or Not To Be was released, Carole died in a plane crash on her way back to California.

Jack Benny plays the role of Joseph Tura. Along with this film, Charley's Aunt (1941) was one of his best performances. He also appeared in Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Artists and Models (1937), Love Thy Neighbor (1940), It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), and A Guide for the Married Man (1967).

Robert Stack plays the part of Stanislav in To Be or Not To Be. Before this film, he had performed in First Love (1939) and Nice Girl? (1941). He also later appeared in Fighter Squadron (1948), A Date with Judy (1948), Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), The High and the Mighty (1954), Written on the Wind (1956), and Airplane! (1980).

To Be or Not To Be was a popular film, but it was only nominated for one Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Werner R. Heymann.

This section contains 560 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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