Today! Because I’ll decide with whom my wife is going to have dinner and whom she’s going to kill –
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Starring Jack Benny, Carole Lombard (x4), Robert Stack (x2), Lionel Atwill (x2), Sig Ruman (x4), Felix Bressart, Stanley Ridges, Tom Dugan, Halliwell Hobbes (x2), Miles Mander (x2), Charles Halton
Filmed just prior to America’s entry into WWII, To Be or Not to Be stands as one of the rare comedies of the era tackling the Nazi menace. Once the war began, the whole filmic enterprise took on a justifiably somber tone in regards to the conflict, and so comedies are few and far between. Chaplin’s The Great Dictator had been met with some audience hostility in 1940, so uncomfortable did German aggression make viewers, and so To Be or Not to Be was far from an easy sell when conceived, despite the tremendous script and no less a filmmaker than Ernst Lubitsch at the helm.
By the time the movie would premiere in March of ’42, America was squarely in the war and the film’s star Carole Lombard was dead – a January plane crash after a domestic trip selling war bonds killing her, her mother, and 15 U.S. soldiers. Indeed, Lombard is often referred to as the first female casualty of the war, given the reasons for her travels at the time. So this, coupled with the film’s obvious brilliance, changed the attitude of audiences to one more receptive and supportive of aggressively anti-Nazi pictures. Continue reading