Thursday, February 9, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

To Be Or Not To Be (1942) ★★★★ 4/5

Carole Lombard and Jack Benny play a Polish husband and wife acting team who participate in a theater group during the height of Hitler's reign. Their theater group is actually performing a comical play about Hitler, but they find themselves switching to a Shakespearean play when the Polish government tells them that they can't perform the Hitler themed play they had rehearsed.

They, along with their acting troupe soon find themselves out of work as war breaks out. But before you know what happened, they are in a complete mad capped adventure. The two find themselves in the middle of a plot to thwart the war and murder Nazi informants. However their schemes go awry and when the informant the y are after is killed, they must take on him as a character to hide that they had murdered him. The film continues this way until they are actually impersonating Hitler himself.

Is it a film to see? Yes. There are several reasons to see this film. The first is because of Carole Lombard. This was actually the last film she made. In fact, the film was released after her tragic death. She was clearly at the height of her career and this film is a testament to her talent. Another reason you need to see this film is because if you are a movie lover, you probably watch current movies too. Although I have not seen anything that officially confirms it, this film has all the makings to serve as inspiration for Inglorious Basterds (2009). Much of that film can be seen in To Be Or Not To Be from the layout of the theater and the concept of tricking Hitler at the opening of a film. Both films feature our protagonists disguising themselves as Nazi's and infiltrating at the highest level possible. Of course this leads us to the third reason to see this film. It uses humor in the most unlikely context. Remember, this movie came out while Hitler was still alive. The sight of a Nazi uniform was offensive. Conceptually, at that time, actually still to this day, it is awkward to pair comedy and Nazi's together. That was quite a bold move in 1942. Yet at the same time, the humor is really poking fun at, and making the Nazi's look like fools. The tie in and use of the "To Be Or Not To Be" scenes are all quite well done and make for a great tie in of the films plots.

Comical scenes are performed well without any hokey qualities or over embellished lines. Much of the humor in the movie is subtle and needs to be picked up on by the viewer. As a viewer, you do also have to follow along to keep track of who is an imposter and who is not. There were some scenes that lingered, but not enough for it to be totally distracting to the movie. Part of that is also a positive remark as they do not force humor just to get a laugh. The humorous scenes are laid into the script appropriately.

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