JackTO BE OR NOT TO BE

(1942)
With Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

     Ostensibly a wartime propaganda film, Ernst Lubitsh's TO BE OR NOT TO BE is today regarded as one of the sharpest and most emotionally complex comedies ever made.  Jack Benny and Carole Lombard play the husband-and-wife leaders of a Polish drama troupe that specializes in lampooning the Nazis.  After switching to "safe" material such as Shakespeare during the German occupation,the troupe must eventually use their talents to impersonate Nazi officers in order to survive.  Through it all, Lubitsch seamlessly blends such disparate forms of comedy as satire, slapstick, wordplay, and the darkest of dark humor.  An amazing film that gets funnier and more profound with each viewing.  Lombard is at her best in her final performance before her tragic death, but the film belongs to Benny, who never again displayed such wide-ranging talent as both a comedian and an actor. 5  - JL

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