Written by Edwin Justus Mayer, from an original story by Ernst Lubitsch and Melchior Lengyel
Cinematography by Rudolph Maté
Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Original Music by Werner R. Heymann
Cast: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill
USA, 1942, United Artists, TBD, B&W, 99 min.
An original story by German-Russian Jew Lubitsch, To Be Or Not to Be, still in principle photography when Pearl Harbor was attacked, remains the filmmaker’s single greatest feat. Crucified critically for its Jack Benny-led theatre troupe torturing the Bard in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation (“What he did to Shakespeare we are now doing to Poland”), nothing speaks success in Hollywood like box office and Carole Lombard’s death prior to the film’s opening – volunteered in a bond rally for the Hollywood Victory Committee by her husband Clark Gable – no doubt fueled attendance. Reasoned Lubitsch later on his blackest humor: “Audiences would feel sympathy and admiration for people who could still laugh in their tragedy.”