TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) B/W 99m. dir: Ernst Lubitsch
w/Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Sig Rumann, Stanley Ridges, Lionel Atwill, Tom Dugan, Charles Halton, Peter Caldwell
This great film comedy is the story of a Shakespearean troupe in Poland resisting the Nazis during WWII.
From The Movie Guide: "A masterpiece of satire and one of the most controversial films of its day, TO BE OR NOT TO BE is a brilliant example of how comedy can be as effective in raising social and political awareness as a serious propaganda film, while still providing hilarious entertainment. ...
"A satire built around a rather complex spy plot and directed with genius by Ernst Lubitsch, TO BE OR NOT TO BE lampoons the Nazis and paints the Poles as brave patriots fighting for their land, for whom Hamlet's question 'To be or not to be' takes on national implications. Released in 1942, in the midst of America's involvement in WWII, the film drew a great deal of criticism from people who felt that Lubitsch, a German (though he left long before Hitler's rise), was somehow making fun of the Poles. TO BE OR NOT TO BE is also remembered as the last screen appearance for the dazzling Lombard, who, just after the film's completion, was killed in a plane crash while on her way to Hollywood for a war bonds spot on Benny's radio show. TO BE was a perfect and brash finale to Lombard's great comic genius, especially because of its examination of play-acting. Was there ever as playful a spirit on a movie set as Lombard? The film came from an idea by Melchior Lengyel --- as did NINOTCHKA. Mel Brooks's remake of the story was released in 1983, with Brooks and Anne Bancroft playing the leads. While not as good, it's a perfectly watchable, if unnecessary, tribute to the original, with Bancroft faring better than Brooks."
The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Score (Werner Heymann).