To Be or Not to Be

Sein oder Nichtsein
At the Theatre Polski in 1939 Warsaw, actress Maria Tura secretly meets young air force lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski while her husband is onstage delivering Hamlet’s soliloquy. But when Germans march on the city, the aviator flees to England to join the Royal Air Force. After the Nazis invade Poland, he inadvertently gives information about the Polish resistance to a Nazi spy posing as a professor. Sobinsky returns to Warsaw to try to make up for his mistake and eliminate the spy. Using costumes left over from a play titled “Gestapo”, the acting troupe is able to draw the Nazi occupiers into an ant-fascist charade and corner “Professor Siletsky” ... Ms Tura’s suggestion that she wear an evening gown for the concentration camp scene in “Gestapo” was an ironic reflection of the reputation of the actress playing her as Hollywood’s best-dressed woman. In her last screen role, Carole Lombard was also reflecting the attitude of her director, who came from a tailoring family. Ernst Lubitsch used décolleté as a weapon in this World War battle of the sexes. In the end, amid all the uniform costumes, the dress is what ultimately drives the spy “Professor” crazy.
by Ernst Lubitsch
with Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Sig Rumann, Tom Dugan, Charles Halton, George Lynn, Ernő Verebes, Wolfgang Zilzer, Edgar Licho, Roland Varno, Otto Reichow
USA 1942 English,  German 93’ Black/White, 35 mm Rating R12


  • Carole Lombard
  • Jack Benny
  • Robert Stack
  • Felix Bressart
  • Lionel Atwill
  • Stanley Ridges
  • Sig Rumann
  • Tom Dugan
  • Charles Halton
  • George Lynn
  • Ernő Verebes
  • Wolfgang Zilzer
  • Edgar Licho
  • Roland Varno
  • Otto Reichow


DirectorErnst Lubitsch
ScreenplayEdwin Justus Mayer, based on a story by Melchior Lengyel and Ernst Lubitsch
CinematographyRudolph Maté
EditingDorothy Spencer
Visual EffectsLawrence Butler
MusicWerner R. Heymann
SoundFrank Maher
Art DirectorVincent Korda
Make-UpGordon Bau
ProducerAlexander Korda, Ernst Lubisch

Produced by

Romaine Film Corp. (An Ernst Lubitsch Production)

Additional information

Print: Cinémathèque suisse, Lausanne