Our next German Monday Movie is the funniest and also most dramatic, comedy ever made by the great Ernst Lubitsch 

SEIN ODER NICHTSEIN – TO BE OR NOT TO BE

(1942, 95 min, b/w, dir. Ernst Lubitsch, starring Jack Benny & Carole Lombard, English with German subtitles!) 

DATE: 27 AUGUST
TIME: 5.00 p.m.
VENUE: Howard College, MTB West Wing, 1st Floor, German Programme, Media Room F251

About the film:
“Actor-manager Joseph Tura, JACK BENNY, whose theatre company is based in Warsaw, is vain and pompous, but loves his flirtatious wife and co-star Maria, CAROLE LOMBARD, who has the bad taste to invite her latest admirer, ROBERT STACK, backstage to her dressing-room when her husband, playing Hamlet, commences the famous soliloquy.

When the Germans invade Poland, the Turas and members of their theatre company become involved in daring acts of espionage against the invaders.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE is the funniest, and also the most dramatic, comedy made by the great Ernst Lubitsch, a Berlin Jew who, after great success as a comedian and director of costume dramas in post World War I Germany, came to America in 1923 where he made a series of dazzlingly witty and cheeky comedies and wound up being Paramount’s Head of Production. In his 1939 film, NINOTCHKA, he had made a comedy about the extremes of Soviet Russia; in 1942 he took the considerable risk of making a farce about the Nazi occupation of Poland. TO BE OR NOT TO BE is pretty outrageous, and that’s why it’s so memorable. With the war in Europe still raging, Lubitsch mocked the murderous tyrants mercilessly, even including a character, played by the wonderful Sig Rumann, who liked to be known as ‘concentration camp Erhardt’.

Bad taste? It depends on your point of view, of course, and comedy is a very fragile thing, but for me Lubitsch’s film is perhaps the funniest screen comedy ever made. Jack Benny, who starred in several rather unmemorable films in the 30s, but who was better known for his radio and television work, gives the performance of his career as Tura, while beautiful, stylish Carole Lombard is perfect as his feisty wife, and it’s heartbreaking to think she was killed in an air crash before the film was released.” (source: https://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s3174007.htm)


Dr Marion Pape
Head, German Studies
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Arts
Durban, 4041
Email: papem@ukzn.ac.za
Tel: 0027-31-260 1086 / 2380
Fax: 0027-31-260 1242

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