To Be or Not to Be, co-starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, under expert guidance of Ernst Lubitsch, is absorbing drama with farcical trimmings. It’s an acting triumph for Lombard, who delivers an effortless and highly effective performance that provides memorable finale to her brilliant screen career.
To Be is typically Lubitsch in dramatic setup and satirical by-play. He’s responsible for the producer-director and original writer chores [with Melchior Lengyel], dovetailing all into a solid piece of entertainment. Story recounts the adventures of a legit stock company in Warsaw, before and during the Nazi invasion, from August 1939 to December 1941. Lombard is the femme lead, with husband Jack Benny a hammy matinee idol with penchant for playing Hamlet.
Lubitsch’s guidance provides a tense dramatic pace with events developed deftly and logically throughout. The farcical episodes display Lubitsch in best form.
1942: Nomination: Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture