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Slideshow

PREVIOUSLY PLAYED

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

2:30   6:45

Saturday, June 10

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

(1942) “So they call me Concentration Camp Erhardt!” gloats Gestapo man Sig Rumann to a masquerading Jack Benny – in reality Joseph Tura, “that great, great Polish actor” – then proceeds to criticize Benny’s Hamlet:  “What you did to Shakespeare, we’re doing to Poland.” Attacked in its time for abominable taste, but now considered a Lubitsch masterpiece. With Carole Lombard in her final role, as Benny’s almost-straying wife. 35mm. Approx. 99 min.

Reviews

“A victory for play and imagination against brute force.” 
– Nick Pinkerton, ARTFORUM

“Occupies a place by itself for its singular audacity in enmeshing the Third Reich in the mechanisms of comedy, as exemplified by Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in their funniest performances. Against all odds, and in the face of ultimate brutality, Lubitsch asserts the power of laughter to deflate all forms of grandiosity and unjust authority.”
– Geoffrey O’Brien, The New York Review of Books

“A RACY, RISKY BLACK COMEDY OF MANNER. Every bit the expression of wartime values and classical Hollywood style as [Casablanca].” 
– Thomas Doherty, Tablet

“LUBITSCH’S TRUE MASTERPIECE. The interconnections of buffoonery, elegance and sheer suspense turn the tale of a Polish acting troupe becoming spies for the Allies into one of the most incisive and perceptive films about the War made in the midst of the War.”
– Eric Monder, Film Journal

“One of the surest and lightest hands in movies made a charming and hilarious assault on the Nazis — and in 1942, years before the war would end. (Perhaps only Lubitsch, and star Jack Benny, could turn the line, ‘So, they call me “Concentration Camp Earhardt?”’ into a gut-busting, not offensive, running gag.)”
– Matt Prigge, Metro

“Lombard at her apex, Lubitsch at his most inspired.”
– Andrew Sarris