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The Comedy of Hamlet in Nazi-Occupied Warsaw: An Exploration of Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2019

Emma Smith
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

In March 1942, Bosley Crowther, the film critic for the New York Times, was dismayed to see the premiere of Ernst Lubitsch’s comedy film, To Be or Not to Be, which featured a troupe of Polish actors outmanoeuvring the dumb Gestapo and successfully saving the Polish underground. The egomaniacal star couple of the Polski Theatre, Joseph and Maria Tura, were played by the vaudeville and radio entertainer Jack Benny and the ‘queen’ of screwball comedy, Carole Lombard. Crowther resented that the film director made ‘a spy-thriller of fantastic design amid the ruins and frightful oppressions of Nazi-invaded Warsaw’, adding that ‘[t]o say it is callous and macabre is understating the case’.

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Shakespeare Survey 72 , pp. 98 - 111
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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