To Be or Not To Be

It’s often said that there are no successful comedies about WWII, but this one, made in 1942, comes closest.  Jack Benny (!) and Carole Lombard play Shakespearean actors in occupied Warsaw, outfoxing stupid (but still dangerous) Nazis in a serious of ever-more-ridiculous deceptions.  The rendition of Shylock’s speech by a Jewish actor who suddenly appears in a crowd of Nazis is as affecting as it is unexpected.  Robert Stack, impossibly young and implausibly blond, appears as a young Polish aviator.  Despite the comedy, the movie has an undeniable poignancy, since we know (as the film-makers did not) that the Allies’ promises to the Polish government-in-exile were not to be honored.

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