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JACK BENNY AND CAROL LOMBARD IN 'TO BE OR NOT TO BE'

Best Criterion Cover Ever YEAR: 1942
Ernst Lubitsch takes a complicated plot and with an easygoing acting style of the performers under tightly-wound direction, headed by Jack Benny and Carol Lombard, it flows from beginning to end as the ups and downs, curves, twists and turns provide both subtle humor and edgy suspense, centering on a group of stage actors in Poland before and during the Nazi takeover on the boot-heels of World War II...

They must trick their antagonists into thinking Benny... who plays a hammy actor (exactly the opposite of himself)... is a scientist who's a traitor to the good guys and... well it really doesn't matter because TO BE OR NOT TO BE has to be seen and concentrated on for the plot to make clear and interesting (as well as intriguing) sense...

Lombard & Stack TO BE Rates: ****
More or less a con artist caper movie, and unlike the Mel Brooks remake, the Germans, while not brilliant, are  genuinely imposing to instill enough danger for all the verbal laps to matter beyond hitting punchlines at the right moment...

Although everything does rely on the actors-within-the-movie hitting their own marks for the ruse to work, hence the title taken after a pivotal line from William Shakespeare's Hamlet that, if spoken by a novice stage performer, can hinder the entire show...

The fun's watching Benny trying to outdo his character's own lack of talent while Lombard is the real trickster, weaving in and out of both the bad guys and the token young pretty boy (Robert Stack, whose role is played by Tim Matheson in the Brooks remake, and both starred in another war comedy, 1941, which centered on the same war and is named after the year before this picture came out): If anyone on board has the most work, it's Lombard.
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