Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Film: To Be Or Not To Be (41/250) 
Critics Poll: 144th 
Directors Poll: 132nd 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch 

Note to self: Try to not turn this into a love letter to Carole Lombard. Okay? Okay.
CAROLE LOMBARD IS THE GREATEST, YOU GUYS! Gone too soon, R.I.P. beautiful angel! 
Sorry, had to get that out.

This film is one of my favorites. It tackles an issue that's far from funny (um, Nazis) and pokes fun at them, making one of the funniest films of the 40s. Jack Benny and Carole Lombard play self-absorbed but good-hearted actors that get wrapped up in a plot to expose a spy. It's witty, it's relevant, and the whole cast shines; Lombard in particular is so luminescent, she absolutely sparkles. And it's directed by Ernst Lubitsch, so you KNOW it's going to be good. Can you believe they got away with lines like this? "What he did to Shakespeare we are doing now to Poland!" It's bold, it's controversial, and it's comedy gold. Aside from Benny and Lombard, I'd like to give a little shoutout to Lubitsch regular Felix Bressart, who delivers a heartfelt performance of Shylock's speech from "The Merchant of Venice": "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" It's such a great film, I was happy to revisit it. 

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