To Be or Not to Be

Synopsis: In occupied Poland during WWII, a troupe of ham stage actors (led by Joseph Tura and his wife Maria) match wits with the Nazis. A spy has information which would be very damaging to the Polish resistance and they must prevent it's being delivered to the Germans.
Genre: Comedy, War
Director(s): Ernst Lubitsch
Production: United Artists
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
99 min



Lubinski, Kubinski...

Lominski, Rozanski and Poznanski.

We're in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

It's August, 1939. Europe is still at peace.

At the moment, life in Warsaw

is going on as normally as ever.

But suddenly,

something seems to have happened.

Are those Poles seeing a ghost?

Why does this car suddenly stop?

Everybody seems to be staring

in one direction.

People seem to be frightened,

even terrified. Some flabbergasted.

Can it be true? It must be true. No doubt.

The man with the little mustache,

Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler in Warsaw

when the two countries are still at peace...

and all by himself?

He seems strangely unconcerned

by all the excitement he's causing.

Is he by any chance interested

in Mr. Maslowski's delicatessen?

That's impossible! He's a vegetarian.

And yet,

he doesn't always stick to his diet.

Sometimes he swallows whole countries.

Does he want to eat up Poland, too?

Anyhow, how did he get here?

What happened?

It all started in the General Headquarters

of the Gestapo in Berlin.

Heil Hitler.

Heil Hitler!

- Colonel, we have Wilhelm Coetze here.

If you'd like to look into his record.

I hope he'll talk.

- He'd better.

Send him in.

- Yes, sir.

Wilhelm Coetze!

Heil Hitler!

- Heil Hitler!

And now, Wilhelm, I understand

you want a little tank to play with.

Yes, my father promised me one

if I got a good report card.

But our Fuhrer

heard about your report card...

and decided to give you

just what you want.

Heil Hitler!

- Heil Hitler!

You are going to tell your father

who gave it to you, aren't you, Wilhelm?

Sure, our Fuhrer.

And then maybe he will like the Fuhrer

a little better, won't he?


He doesn't like him now, does he?

- No, he doesn't.

And sometimes he even says funny things

about him, doesn't he?

Well, he said they named a brandy

after Napoleon...

and they made a herring out of Bismarck.

And Hitler's going to end up as...

- A piece of cheese.

- Yes.

- Yeah.

How did you know?

- Well, it's a natural thought.

A natural thought?!

I hope you don't misunderstand.

I always, that is...

You see, Colonel,

I hope you don't doubt my...

Heil Hitler!

The Fuhrer!

Heil Hitler!

Heil Hitler!

Heil myself.

That's not in the script!

But, Mr. Dobosh, please.

- That's not in the script, Mr. Bronski.

But it'll get a laugh.

- I don't want a laugh here.

How many times have I told you

not to add any lines?

I want...

- You want my opinion, Mr. Dobosh?

No Mr. Greenberg, I don't

want your opinion.

All right, then let me give you my reaction.

A laugh is nothing to be sneezed at.

Mr. Greenberg, I hired you as an actor,

not as a writer. Understand?

No. What does the script say?

I make an entrance.

- And what do you say?


- Then say nothing.

Here am I sitting, waiting for my scene,

all eager to go...

and I have to wait and wait

to be driven out of my mood...

just because two little actors in the cast

want to enlarge their parts.

Mr. Rawitch, what you are, I wouldn't eat.

How dare you call me a ham!

Folks, I want everybody

to understand this.

This is a serious play,

a realistic drama...

Good morning, Dobosh.

- Good morning.

How do you like my dress?

- Very good. Very good.

It is a document of Nazi...

Is that what you're wearing

in the concentration camp?

Don't you think it's pretty?

- That's just it.

Well, why not?

I think it's a tremendous contrast.

Think of me being flogged in the darkness.

I scream, the lights go on...

and the audience sees me on the floor

in this gorgeous dress.

That's a terrific laugh.

- That's right, Greenberg.

You keep out of this!

That a great star, an artist,

could be so inartistic.

You must be out of your mind!

What do you mean by talking to my wife

like that? How dare you!

I'm sorry. I lost my temper.

Sweetheart, the dress stinks.

You're only afraid

I'm running away with the scene.

I afraid? Why should I be?

Of course not.

You're the best actor in the world.

Everybody knows that, even you.

- Don't be a prima donna.

Any chance to take the spotlight away

from me, it's ridiculous how you grab it.

Whenever I start a story, you finish it.

Should if I go on a

diet, you lose the weight.

If I have a cold, you cough.

And if we should ever have a baby,

I'm not so sure I'd be the mother.

I'm satisfied to be the father.

Mr. Dobosh, look,

if you'll just give me a chance...

Who made you up?

- I did, Mr. Dobosh.

What's wrong with it?

- I don't know. It's not convincing.

To me, he's just a man

with a little mustache.

But so was Hitler.

Wait, it's not just the mustache.

It's... I don't know.

I just can't smell Hitler in him.

- I can.

I know! I know!

That picture!

That's what he should look like!

But that picture was taken of me.

Then the picture's wrong, too.

Now, see here, Mr. Dobosh,

I'm a nobody and I have to take a lot.

But I know I look like Hitler,

and I'm going to prove it right now.

I'm going out on the street

and see what happens.

And that's how Adolf Hitler

came to Warsaw in August, 1939.

May I have your autograph, Mr. Bronski?


- Why, certainly.

Jospeh Tura i Maria Tura

in "Hamlet"

I know it would get a laugh.

Then Dobosh said to me,

"Bronski, you're going to play Hitler."

I thought that was the real start

of my career.

Don't worry, Bronski.

They can't keep real talent down forever.

Rate this script:5.0 / 1 vote

Edwin Justus Mayer

Edwin Justus Mayer (November 8, 1896 – September 11, 1960) was an American screenwriter. He wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for 47 films between 1927 and 1958. Edwin Justus Mayer worked on many screenplays but he is remembered now for his work with Ernst Lubitsch. He worked with Lubitsch on the scripts for To Be or Not to Be (1942) and A Royal Scandal (1945). A Royal Scandal (1945) did poorly at the box office, but is considered by many as one of Lubitsch's finest films. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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