To Be or Not to Be is an American comedy drama about an acting troupe in World War II Poland that uses their skills to fool the Nazis. The film was adapted from a story by Melchior Lengyel and was produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. The title of the movie is based on the To Be or Not to Be soliloquy performed in Shakespeare's Hamlet, which plays a major part in the film.
To Be or Not to Be begins prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland and directs its focus on an acting troupe headed by high-strung Josef Tura (Jack Benny) and his loving but unfaithful wife, Maria (Carole Lombard), who begins a passionate but short affair with Polish flyer Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack). As the occupation continues, Sobinski returns to Warsaw to alert Maria of a potential threat of one Professor Siletsky. Though Siletsky says he's with the Polish resistance, it turns out he is working for the Nazis.
What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse between the Nazis and the members of Joseph's acting group. Using their skills in characterization and makeup, troupe members disguise themselves as various personnel of the occupying force. Joseph pretends to be a Gestapo colonel to lure Siletsky into his theater. After the professor is killed by Sobinski, Joseph takes on his role. The film's climax takes place during a show for the Nazis and the substitution of the real Hitler by Bronski (Tom Dugan), a member of Joseph's acting troupe. In the end, disguised as Hitler and his soldiers, the troupe escapes on a German aircraft to land in Scotland as heroes, allowing Joseph to perform in Hamlet once again.
To Be or Not to Be was distributed in the United States by United Artists Pictures and premiered in March of 1942.