To Be or Not to Be

Friday, June 21 - Sunday, June 23, 2013

35mm print

“Smashingly funny… so good in its own right, in the way it preserves and revives the wonderfully farcical situations of the original Edwin Justus Mayer screenplay, that you leave the theater having a brand-new high.

“With Mr. Brooks in the Jack Benny role, renamed Frederick Bronski, a hammy, egotistical stage star modestly described as ‘world famous in Poland,’ and Anne Bancroft, Mr. Brooks’s real-life wife, as Frederick’s actress-wife, Anna (the Carole Lombard role), this TO BE OR NOT TO BE scarcely misses a comic beat right from the opening sequence.

“The time, of course, is August 1939, and the place, Warsaw, on the eve of World War II. Frederick and Anna Bronski are, as they themselves might say, ‘discovered’ in mid-performance on the stage of their Bronski Theater, doing what their public apparently thinks they do best.

“As we see it, this is a hilarious, seriously tacky Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers song-and-dance turn to ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ You haven’t ever heard ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ until you’ve heard Mr. and Mrs. Brooks sing it in Polish, as they kick up their little feet in unison, this way and that, shake their shoulders in what passes for slinky sophistication and smile in a moonily patronizing way at their adoring audience… TO BE OR NOT TO BE never falls much below this high standard, set so perilously early in the entertainment. Mr. Brooks and Miss Bancroft played together once before, in his Silent Movie in which she had a cameo role, but this is their first co-starring romp. It’s one in which we are allowed to discover for ourselves what they seem to have known all along – they were made for each other. Though she gives the impression of towering over him in her high-fashion, elegantly nutty way, he comes up to her size through brainy madness and epic self-assurance.

“It’s no news that Mr. Brooks is one of our national treasures. The revelation for film audiences is that Miss Bancroft is such a wildly gifted comedienne. She is not a foil, but an equal partner, who never fails to meet Mr. Brooks’s comic challenges and who, I suspect, provides him with the sort of solid presence that allows him to reach the heights he does. Performing singly or in tandem, they are terrific.” – Vincent Canby, The New York Times


  • Country USA
  • Rating PG
  • Year 1983
  • Running Time 107 minutes
  • Director Alan Johnson

IFC Center does not generally provide advisories about subject matter or potentially triggering content in films, as sensitivities vary from person to person. In addition to the synopses, trailers and other links on our website, further information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and as well as through general internet searches.