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FLICK PICKS: 'To Be or Not to Be'
October 27, 2008  | By Diane Werts
 
to be or not group.jpgThe way politics is today, the way world conflicts are evolving, the way we take everything so seeeriously, there's something to be said for finding ways to make your salient point with humor.


To Be or Not to Be (Monday at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies) is right up there with Dr. Strangelove in attacking the most horrific threat with pungent humor. Like Stanley Kubrick's 1964 black comedy about The Bomb, Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 take on the Nazis looks right into the teeth of the beast and takes it down with well-aimed mockery.

Carole Lombard gets her last hurrah as TCM's October star of the month in this unusual comedy about a Polish theater troupe struggling to operate under the thumb of Hitler's troops. Surprisingly adult for its era in terms of sexuality, too, the script finds Lombard's married actress character having an affair with a handsome young pilot (Robert Stack), whose anti-Nazi efforts enlist both her and her cuckolded husband, as embodied by an underrated Jack Benny, who finds himself forced to impersonate German officers under desperate conditions.

lombard mrssmith.jpgThe "Lubitsch touch" of sparkling wit and romance leavens the tough-sledding subject matter, which had to be no mean feat, considering that Lubitsch and story author Melchoir Lengyel had themselves fled their fascist-occupied homelands (Germany and Hungary, respectively).


It's followed on TCM by another unlikely comedy -- one from Alfred Hitchcock. Lombard and Robert Montgomery partner as not-legally-wed marrieds in her next-to-last film, 1941's Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Monday at 10 p.m. ET, TCM).

 
 
 
 
 
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