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To Be or Not to Be

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Johnson
Produced by Mel Brooks
Written by Ronny Graham
Melchior Lengyel (story)
Ernst Lubitsch (story)
Edwin Justus Mayer (1942 screenplay)
Thomas Meehan
Starring Mel Brooks
Anne Bancroft
Charles Durning
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Gerald Hirschfeld
Editing by Alan Balsam
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) 16 December 1983
Running time 107 min.
Country United States
Language English

To Be or Not to Be is a 1983 20th Century Fox comedy-drama directed by Alan Johnson, produced by Mel Brooks with Howard Jeffrey as executive producer and Irene Walzer as associate producer. The screenplay was written by Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan, based on the original story by Melchior Lengyel, Ernst Lubitsch and Edwin Justus Mayer. It is a remake of the 1942 film of the same title.

The film starred Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft with Tim Matheson, Charles Durning, Christopher Lloyd, and José Ferrer.

This remake was one of the first major American films to acknowledge that homosexuals were persecuted by the Third Reich, along with other Holocaust victims. Homosexuality aside, this version was extremely faithful to the 1942 version, and in many cases dialogue was taken verbatim from the earlier film. The character of the treacherous Professor Siletsky (here spelled Siletski) was, however, made into more of a comic figure, and even into somewhat of a buffoon, whereas in the original he was the one completely serious character in the film. Siletski, played by Stanley Ridges in the 1942 film, was here played by José Ferrer, his only appearance in a Mel Brooks film.

For his humorous performance as Colonel Erhardt, Charles Durning was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Erhardt was played by Sig Ruman in the original film.



The film was favorably reviewed by Vincent Canby in the New York Times, who called it "smashingly funny." [1]

However, the film was not a great commercial success, grossing only $13,000,000. [2].


  • A gag starts off the Mel Brooks version with Brooks and Bancroft performing the song "Sweet Georgia Brown" in Polish, and after the performance the two engage in a quarrel backstage—still in Polish—until an announcer calls out: "Ladies and gentlemen, for the interest of clarity and sanity the rest of this movie will not be in Polish."
  • In an evident tribute to Jack Benny the beleaguered couple moves into the apartment of their friend, Sascha, at Number 52 Kubelsky Street. Benny Kubelsky is the real name of Jack Benny.
  • On the movie's soundtrack album, but not in the movie, is a novelty rap song entitled To Be or Not to Be (The Hitler Rap). This song was released as a single, complete with music video, and peaked at #12 on the US charts in February 1984.
  • Charles Durning previously played a character involved with the Nazis along with Anne Bancroft in The Hindenburg.

Full Cast

External links

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