To Be or Not to Be (1983 film)

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To Be or Not to Be
To be or not to be.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan Johnson
Produced byMel Brooks
Screenplay byRonny Graham
Thomas Meehan
Story byMelchior Lengyel
Ernst Lubitsch
Based onTo Be or Not to Be
by Edwin Justus Mayer
Narrated byScott Beach
Music byJohn Morris
CinematographyGerald Hirschfeld
Edited byAlan Balsam
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 16, 1983 (1983-12-16)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish, Polish
Budget$9 million[2]
Box office$13 million[3]

To Be or Not to Be is a 1983 American war comedy film directed by Alan Johnson, produced by Mel Brooks, and starring Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Tim Matheson, Charles Durning, Christopher Lloyd, and José Ferrer. The screenplay was written by Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan, based on the original story by Melchior Lengyel, Ernst Lubitsch and Edwin Justus Mayer. The film is a remake of the 1942 film of the same name.


Connections with the original[edit]

This remake was mostly faithful to the 1942 film on which it was based and, in many cases, dialogue was taken verbatim from the earlier film. The characters of Bronski and Joseph Tura are, however, combined into a single character (played by Brooks). The character of the treacherous Professor Siletsky (here spelled Siletski) was made into a more comic, even somewhat buffoonish, figure; in the original he was the only completely serious character. Instead of having the company preparing for Hamlet, Bronski performs his "world famous, in Poland" highlights from Hamlet, including the To Be or Not To Be soliloquy, from which the film's name is taken. His dresser, Anna, has been replaced with Sasha, allowing them to address the plight of gay people under the Nazis, as well as the Jews.


The film was favorably reviewed by Vincent Canby in the New York Times, who called it "smashingly funny."[4]

Roger Ebert's film review stated that in the film, Mel Brooks "combines a backstage musical with a wartime romance and comes up with an eclectic comedy that races off into several directions, usually successfully."[5]

It has a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating "Fresh."[6]

However, the film was not a great commercial success, grossing only $13,030,214.[3]


For his performance as Colonel Erhardt, Charles Durning was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. At the 41st Golden Globe Awards, Durning was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Anne Bancroft was nominated for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical.


  1. ^ "TO BE OR NOT TO BE (PG)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. November 16, 1983. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  3. ^ a b To Be or Not to Be at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent. The New York Times film review, December 16, 1983. Last accessed: January 30, 2011.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun Times film review, December 16, 1983. Last accessed: January 30, 2011.
  6. ^ To Be or Not to Be at Rotten Tomatoes

External links[edit]