Filmsite Movie Review
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

To Be or Not to Be (1942)Backstage during an evening performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet by the same Polish troupe in Warsaw, Bronski and fellow actor Greenberg commiserated about how in the current play, they were only cast in minimal acting parts as spear-carrying guards. Greenberg expressed how his life's goal was to play the role of Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, so he could perform the famous "Have I not eyes?" speech about being Jewish in the Rialto scene (Act 3, Scene 1):

Have I not eyes? Have I not hands organs, senses, dimensions, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons subject to the same diseases. If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

Cast in the central title role as Hamlet, Joseph Tura complained to his wife Maria that he was delivering "a rotten performance" because they were quarreling, but she disagreed. She complimented him on his scene with Polonius, then claimed she couldn't kiss him because it would ruin her makeup. In her dressing room, they noticed a delivery of a bouquet of flowers for the third night in a row, and Joseph was suspicious: "Who is he?...Even Shakespeare couldn't stand seeing Hamlet three nights in succession." Maria dismissed his jealousy: "I'm sure this has nothing to do with me personally." And she reminded him: "You forget you're playing Hamlet." She vowed that she didn't know her secret admirer, but after Joseph was summoned to the stage for his "big scene," she mentioned to her dressing room maid Anna (Maude Eburne) that she was positive that it was a young aviator named Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack) who was sitting in the second row of the theater: "He gets better-looking every night." A card was delivered that confirmed her hunch, with a personal note - the pilot had broken his silence: "He's dying to see me, even if it's just for a minute." Anna encouraged a rendezvous with her admirer: "If you want to see him, see him while he's still young."

With a return note, the flirtatious and glamorous leading lady arranged to meet the pilot in her dressing room when her husband (as Hamlet on stage) began his lengthy "To be or not to be" soliloquy. As planned, once Joseph started delivering his famous monologue speech with an undramatic monotone voice (after the prompter, hidden by the footlight cover, whispered the first line to him), the words triggered the exit of Polish audience member/fighter pilot Lt. Sobinski from his seat in the front of the audience, to innocently rendezvous backstage in the privacy of her dressing room. Sobinski's departure from his seat was obviously disruptive, causing Tura to notice and become flustered. His main concern was that his performance was so bad that audience members were walking out.

In her dressing room, Mrs. Tura graciously received the enamoured young aviator, but facetiously questioned her own decision to see "strangers" there privately. Sobinski admitted that he had been stalking Maria for some time, had read all of her interviews, and knew all about her pet gold fish and her farm:

But you are no stranger to me, Mrs. Tura. I've seen you in everything you've ever played. I'll never forget how I laughed when I saw you as Kiki....But you certainly weren't funny when you played Lady Macbeth....I was really scared of you that night.

Sobinski then spoke about his military deployment, and responded with a very suggestive, bawdy line with innuendo - especially considering the context of sexual foreplay during his wooing of the seductive Maria:

There isn't much to tell. I just fly a bomber...I don't know about its being thrilling, but it's quite a bomber. You may not believe it, but I can drop three tons of dynamite in two minutes.

He hesitated, but then invited her to see his bomber plane the next day at 2 pm - at the airport. As he left her room, he apologized for being so "clumsy," but she was impressed by his dynamite braggadocio:

Sobinski: I hope you forgive me if I acted a little clumsy, but this is the first time I ever met an actress.
Maria: Lieutenant, this is the first time I've ever met a man who could drop three tons of dynamite in two minutes. Bye.

Overhearing their entire conversation, Anna cautioned Maria to keep her appointment a secret from Tura ("What a husband doesn't know won't hurt his wife"). Shortly later, Joseph staggered into Maria's dressing room, devastated and with a bruised ego:

Joseph: It happened. What every actor dreads....Someone walked out on me. Tell me, Maria, am I losing my grip?...But he walked out on me.
Maria: Maybe he didn't feel well. Maybe he had to leave. Maybe he had a sudden heart attack...If he stayed, he might have died.
Joseph: Maybe he's dead already. Oh darling, you're so comforting.

Afterwards, just before the opening night premiere of the troupe's new 4-act anti-Nazi play Gestapo, the company was brought "bad news" by Dr. Voyawski, an official government representative from the Foreign Office. The troupe was specifically ordered to halt and cancel their production because it was considered "unwise" to proceed, out of fear that its "artistic value" (and more) would offend Hitler and create undue tension between Poland and Germany. However, they were allowed to resume their performances of Hamlet.

During Tura's next performance as he began his "To be or not to be" soliloquy, Sobinski again walked out, causing further distress for the vain actor. Alone clandestinely with Maria in her dressing room, Sobinski confessed his unabashed love for her, and suggested that she divorce her husband and leave her stage profession to be with him:

I have so much to tell you. When we're in the plane, we can't talk. When we're in the tearoom, we can't do anything but talk....You know, Maria, the other day in the plane, you didn't think I was watching but I-I saw you looking at me. It was a very sympathetic look, I thought. I had the feeling you like me. Was I wrong?...Tell me, Maria. Be frank. Do you still like me?...You still like me, huh? You think you'll always like me?...That's wonderful. What are we going to do with your husband?...We must tell him, of course....That we love each other, that we're mad about each other. He has no right to stand in our way. I'm sure he'll realize the situation....Well, you don't want to stay on the stage? Oh, no, I wouldn't let you. That's out. You're tired of it, anyway. You want to live a quiet life.

When Maria calmly objected to his false assumptions about their relationship: "You're really a darling, but you don't seem to realize that I'm a married woman.... I love my husband." And then she apologized for leading him on: "Stanislav, you must listen to me. This is probably all my fault, but you must understand that l..."

Suddenly, she was interrupted by Anna who barged in with news of war in the latest edition of the newspaper - without a formal declaration of war, Nazi German troops [on September 1, 1939] were crossing the border at several points into Poland that evening. Sobinski forgot his love declaration and vowed: "They'll pay before they're through. We're gonna fight 'em." Sobinski pledged to join the war effort as a member of the Polish bomber pilot squadron for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in England, and then return to Maria ("I have to see you again") - with her encouragement.

Producer Dobosh and others barged in, including Joseph who yelled out: "It's a conspiracy. That's what it is! A foul conspiracy!" - he wasn't referring to the impending war, but the second instance of the audience member walking out on him. Maria shouted back at his narrow self-centeredness: "Don't you understand? It's war!" A frightening air alarm sounded, causing the theater audience to flee to the exits, and the lights to flicker. The costumed actors descended a spiral staircase to find shelter in the theater's basement as bombings began. Joseph noted the irony of the situation:

Joseph: Anyway, we don't have to worry about the Nazi play anymore.
Rawitch: The Nazis themselves are putting on the show now. A much bigger one.
Maria: There's no censor to stop them.

After a fade to black, the next scene revealed the devastation of the city of Warsaw (the burning remains of the four shop storefront-signs from the opening narration), including the destruction of the theatre, and the crumbling remnants of J. Maslowski's Delikatesy where Bronski had stood as Hitler. The Narrator intoned:

Unhappy Poland. Attacked without a word of warning by a ruthless conqueror. Warsaw destroyed for the sake of destruction. The curtain had fallen on the Polish drama, a tragedy with no relief in sight. There was a Nazi tank against every Polish hope and the people were stunned and helpless.

Greenberg repeated Maria's words to Bronski: "There was no censor to stop them." Nazi German troops marched through the streets of Warsaw, causing bystanders to freeze and stare in disbelief. New curfew restrictions and threats of internment were imposed on Warsaw over a period of more than a year (from late 1939 to the end of 1940), described on four posters, and all signed by order of Colonel Ehrhardt, Chief of the Gestapo Office of Occupation:

Appearing on the streets of Warsaw between
7 o'clock in the evening and 7 o'clock in the
morning is strictly forbidden under penalty of
Warsaw, October 6th, 1939.

Attack or attempt of attack upon the person of a member
of the German Army of Occupation will result in summary
arrest and internment in concentration camp.
Warsaw, November 13, 1939.

Citizens of Warsaw are again warned that anyone found
in possession of radio apparatus or found listening
to a radio program of foreign station will be subject
to the penalty of death.
Warsaw, February 20th, 1940.

Found loitering about the military fortifications of Warsaw,
Jan Obrymski, Stefan Ruta, and Stanislaw Kopiec
have been summarily shot.
For attempted sabotage within the city of Warsaw,
Kasimir Burant and his wife Wanda have been
executed by military police.
Warsaw, Dec 3, 1940

Greenberg's recitation of Shylock's words in The Merchant of Venice were repeated to Bronski - with a new and sadder context: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?"

The Narrator continued:

But a new spirit had come over the people of Poland. Hate and more hate was the answer to the Nazi terror. [A storefront displayed Hitler's tome: Mein Kampf, before rocks were thrown through the window.] Rebellion against suppression. Determination to fight at any moment, anywhere, everywhere. The battle was on. "V." "V." "V" for Victory. [One of the Nazi posters was defaced with a black V, and a wooden frame in the shape of a V was set on fire.] Down with the Nazis! Down with Hitler! [An image of Hitler being hanged.] The Warsaw underground striking back - sabotage, destruction. [The destruction of a bridge and other structures.] But the real fight for Polish freedom was led somewhere in England. [Planes of the RAF in flight.] Young men of Poland avenging their country - the Polish squadron of the RAF.

On an airbase camp in England after a celebratory dinner, the Polish division or squadron of the British RAF (Royal Air Force) (including Sobinski) was gathered around a piano with guest of honor Professor Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), their countryman, while singing an anti-Hitler song. Siletsky claimed to be a member of the Polish Resistance fighting for the cause: "I only wish that I were young enough to do for our country what you're doing." After Siletsky said he was going on a secret trip or mission, Sobinski unwittingly joked: "He's going to Berlin to call on Hitler." He hinted that he was going to Nazi-occupied Warsaw. The Professor offered to collect the names and addresses of the pilots' families in the Resistance Underground in Warsaw, so that he could communicate with them to assure they were safe ("Why don't you tell me where I can reach your people and I'll try my best?"). When Sobinski gave the Professor the contact name of a famous married lady in Warsaw (Maria Tura) (without her husband's knowledge), he said she would know him by his 'code' message: "To be or not to be." However, he was suspicious that the Professor, who was Polish and said he had lived in Warsaw, was ignorant of the nationally-known prominent actress, and had never heard of her:

Don't tell me you've never heard of Maria Tura?

A couple of days later at the headquarters of MILITARY INTELLIGENCE V, Lt. Sobinski reported to Major Cunningham (Miles Mander) and General Armstrong (Halliwell Hobbes) about his suspicions. He praised Maria Tura's well-known reputation in Warsaw, strangely unknown to the Professor:

Maria Tura's more than an actress. She's an institution. You couldn't buy a newspaper without reading about her. You couldn't buy a package of cigarettes without finding her picture inside. They named soap after her. Why, you couldn't move around in Warsaw without popping into Maria Tura.

Although the Professor was scheduled to have left the day before for Sweden, Sobinski learned that Siletsky had already departed - and was on his way to Warsaw instead - a three to four day journey. The superior officers were worried about the Professor's acquisition of Polish names and addresses (if he truly was a Nazi spy), and the Gestapo's certain retaliation:

If they fall into the hands of the Gestapo, they can take reprisals against all the families....This man is carrying instructions to the underground in Warsaw. Now, if he delivers them to the Gestapo instead of the underground, it means, not only the death of hundreds of people, but the complete destruction of our organization in Eastern Europe.

The authorities dispatched Lt. Sobinski to fly to Warsaw to warn the Resistance, hopefully before Siletsky's arrival, to pre-empt him from delivering his report. Once there, the Lieutenant was specifically instructed to contact a Resistance leader in a bookstore:

Go to Sztaluga's bookstore and give him our instructions. Sztaluga will then inform the underground. But if someone happens to be in the store, don't mention anything. Just ask for a copy of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. And put Siletsky's picture on Page 105.

Sobinski hid a small picture of Siletsky's picture in the heel of his boot. Once over Warsaw, Sobinski safely parachuted to the snow-covered ground and avoided enemy gunfire and apprehension by German forces.

During curfew hours later that night, Sobinski was spotted by German guards patrolling outside Sztaluga's Bookstore, but he fled and avoided detection. [In the intervening off-screen scene, flier Sobinski reached Maria with his message of warning to the Resistance.] Some time later, Maria entered the bookstore, asked Sztaluga (Wolfgang Zilzer) about buying a copy of Tolstoy's book, and inserted Siletsky's picture into page 105, but then declined to purchase the book. Sztaluga retrieved the photo from the book in his private back office, and read a typed message on the reverse side:

Professor Alexander Siletsky -- Arriving within two days. Watch railroad station. Must not reach Gestapo. Otherwise catastrophe. Will contact you earliest.

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