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

To Be or Not to Be (1942)Two German soldiers entered the lobby of an apartment building, and located the occupants' directory - searching for Josef and Maria Tura (located in # 8). (Lt. Sobinski was sleeping inside the Tura's apartment.) After ringing the Tura's doorbell, Mrs. Tura met them in the hallway outside her apartment door, upon her return from delivering the message to the bookstore owner. She was ordered to accompany them with no questions - to the Nazi's fortress-styled headquarters in the central part of the city, inside the historic Hotel Europejski. Mrs. Tura was brought to upstairs Room 206 where Professor Siletsky awaited her, to ostensibly deliver the Lieutenant's message. Unfortunately, the Professor had arrived early in Warsaw on his deadly mission to apprehend Resistance leaders and their families.

The Professor apologized for her treatment and detainment, and then delivered the cryptic message from the Lieutenant:

I really must apologize for the manner in which you were brought here...As a matter of fact, I'm not responsible for your being brought here at all. There's a charming young man in England. Gave me a message for you. A rather strange message. 'To be or not to be.' You, no doubt, know its deeper meaning.

He was interrupted by a phone call from Colonel Ehrhardt. He thanked the commanding Colonel for expediting his trip to Warsaw with a plane sent to pick him up in Sweden. They agreed to meet the next morning at 10 am at Gestapo Headquarters. Addressing Mrs. Tura as an actress, Professor Siletsky warned her about her choices on stage and in life, and then suggested that she aid the Germans by 'spying' on Warsaw resistance members:

Naturally, in the theater it's important that you choose the right part....But in real life, it's even more important that you choose the right side....The winning side...Well, you see, here in Warsaw, there are a lot of people that we know very well and a lot of people that we don't know quite so well and would like to know a great deal better. And that's where you can help us, Mrs. Tura.

She mentioned that on stage, she had once played the part of a spy -- "It was really an exciting part... I got shot in the last act. I suppose that happens to most spies." [Note: This was a prophetic statement of Professor Siletsky's own future doom and fate.] As part of his seduction, Siletsky described her future duties as a spy for the Gestapo: "All you'd have to do would be to entertain a little. For instance, invite certain people...Life could be made very comfortable for you again, Mrs. Tura." But Maria balked at the idea: "Naturally, it's all very attractive and tempting. But what are we gonna do about my conscience?" Siletsky proclaimed the grand and "right cause" of Nazism:

The Professor: In the final analysis, all we're trying to do is to create a happy world.
Maria: People who don't want to be happy have no place in this happy world. Well, that makes sense.
The Professor: We're not brutal, we're not monsters...Tell me, do I look like a monster?...We're just like other people. We love to sing, we love to dance, we admire beautiful women. We're human. And sometimes very human (He grabbed her hand).

He invited her to stay for dinner, and then assured her that afterwards, before the evening was over, she would be saluting: 'Heil Hitler!' She pretended to be intrigued by his charm, but claimed she had to quickly return to her apartment and change into a "more suitable dress" for the seductive occasion: "I'm terribly frightened and terribly thrilled."

Before Maria was able to get back to her apartment, her husband Joseph saw a strange pair of pants draped on a chair. Then, he found the second-row audience member sleeping in one of the twin beds in his bedroom. After a few double-takes, he stated: "To be or not to be," and Sobinski awoke, instinctively rose from the bed (in Tura's bathrobe), and put on Tura's slippers. Incensed, Tura jealously asked: "What ill-wind blew you into my slippers?" At that instant, Maria burst into the door and warned: "Siletsky is here!" -- Sobinski was dismayed: "Siletsky here. Then everything's over."

Maria proposed a scheme to outwit Siletsky, and acquire the contact information from him. She explained how Siletsky hadn't met the Gestapo leader Colonel Ehrhardt yet, and that the Professor was recruiting her as a Nazi spy. Joseph was befuddled by everything, and in the dark about what was going on, and he demanded answers to his questions:

  • Who wants you to become a Nazi spy?
  • Who is Siletsky?
  • And who is he? (Lt. Sobinski)
  • What are you doing here?

Aggravated by her husband's questions and with no time to spare, Maria tried to explain but confused him even further with her explanation:

Siletsky wants me to have dinner with him and if we don't get any other idea, I hate to think of it, but maybe I'll have to kill him myself, because I'm the only one who can get to him. You see, this all wouldn't have happened if the Lieutenant had arrived before Siletsky. But they sent a plane for Siletsky, so Siletsky arrived before the Lieutenant. Now, is that clear?

Joseph objected, and turned his anger on Sobinski, assuming that he was having an affair with Maria in the midst of Nazi intrigue:

I'll decide with whom my wife has dinner and whom she'll kill....First, you walk out of my soliloquy, and then you walk into my slippers. And now you question my patriotism. I'm a good Pole. I love my country and I love my slippers!

To show his Polish pride and prove his masculinity, Joseph vowed to "take care of" Siletsky and eliminate him, and thereby clear everything up: "I'm gonna meet Herr Siletsky at Gestapo Headquarters. And after I've killed him, I hope you'll be kind enough to tell me what it was all about."

As part of their conceived plan, Maria returned to Siletsky's hotel room in Gestapo headquarters, dressed in her fancy and revealing silk gown to entice him. The Professor was predictably entranced by her seductive appearance: "I'm willing to die for our Fuhrer at any moment, except for the next few hours." She was about to be convincingly entertained by a private, in-room extravagant buffet dinner with caviar and champagne (Siletsky: "Shall we drink to a blitzkrieg?" Maria: "I prefer a slow encirclement"). Maria offered to be a fortune-teller and interpret his handwriting, and after asking for his signature, declared that he was "very determined" and had "great charm." She gave the pretense of being attracted to him and allowed him to passionately kiss her - she then performed as expected with a swooning: "Heil Hitler!" A second kiss was interrupted by a knock at the door.

A Nazi officer identified himself as Captain Muhm of Colonel Ehrhardt's staff with an urgent change of plans for their upcoming meeting: "He'd like to see you immediately."

[Note: It was actually one of the costumed members of the acting troupe. A plan had been formulated by Joseph Tura and the other actors. Joseph would impersonate Colonel Ehrhardt in order to obtain Siletsky's report.]

Maria feigned regret and disappointment: "That's terrible. I came up here with such doubts in my mind, and now you're gonna leave me here just as the cause is getting me." She watched in the bedroom as Siletsky removed an attache case from a large trunk (with other secret files). As he departed, Siletsky apologized and ironically mentioned: "Gestapo is so busy these days, I'm sure they'll be glad to get rid of me." To propel the scheme of the Polish troupe even further, Maria took the paper with Siletsky's handwritten signature, and typed above it:

My nerves are cracking. My life is of no use to the Fuehrer any more. I am going to end it. Heil Hitler!
[hand-signed: Alexander Siletsky]

After placing the fake suicide note under the pillow in Siletsky's bedroom, Maria calmly exited the room, but was not allowed to leave the hotel when she was detained by the Gestapo Sergeant at Desk at the top of the hotel's stairs (Rudolph Anders).

Professor Siletsky was escorted to "Gestapo Headquarters" - actually, Theatre Polski outfitted with new signage: ENTRANCE - GESTAPO HEADQUARTERS. Troupe actors were disguised and wearing their Gestapo uniforms as armed guards and other officers, and the theatre had been convincingly transformed into a Nazi stronghold, with Tura impersonating the real Colonel Ehrhardt. Siletksy was chauffeured in a car and brought into the outer offices of the Colonel, where he was introduced to a Nazi General (Rawitch in disguise) (allegedly Goring's brother in law), who - while overacting - complimented him: "You certainly fooled the English, didn't you? The British lion will drink his tea from saucers made in Germany. Heil Hitler!"

In an interior office before Professor Siletsky entered, Joseph Tura vowed to give the performance of his life to producer Dobosh: "I'm gonna do the impossible. I'm gonna surpass myself," but producer Dobosh was worried: "Take it easy and don't draw out the scene please....I hate to leave the fate of my country in the hands of a ham." After Siletsky was ushered in to meet the dreaded Colonel, the Professor reminded the commander of his infamous reputation in England - in the film's most-quoted set of lines:

The Professor: They call you 'Concentration Camp' Ehrhardt.
"The Colonel": Yes, yes. We do the concentrating, and the Poles do the camping. Ha, ha, ha.

The Professor dutifully turned over his entire 'report' of the names of members of the underground movement, and "The Colonel" reassured: "They're as good as dead." But then, Siletsky off-handedly mentioned he was sending a "duplicate" copy of his report to Berlin in the morning. His other papers were locked in his bedroom's trunk in the heavily-fortified hotel. This presented a serious problem for Tura and the other conspirators, who were nearby in the theatre's balcony outside the office door, marked: "WEJSCIE PRYWATNE" (translated, "PRIVATE, KEEP OUT"). "The Colonel" excused himself for a few moments, joined them, and puzzled together with them: "How are we gonna get in his hotel?"

"The Colonel" returned to Siletsky in the office, and to stall while his compatriots were plotting, he asked: "So they call me 'Concentration Camp' Ehrhardt?" At a loss for words, he repeated the same question a second time, causing the Professor some consternation. Tura again excused himself and returned to his fellow actors and producer with more concerns: "I'm running out of dialogue." The group quickly devised an ill-conceived plan:

  • Tura would return to the hotel with Siletsky
  • once inside his room, Tura would knock Siletsky unconscious with the butt of a gun
  • Tura would open the trunk, seize and burn the incriminating papers, and then shoot the Professor to death

Tura objected to the suicidal plan and returned the gun: "Think of something else." Tura reentered his office and for the third time, repeated:

So they really call me 'Concentration Camp' Ehrhardt?

The Professor was now totally exasperated (he was desperate to return to the enticing Mrs. Tura in his hotel room), when "The Colonel" asked about his dealings with the famous actress, and his efforts to seduce her and make her an agent or Nazi spy. He also wondered about Mrs. Tura's marital status:

Tell me, hasn't she a husband?...By the way, I believe her husband is that great, great Polish actor, Joseph Tura.

They spoke further about the cryptic coded message ["To be or not to be"] that Sobinski, the young Polish flier in England, had given the Professor to secretly deliver to Mrs. Tura, behind the husband's back:

I had to swear to this young Romeo not to tell the husband. That gives you a rough idea of the message....Seems they have a secret love code....This young flier gave me the message, and I couldn't make head nor tail of it, and neither will you. But Mrs. Tura seemed to understand it perfectly.

"The Colonel" was shocked and alarmed by the romantic deception behind his back (by both Sobinski and Siletsky), but his jealous over-reaction was so out-of-proportion and unrelated to the real concerns at hand that the Professor realized something was askew:

"The Colonel": Professor Siletsky, you amaze me. You, an old Gestapo man, bringing a message to a Polish woman from the enemy. And when I say enemy, I mean enemy! Tell me, you think they had a romance together?
The Professor: Well, I couldn't swear to it, but I don't doubt it. Do you?
"The Colonel": No! And I'm gonna find out if I have to mobilize the whole Gestapo.
The Professor: But, Colonel, I don't understand. Suppose these two did have a romance, that's nothing you have to worry about. The only person that has to worry is the husband. That's all.
"The Colonel": And that's enough! I'm going to arrest this Maria Tura. (He paused, and calmed down) Well, I guess you're right, Professor. I've been with the Gestapo so long, I get suspicious of everyone.
The Professor: And so do I.
"The Colonel": Ha, ha. So they call me "Concentration Camp" Ehrhardt. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

The Professor figured out that he had been duped in an elaborate charade -- "Colonel Ehrhardt" was really the worried 'husband' Joseph Tura. He drew his gun, threatened Tura, and then fled onto the adjacent balcony of the theatre, where gunshots sounded (off-screen). Siletsky was pursued to the ground floor of the theatre, where he hid between rows of seats in a failed attempt to escape. A spotlight located him on stage, before he was shot backstage by Lt. Sobinski. The curtain was raised - and everyone watched as the lethally-wounded, traitorous Nazi poetically fell to the floor with a bloody gunshot wound to the abdomen.

The next image was the upright locked trunk sitting in the Professor's bedroom. Adjutant Captain Schultz (Henry Victor), second-in-command of Colonel Ehrhardt's staff, knocked at the door, and was let in by the detained Maria, and they both awaited the Professor's arrival. The Captain nervously paced the floor before the scene faded to black.

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