Inherit Mark’s much-loved copy of “To Be or Not to Be”

51LDMenz01L._SY300_A few years ago, I decided to invest in a copy of the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch film “To Be or Not to Be” starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. The brilliantly quirky little black comedy, set in Nazi-occupied Warsaw in the run up to WWII, had long been a favorite of mine, and I’d gotten it into my head that I’d like to share it with Clementine, who was, by that point in time, starting to show signs of Billy Wilder fatigue. (As we’ve discussed previously, I’m trying, as best that I can, to raise my daughter on a severely restricted pop-culture diet which eschews anything even remotely modern.) Unfortunately, Clementine’s “To Be or Not to Be” indoctrination was cut short by her mother, who felt as though six was still a bit too young for “the Nazi talk,” but I’ve spent several late nights with it, and my love for the film has only grown. In fact, my appreciation has grown so much that, a few months ago, when I read that the Criterion Collection was going to be releasing a refurbished print with all kinds of bonus material, I decided to do the fiscally irresponsible thing, and order a copy. So, as a result, I now have two copies of “To Be or Not to Be” on DVD… Which brings me to the purpose of tonight’s post.

I want to give away my old copy. And I’m looking for a good home.

I know it’s unlikely that I’ve got a bunch of Jack Benny fans in the audience, given the fact that he’s been dead for almost 40 years now, but I’m hoping that I can get at least one of you to express an interest…

So, if you’d like to own one of the best comedies ever made, just leave a comment and let me know.

Or, on second thought, don’t just leave a comment telling me that you want it. I don’t know how likely it is, but, on the off chance that more than one of you expresses interest, you’d better take a minute and let me know why I should choose your home. Are you, for instance, a homeschooler presently contemplating a semester-long course on the films of Ernst Lubitsch? Or, do you have a dying uncle who could use one more good laugh before shuffling off into the great unknown? Or, do you just really want to see it. Assuming there’s not competition, that might be enough. Just do me a favor and say something nicer than, “Give it to me,” if you want it. How about something like, “If I win the movie, I’ll go out and pick up trash for half an hour”? Or, “If I win the movie, I’ll pay it forward by giving away an extra copy of Sullivan’s Travels that I happen to have laying around”? …I’d much rather do it this way than put it up on Ebay.

And, if no one wants it, I’ll just go down this weekend and put it in the little library on Water Street.

Here, for those of you who have never seen the film before, is how it begins.

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  1. Teacher Patti
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m actually a huge jack Benny fan. I loved listening to his radio show when I had Sirius. I read that he was happy to let others get a laugh…so long as people were laughing, he was okay with not always being the funniest one. I also thought it was sweet that he had a flower sent to his wife every day (even after he died) until I read that he was a totally ho-bag. No one is perfect though!

    Also, he was Jewish (like me) and perpetrated being very stingy and tight with money (like me) but was actually very generous (like I try to be) so I feel some connection there.

  2. Elf
    Posted November 2, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I’m always troubled by the comedic references to “concentration camps” in the film. As people outside of Germany had no idea that the Nazis were actually killing people in the camps at that time, it’s understandable, but it still makes me feel a little queasy when Benny utters the phrase.

  3. Leah
    Posted November 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    If I win the movie I’ll watch it with my husband and not bitch about the fact that he’s making me watch an older movie with unfamiliar pacing and audio that makes it difficult for me to catch all the dialog. The truth is, I love that he likes weird old movies that challenge him instead of spending all his time in front of screens tuning out to easily digestible garbage like I tend to. I’m happy that once we have kids, he’ll be able to share his already-sizeable collection of Criterion films with them. And I also hope that if I win this version he’ll hold off on buying the Criterion version, which he has just explained is “on his list.”

  4. Elviscostello
    Posted November 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    If I win, and I ever get the opportunity, I’ll punch Jim Cramer in the face.

  5. Mr. X
    Posted November 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    If nobody has won it yet, I would like the video.

  6. Christine Moellering
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I haven’t heard of this movie but I reference Sullivan’s Travel’s on a regular basis. I adore Preston Sturges. I will have to check it out even if I don’t “win.”

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