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Mel Brooks & Anne Bancroft: Review of To Be or Not To Be

Updated on May 1, 2015

To Be or Not To Be - one of the funniest films of the 1980s

This is a true story - at sometime in the 1980s I was driving along the M1 motorway in Yorkshire (England). A piece of music came on the car radio and I was laughing so much I couldn't see to drive - I had to pull over. My eyes were watering and I just couldn't see the road ahead. Honestly, this is true.

It was a certain piece of music from To Be or Not To Be.

I was a one-woman comedy act

This particular piece of music from To Be or Not To Be lasts about a minute or so but every time ... well, you know what ROTFL means - that's the effect it has on me - literally. My son would play the clip on the VCR especially to show his friends his mental mother ROTFLing. The song?

Sweet Georgia Brown

In Polish. Why I find the Polish language so amusing I have no idea. But it might have something to do with the way it is performed by two of the funniest people - husband and wife team Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. See videos below.

Why Polish?

The song is in Polish because the film is set in 1939 Warsaw. Brooks and Bancroft play the two leading members of a theater company in the city and the song is part of their act. As the Germans invade Poland, the theater troupe, and in particular the Brooks / Bancroft pair aim to thwart them. Hilariously.

Giving the Nazis the Brooks treatment

Mel Brooks had already written and filmed The Producers, which also became a Broadway hit and was remade as a movie in 2005. This was his first step in creating satire and humor from the horrors of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

You can't change history but you can ridicule it

Whether this phrase was in Brooks' mind I don't know but he was the American-born son of a Jewish couple; his father's family being from Gdansk (Poland) and his mother's from Kiev. He served in the US Army during the Second World War. No, he couldn't change what happened but ... see his quote further down the page.

Honestly, the song cracks me up but once I've recovered and wiped my eyes, I love to watch the rest of the film.

It's truly hilarious. To me, there's not a single scene to compare to the song, but might not be as bonkers as I am.

I promise you, I just watched the trailer below and even after all these years,and all the times I've seen the Sweet Georgia Brown scene, I still guffaw.

See the trailer plus a stage performance of Sweet Georgia Brown

You might find this hard to believe but after all these years I giggle my way through the song. Is it just me?

Now, I want you to see what I mean. Listen to the song without the visuals.This is what I heard on the radio that caused me to stop the car in teats of laughter.

It gets especially funny just after the fifty seconds mark.

The Producers (Widescreen Edition)
The Producers (Widescreen Edition)

Of the two filmed versions of The Producers, I prefer the one made in 2005. I think that's because of the character played by Nathan Lane. It's am extremely cleverly-crafted story line which satirizes Adolf Hitler without being offensive to the audience - just. A very, very funny film.


I am not alone!

I love this video. Mel Brooks is on stage. He is taking questions from the audience.One woman asks 'Is it true that you are married to the most beautiful actress in the world?'

'Nah' says Mel Brooks 'I'm married to Anne Bancroft'.

Needless to say, the woman who asked the question is Anne Bancroft. Reluctantly she joins him on the stage (well, faked reluctantly but done quite well) and he persuades her that the two of them should perform Sweet Georgia Brown in Polish for the audience.

It is absolutely hilarious and the audience roar with approval. So it's not just me.

Why IS it so funny? I have no idea but it IS!

So below, there's another chance to enjoy and to chuckle.


© 2013 Jackie Jackson


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