Director: Ernst Lubistch, with script by Billy Wilder
Greta Garbo (Ninotchka)
Melvyn Douglas (León)
Ina Claire (Swana)
Bela Lugosi (Razinin)
Ninotchka is perhaps Greta Garbo’s greatest film. She spent her whole life playing dramatic roles. Even in this film we are made to wait a good while to see her laughing and smiling, as a fair amount of time seems to pass until we see her roar with laughter in the scene where Melvyn Douglas falls of the chair. I can just imagine what happened on the day of the film’s premiere, the scene must have caused resounding laughter in all the cinemas at the time.
In this scene Garbo showed that she was not only prepared to act out all the dramatic scenes, but she also showed, as only an actress of her rank could, that she was more than capable of making her audience roar with laughter.
Under the sharp criticism of the Communist system in the grasp of the Bolshevik Revolution, only Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder (both exiled from the Nazi barbarism and enormously warlike with totalitarian doctrines), were able to make a movie that loaded with cynicism, cunning and elegance, in a period in which the Soviet Union was governed by Stalin.
Greta Garbo, one of the great stars, in this interpretation of “Comrade Ninotchka”, shows us that she is capable of passing from a icey and inexpressive affiliate of the Communist party, to the most tender, mischievous and fun woman of a most exciting and genuine Paris.
She is a unique actress who we can enjoy in pure state in this intense and critical work.
- Nominated an Oscar for Best Film, Best Actress (Greta Garbo), Best Original Script and Best Adapted Script.
- NBR Award from the National Board of Review in 1939 for one of the 10 best films of the year.
- Award from the National Film Preservation Board in 1990.
- Second Award from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Director and Best Actress.
- The film used “Garbo laughs!” as its slogan, in reference to her first talkie for which the slogan was “Garbo speaks!”. In addition, until then hardly any comedies had been made.
- Greta Garbo filmed the entire film without makeup.
- It was seriously considered that Spencer Tracy be contracted to play the part of Leon. Cary Grant, William Powell and Robert Montgomery were also serious candidates.
- Greta Garbo was very nervous about making a comedy and especially in the scene where she appeared drunk, for being considered excessively vulgar.
- The film was prohibited in the Soviet Union and its Satellite States.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger was studying Greta Garbo’s acting to prepare the character of Ivan Danko in the film “Danko: Red Heat”.
- The hat worn by Greta Garbo, although made by her usual tailor, was designed by her.
Dialogues to remember:
Ninotchka: We don’t have men like you in my country.
Leon: Thank you.
Ninotchka: That is why I believe in the future of my country.
- Ninotchka: Why should you carry other people’s bags?
Porter: Well, that’s my business, Madame.
Ninotchka: That’s no business. That’s social injustice.
Porter: That depends on the tip.
- Ninotchka: The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.
- Leon: Ninotchka, it’s midnight. One half of Paris is making love to the other half.
- Ninotchka: As basic material, you may not be bad, but you are the unfortunate product of a doomed culture. I feel very sorry for you.
- Cafe Owner: Now, what shall it be?
Ninotchka: Raw beets and carrots.
Cafe Owner: Madame, this is a restaurant, not a meadow.