Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas
''Ninotchka' is a romantic comedy film made in 1939 by producer and director Ernst Lubitsch, starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. The screenplay is witty and sharp and was written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch. The story is based on the book of the same title by Melchior Lengyel.
'Ninotchka' is about the clash of ideologies between Soviet Russia and the capitalist West and was one of the first Hollywood movies to be critical of Stalin's Soviet Union, depicting it as drab and rigidly conformist, in contrast to the sparkling and free lifestyle of Paris. For this reason the movie was banned in the Soviet Union and its satellites, which did not prevent it becoming a major box-office success throughout the rest of Europe.
The movie was brought out in 1939, and in that wonderful year of 'Gone With the Wind', 'Wuthering Heights', 'Mr Smith Goes To Washington' and other classic movies, it won no Academy Awards. It received four nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Greta Garbo with her fourth nomination), Best Original Story (Melchior Lengyel), and Best Screenplay (Billy Wilder). In 1990 'Ninotchka' was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is also featured on two lists of the American Film Institute : at number 40 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions and at number 52 on their list of 100 Years... 100 Laughs.
The action of the movie takes place in Paris, where, in the wake of the Russian revolution, three Russian emissaries are sent in order to raise money for the Communist cause by selling the Imperial jewels. Moscow sends a trusted loyalist to watch over the emissaries to make sure they are not won over by the decadent delights of the West. She is Comrade Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) a cold, dour Soviet stereotype. She is eventually transformed by a loving playboy aristocrat into a carefree, romantic figure who laughs for the first time in her life. The slogan "Garbo Laughs!" was actually used to publicise the movie. "Ninotchka" is one of Garbo's few comic roles and she certainly shows a much warmer, more human image than in her previous movies.
Main CastGreta Garbo ... Lena Yakushova, "Ninotchka"
Melvyn Douglas ... Count Leon Dolga
Ina Claire ... Grand Duchess Swana
Sig Rumann ... Michael Ironoff
Felix Bressart ... Buljanoff
Alexander Granach ... Kopalski
Bela Lugosi ... Commissar Razinin
Gregory Gaye ... Count Alexis Rakonin
Richard Carle ... Vaston
Rolfe Sedan ... Hotel Manager
Edwin Maxwell ... Mercier
Rolfe Sedan ... Hotel Manager
George Tobias ... Russian Visa Official
Dorothy Adams ... Jacqueline, Swana's Maid
Lawrence Grant ... Gen. Savitsky
CreditsDirector ... Ernst Lubitsch
Producer ... Ernst Lubitsch, Sidney Franklin
Production Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Screenplay ... Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch
Original Story ... Melchior Lengyel
Cinematographer ... William Daniels
Editor ... Gene Ruggiero
Music Composer ... Werner R. Heymann
Release Date ... October 6, 1939
Format ... B & W
Running Time ... 110 minutes
Academy AwardsNo Wins:
4 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Best Actress ... Greta Garbo
Best Original Story ... Melchior Lengyel
Best Screenplay ... Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch