Ninotchka


Ninotchka
Ninotchka

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Produced by Ernst Lubitsch
Sidney Franklin
Written by Melchior Lengyel
Charles Brackett
Billy Wilder
Walter Reisch
Starring Greta Garbo
Melvyn Douglas
Music by Werner R. Heymann
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Editing by Gene Ruggiero
Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Release date(s) November 9, 1939 (1939-11-09)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,365,000 (est.)

Ninotchka is a 1939 American film made for Metro Goldwyn Mayer by producer and director Ernst Lubitsch which stars Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. It was written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch, based on a screen story by Melchior Lengyel. Ninotchka is Greta Garbo's first full comedy, and her penultimate film. It is one of the first American movies which, under cover of humorous light romance, depicts the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin: rigid and gray, all the more so when compared to the free and sunny Parisian society of pre-War days.

Contents

Plot

Three Russians, Iranov (Sig Ruman), Buljanov (Felix Bressart) and Kopalsky (Alexander Granach), are in Paris to sell jewelry confiscated from the aristocracy during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Upon arrival, they meet Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas), on a mission from the Russian Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire) who wants to retrieve her jewelry before it is sold. He corrupts them and talks them into staying in Paris. The Soviet Union then sends Nina Ivanovna "Ninotchka" Yakushova (Greta Garbo), a special envoy whose goal is to go through with the jewelry sale and bring back the three men. Rigid and stern at first, she slowly becomes seduced by the West and the Count, who falls in love with her.

The three Russians also accommodate themselves to capitalism, but the last joke of the film is that one of them carries a sign protesting that the other two are unfair to him.

Cast

Production

Released in 1939 in the United States, the movie was released during World War II in Europe, where it became a great success. It was, however, banned in the Soviet Union and its satellites. Despite this, it went on to make $2,279,000 worldwide.

Although much of the marketing surrounding Ninotchka played on Garbo's serious image, suggesting she had never laughed on film or performed in a comedy before, an examination of her canon reveals this not to be the case. The 1933 film Queen Christina includes light-hearted and comedic moments between Garbo and her co-star John Gilbert, although the movie is generally regarded as a historical drama.

Reception

Greta Garbo as Nina Ivanovna "Ninotchka" Yakushova and Melvyn Douglas as Count Léon share a passionate moment.

Critical response

When the film was first released, The New York Times film critic Frank S. Nugent praised the film, writing, "The comedy, through Mr. Douglas's debonair performance and those of Ina Claire as the duchess and Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart and Alexander Grannach as the unholy three emissaries; through Mr. Lubitsch's facile direction; and through the cleverly written script of Walter Reisch, Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, has come off brilliantly. Stalin, we repeat, won't like it; but, unless your tastes hew too closely to the party line, we think you will, immensely."[1]

More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz discussed the humor of Ninotchka, writing, "The sly political jokes include Garbo saying: "The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians" and there are a few well-placed jokes mocking the failed Soviet Five-Year-Plan. The most noteworthy Lubitsch touch scene revolves around a stag feast in a luxury hotel ordered by capitalist Douglas for the three grateful comrade emissaries, who can't believe their good fortune."[2]

World War

An attempt to revive the film during World War II was suppressed on the grounds that the Russians were now allies.[3]

Legacy

The Broadway musical Silk Stockings was written with this film as the source of its book. It also provided the basis of a 1957 film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Actor George Tobias, who played the commissar in Silk Stockings, also had a small role in Ninotchka as the man who gets punched by Leon for refusing him a visa. The 1956 film The Iron Petticoat, starring Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn, borrows heavily from Ninotchka.

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 was also included on two American Film Institute lists: #40 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions and #52 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs. It was also included on Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Movies.[4]

American Film Institute recognition

Awards

Ninotchka received four Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Original Story, and Best Screenplay. The story is based on the book of the same title by Melchior Lengyel.

References

  1. ^ Nugent, Frank S. The New York Times, film review, November 10, 1939. Last accessed: February 12, 20111.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 20, 2008. Last accessed: February 12, 20111.
  3. ^ Lee Kennett, For the Duration. . . : The United States Goes To War p 164 ISBN 0684-182394
  4. ^ All-Time 100 movies

External links


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