Ninotchka


1h 50m 1939
Ninotchka

Brief Synopsis

A coldhearted Soviet agent is warmed up by a trip to Paris and a night of love.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 3, 1939
Premiere Information
World premiere in Hollywood: 6 Oct 1939
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

Comrades Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski are sent to Paris to raise money for the Russian government by selling the confiscated jewels of the Grand Duchess Swana. Hoping to enjoy their one trip to Paris, the comrades decide to stay at a luxurious hotel instead of a cheap one until the sale is completed. When one of the hotel's waiters, the impoverished Russian count, Alexis Rakonin, overhears the comrades talking about the jewels, he immediately goes to Swana, who is now residing in Paris. Swana's lover, Count Leon d'Algout, helps her by showing the three comrades how good life in Paris can be, while simultaneously obtaining an injunction against the sale of the jewels until the French courts can determine who is the rightful owner.

Because they have botched their assignment, the comrades are joined in Paris by "Envoy Extraordinary" Nina "Ninotchka" Ivanovna Yakushova, an attractive but stern woman who thinks only of Russia and duty. She chastizes the comrades for their frivolous excesses, which have included the frequent summoning of three attractive cigarette girls to their suite, and determines to complete the sale as soon as possible. Using her spare time to investigate the architectural and engineering wonders of Paris, Ninotchka accidentally meets Leon on the way to the Eiffel Tower. Neither knows the other's identity, and he flirts with her, while she determines to study him as an interesting example of decaying Western society. At his apartment, Leon's kiss elicits a clinical request from Ninotchka for another, but when they realize each other's true identity, she leaves. Leon is still interested in Ninotchka, for himself as well as Swana, and the next day follows her to a small cafe where he attempts to soften her seriousness by making her laugh at some silly jokes.

Though other patrons find the jokes amusing, Ninotchka remains impassive until he gives up and, in agitated frustration, accidentally slips off his chair and falls to the floor. His loss of dignity elicits uncontrollable laughter from Ninotchka, who becomes a changed woman. Now loosened, Ninotchka buys a silly hat, which she had formerly looked upon disdainfully in the hotel lobby, and dresses stylishly to return to Leon's apartment. A short time later, he takes her out for a glamourous evening in a Parisian nightclub, which ends when a drunken Ninotchka tries to get the powder room attendants to strike, and an equally drunk Leon has to retrieve her. When they return to the hotel, Ninotchka opens the safe with the jewels and tries them on for Leon before she falls asleep.

The next morning, Swana awakens her and tells her that she now has the jewels that Rakonin stole from the safe, which Ninotchka had left unlocked the night before. Swana promises to return the jewels, but only if Ninotchka returns to Russia without seeing Leon again. Though she loves Leon, Ninotchka agrees to Swana's terms because it is her duty, and leaves Paris without saying goodbye. When he learns what has happened, he tries desperately to obtain a visa to go to Russia, but fails, and even his love letters are of little solace because they arrive with the contents completely censored by the government. Ninotchka and Leon are reunited, however, when she is sent to Istanbul to sort out another botched job by Iranov, Buljanoff and Kopalski. Leon is waiting for her in the comrades' suite and convinces her not to return to Russia.

Photo Collections

Ninotchka - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Ninotchka (1939), starring Geta Garbo.

Videos

Movie Clip

Ninotchka (1939) - No Sense of Humor! In a Paris cafe, Playboy Leon (Melvyn Douglas) tries to get a laugh out of Russian Comrade Yakushova (Greta Garbo), his adversary in an international jewel dispute, the scene that delivered on MGM's "Garbo Laughs" P-R campaign, in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka,1939.
Ninotchka (1939) - It Won't Be Long Now Bumbling Soviet officials Iranoff (Sig Rumann), Bulyanoff (Felix Bressart) and Kopalski (Alexander Granach) are surprised to find comrade Yakushova (Greta Garbo), arriving in Paris to take over their fund-raising mission, is a female, in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka, 1939.
Ninotchka (1939) - Wasted Between Whistles The first chance meeting between visiting Russian comrade Yakushova (Greta Garbo) and playboy Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas) on a Paris street corner, unaware that they're adversaries in an international jewel dispute, in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka, 1939.
Ninotchka (1939) - I Was Wounded Before Warsaw Parisian playboy Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas) doesn't know that the Soviet babe (Greta Garbo, title character) he's fallen for is his adversary, sent to represent her country in a legal battle over confiscated jewels, in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka, 1939.
Ninotchka (1939) - Let's Have Some Lunch! Pressed by Paris dealer Mercier (Edwin Maxwell), Soviet commissars Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski (Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach) are sidetracked by Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas), as they try to sell confiscated jewels, in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka, 1939.
Ninotchka (1939) - We'll Form Our Own Party! Inebriated Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas) and Soviet comrade Yakushova (Greta Garbo), who has finally succumbed to his romantic overtures, return to her Paris suite, considering the jewels she's expected to sell, in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka, 1939.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 3, 1939
Premiere Information
World premiere in Hollywood: 6 Oct 1939
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1939
Greta Garbo

Best Picture

1939

Best Writing, Screenplay

1940

Articles

Ninotchka


Garbo Laughs!" was the famous catchphrase on which this film was marketed during its release in 1939, recalling the "Garbo Talks!" campaign for Greta Garbo's initiation into talking pictures with Anna Christie in 1930. The Swedish screen legend's usual roles in films like Anna Karenina (1935) and Camille (1937) had been heavy and dramatic. Ninotchka represented a risky departure for Garbo into uncharted territory for her: comedy.

When writer Melchior Lengyel heard that MGM was looking for a comedy vehicle for Garbo, he made a three-sentence pitch that became the springboard for what became her next smash hit. He said simply, "Russian girl saturated with Bolshevist ideals goes to fearful, Capitalistic, monopolistic Paris. She meets romance and has an uproarious good time. Capitalism not so bad after all." Several titles were proposed including Give Us This Day, This Time For Keeps and A Kiss From Moscow, which was deemed too political to attract an audience. Eventually the studio settled on Ninotchka, the name of Garbo's character, a Russian envoy sent to Paris to expedite the sale of some jewels. Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder and Walter Reisch were tapped to complete the script, and Ernst Lubitsch was hired to direct .

German born Lubitsch, noted for his "Lubitsch Touch" of sophistication and wit, was a director that Garbo admired and wanted to work with, though this film was their only collaboration. While Lubitsch respected Garbo the actress, he also found her to be the most inhibited person he had ever worked with. Her insecurity was noted by several people who recalled her habit of barring most everyone from the set who wasn't directly involved with the scene at hand. Billy Wilder recalled having to sneak onto the set and hide whenever he wanted to see how his script was coming along. Garbo was also embarrassed to perform a key scene in Ninotchka that called for her to be drunk - a state she found unbecoming and difficult to play.

Cary Grant was the first choice to play opposite Garbo as her Parisian paramour Count Leon d'Algout, but when he turned the part down the role went to dashing Melvyn Douglas, who had starred with Garbo once before in As You Desire Me (1932). Douglas claimed in his autobiography that despite the film's ad "Garbo Laughs!" the actress "was unable to articulate so much as a titter during the shooting of the restaurant scene." Though her laugh comes across heartily in the film, Douglas was never certain if it was really her voice or if it had been dubbed later. As the Grand Duchess Swana and Garbo's adversary in the film, Ina Claire made for an intriguing casting choice. Garbo had had a very publicized affair with Claire's former husband, actor John Gilbert, some years earlier during the filming of the 1926 silent classic Flesh and the Devil. Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi of Dracula (1931) fame also has an amusing if small role in Ninotchka as Commissar Razinin.

It was a delicate matter to actively criticize the politics of the Soviet Union and Communism in 1939, but Ninotchka pulls it off through its use of satire to demonstrate the draw of Western culture and Capitalism. Upon its release it was banned in Soviet satellite countries. Garbo's role as a woman in a position of power - a serious, intelligent and dedicated party member - was also bold for its time, even if the hard-nosed Ninotchka is susceptible to the pleasures of Paris in the spring.

Garbo's first foray into comedy was a triumph. Howard Barnes of The New York Herald Tribune said, "Now that she has done it, it seems incredible that Greta Garbo never appeared in a comedy before Ninotchka; the great actress reveals a command of comic inflection which fully matches the emotional depth or tragic power of her earlier triumphs." Though it was nominated for four Academy Awards that year including Best Actress and Best Picture, it lost to the momentous Gone With the Wind. Ninotchka has remained a classic, however, and in 1990 it was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Producer/Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Screenplay: Melchior Lengyel (story), Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch
Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: William Daniels
Costume Design: Adrian (gowns)
Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero
Original Music: Werner R. Heymann
Cast: Greta Garbo (Ninotchka (Nina Ivanovna Yakushova)), Melvyn Douglas (Count Leon d'Algout), Ina Claire (Grand Duchess Swana), Bela Lugosi (Commissar Razinin), Sig Ruman (Michael Simonavich Iranoff (as Sig Rumann).
BW-111m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Andrea Foshee

Ninotchka

Ninotchka

Garbo Laughs!" was the famous catchphrase on which this film was marketed during its release in 1939, recalling the "Garbo Talks!" campaign for Greta Garbo's initiation into talking pictures with Anna Christie in 1930. The Swedish screen legend's usual roles in films like Anna Karenina (1935) and Camille (1937) had been heavy and dramatic. Ninotchka represented a risky departure for Garbo into uncharted territory for her: comedy. When writer Melchior Lengyel heard that MGM was looking for a comedy vehicle for Garbo, he made a three-sentence pitch that became the springboard for what became her next smash hit. He said simply, "Russian girl saturated with Bolshevist ideals goes to fearful, Capitalistic, monopolistic Paris. She meets romance and has an uproarious good time. Capitalism not so bad after all." Several titles were proposed including Give Us This Day, This Time For Keeps and A Kiss From Moscow, which was deemed too political to attract an audience. Eventually the studio settled on Ninotchka, the name of Garbo's character, a Russian envoy sent to Paris to expedite the sale of some jewels. Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder and Walter Reisch were tapped to complete the script, and Ernst Lubitsch was hired to direct . German born Lubitsch, noted for his "Lubitsch Touch" of sophistication and wit, was a director that Garbo admired and wanted to work with, though this film was their only collaboration. While Lubitsch respected Garbo the actress, he also found her to be the most inhibited person he had ever worked with. Her insecurity was noted by several people who recalled her habit of barring most everyone from the set who wasn't directly involved with the scene at hand. Billy Wilder recalled having to sneak onto the set and hide whenever he wanted to see how his script was coming along. Garbo was also embarrassed to perform a key scene in Ninotchka that called for her to be drunk - a state she found unbecoming and difficult to play. Cary Grant was the first choice to play opposite Garbo as her Parisian paramour Count Leon d'Algout, but when he turned the part down the role went to dashing Melvyn Douglas, who had starred with Garbo once before in As You Desire Me (1932). Douglas claimed in his autobiography that despite the film's ad "Garbo Laughs!" the actress "was unable to articulate so much as a titter during the shooting of the restaurant scene." Though her laugh comes across heartily in the film, Douglas was never certain if it was really her voice or if it had been dubbed later. As the Grand Duchess Swana and Garbo's adversary in the film, Ina Claire made for an intriguing casting choice. Garbo had had a very publicized affair with Claire's former husband, actor John Gilbert, some years earlier during the filming of the 1926 silent classic Flesh and the Devil. Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi of Dracula (1931) fame also has an amusing if small role in Ninotchka as Commissar Razinin. It was a delicate matter to actively criticize the politics of the Soviet Union and Communism in 1939, but Ninotchka pulls it off through its use of satire to demonstrate the draw of Western culture and Capitalism. Upon its release it was banned in Soviet satellite countries. Garbo's role as a woman in a position of power - a serious, intelligent and dedicated party member - was also bold for its time, even if the hard-nosed Ninotchka is susceptible to the pleasures of Paris in the spring. Garbo's first foray into comedy was a triumph. Howard Barnes of The New York Herald Tribune said, "Now that she has done it, it seems incredible that Greta Garbo never appeared in a comedy before Ninotchka; the great actress reveals a command of comic inflection which fully matches the emotional depth or tragic power of her earlier triumphs." Though it was nominated for four Academy Awards that year including Best Actress and Best Picture, it lost to the momentous Gone With the Wind. Ninotchka has remained a classic, however, and in 1990 it was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry. Producer/Director: Ernst Lubitsch Screenplay: Melchior Lengyel (story), Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons Cinematography: William Daniels Costume Design: Adrian (gowns) Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero Original Music: Werner R. Heymann Cast: Greta Garbo (Ninotchka (Nina Ivanovna Yakushova)), Melvyn Douglas (Count Leon d'Algout), Ina Claire (Grand Duchess Swana), Bela Lugosi (Commissar Razinin), Sig Ruman (Michael Simonavich Iranoff (as Sig Rumann). BW-111m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video. by Andrea Foshee

Ninotchka on DVD


Director Ernst Lubitsch's sparkling romantic/political farce Ninotchka (1939) bears special distinction in the storied cinema oeuvre of Greta Garbo for a number of reasons. Beyond being the Solitary Swede's only genuine venture into comedy, it was her last truly representative vehicle, as she embraced her notorious self-imposed retirement after the misfire follow-up Two-Faced Woman (1941). Warner Home Video has finally given this enduringly charming tale its deserved release on DVD, available singly as well as bundled within the impressive ten-film set Garbo: The Signature Collection. While the script's digs at then-contemporary geopolitics are obviously of their time, the wit with which they were delivered still crackles, and its star provided perhaps her most endearing characterization on celluloid.

With a generation barely past after the fall of the Czar, a trio of low-level Soviet functionaries-- Iranoff (Sig Rumann), Buljanoff(Felix Bressart), and Kopalski (Alexander Granach)-- disembark in Paris, charged with fetching the State the best possible price on the conscripted family jewels of the royal exile Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire). Once in their plush hotel accommodations, however, the trio comes to develop a taste for that forbidden capitalist decadence, a circumstance that's swiftly exploited by Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas), a savvy playboy and sometime paramour of the Grand Duchess. Threatening to drag the issue of the gems' ownership through the French courts for years, Leon lubricates the negotiations with champagne, and the toasted troika is soon happily recommending a 50-50 settlement to Moscow.

The Politburo reacts by placing control of the mission in the hands of special envoy Nina Ivanova Yakushova (Garbo), beautiful but unsmilingly severe, clinical, and pragmatic. Using her fiercely regimented downtime to examine Paris' civil engineering, she has a chance encounter with Leon. While she initially regards his come-on as bourgeois buffoonery ("Must you flirt?" "I don't have to, but I find it natural." "Suppress it."), the count is fascinated with her frostiness, and persists in his attentions until he successfully chips away the last of her flinty façade.

While clinging to her principles, Ninotchka can't help but enjoy being subtly seduced by not merely by Leon, but by the West-- She breaks down and acquires the improbable high-fashion chapeau that she had mocked in a store window upon her arrival. Her growing bond with the count isn't lost upon Swana, who determines that she had ceded enough to the Marxists in her lifetime. With Ninotchka unconscious after a night's partying, the Grand Duchess arranges the theft of the jewels from her hotel room. Swana's willing to negotiate, however, with her first demand being Ninotchka's return to the USSR.

In the initial phases of this singular performance, Garbo seemed to enjoy the chance for some self-mockery of her austere public persona, coming across as nearly robotic in her single-minded service to the state. By its conclusion, the script is playing to her strengths, as she convincingly conveys the depths of her feelings for Leon and her devastation at their separation through the slightest and subtlest shifts in her expression. Douglas, so frequently treated by MGM in this phase of his career as a second-team William Powell, rose to the occasion with an effort that perfectly complemented the leading lady, convincingly playing the moneyed dilettante whose intrigue with his polar opposite builds to infatuation.

Rumann, Bressart and Granach are delightful as the apparatchiks naughtily reaching into the cookie jar of kapitalist excess, and the cattily Claire is wholly credible in her bitterness towards the Bolsheviks. Bela Lugosi wrangled fourth billing out of his two-and-a-half minutes of screen time as Ninotchka's immediate superior. The boundlessly clever screenplay, as adapted by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch, shows collective spirit insofar has how the tweaks were evenly doled out amongst the Reds, the Czarists and the West.

Warner presented Ninotchka in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and the print and mastering job are of more than decent quality. The quality of the Dolby 1.0 Mono audio also suffices. The primary quibble to be had with Warner's DVD presentation of Ninotchka is in the extras package, which is as spartan as its heroine's Moscow flat. The theatrical trailer is all that's provided. Given WHV's track record with providing worthwhile audio commentaries on its product, the absence of such on a film comedy of Ninotchka's stature is as confusing as it is disappointing.

For more information about Ninotchka, visit Warner Video. To order Ninotchka, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay S. Steinberg

Ninotchka on DVD

Director Ernst Lubitsch's sparkling romantic/political farce Ninotchka (1939) bears special distinction in the storied cinema oeuvre of Greta Garbo for a number of reasons. Beyond being the Solitary Swede's only genuine venture into comedy, it was her last truly representative vehicle, as she embraced her notorious self-imposed retirement after the misfire follow-up Two-Faced Woman (1941). Warner Home Video has finally given this enduringly charming tale its deserved release on DVD, available singly as well as bundled within the impressive ten-film set Garbo: The Signature Collection. While the script's digs at then-contemporary geopolitics are obviously of their time, the wit with which they were delivered still crackles, and its star provided perhaps her most endearing characterization on celluloid. With a generation barely past after the fall of the Czar, a trio of low-level Soviet functionaries-- Iranoff (Sig Rumann), Buljanoff(Felix Bressart), and Kopalski (Alexander Granach)-- disembark in Paris, charged with fetching the State the best possible price on the conscripted family jewels of the royal exile Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire). Once in their plush hotel accommodations, however, the trio comes to develop a taste for that forbidden capitalist decadence, a circumstance that's swiftly exploited by Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas), a savvy playboy and sometime paramour of the Grand Duchess. Threatening to drag the issue of the gems' ownership through the French courts for years, Leon lubricates the negotiations with champagne, and the toasted troika is soon happily recommending a 50-50 settlement to Moscow. The Politburo reacts by placing control of the mission in the hands of special envoy Nina Ivanova Yakushova (Garbo), beautiful but unsmilingly severe, clinical, and pragmatic. Using her fiercely regimented downtime to examine Paris' civil engineering, she has a chance encounter with Leon. While she initially regards his come-on as bourgeois buffoonery ("Must you flirt?" "I don't have to, but I find it natural." "Suppress it."), the count is fascinated with her frostiness, and persists in his attentions until he successfully chips away the last of her flinty façade. While clinging to her principles, Ninotchka can't help but enjoy being subtly seduced by not merely by Leon, but by the West-- She breaks down and acquires the improbable high-fashion chapeau that she had mocked in a store window upon her arrival. Her growing bond with the count isn't lost upon Swana, who determines that she had ceded enough to the Marxists in her lifetime. With Ninotchka unconscious after a night's partying, the Grand Duchess arranges the theft of the jewels from her hotel room. Swana's willing to negotiate, however, with her first demand being Ninotchka's return to the USSR. In the initial phases of this singular performance, Garbo seemed to enjoy the chance for some self-mockery of her austere public persona, coming across as nearly robotic in her single-minded service to the state. By its conclusion, the script is playing to her strengths, as she convincingly conveys the depths of her feelings for Leon and her devastation at their separation through the slightest and subtlest shifts in her expression. Douglas, so frequently treated by MGM in this phase of his career as a second-team William Powell, rose to the occasion with an effort that perfectly complemented the leading lady, convincingly playing the moneyed dilettante whose intrigue with his polar opposite builds to infatuation. Rumann, Bressart and Granach are delightful as the apparatchiks naughtily reaching into the cookie jar of kapitalist excess, and the cattily Claire is wholly credible in her bitterness towards the Bolsheviks. Bela Lugosi wrangled fourth billing out of his two-and-a-half minutes of screen time as Ninotchka's immediate superior. The boundlessly clever screenplay, as adapted by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch, shows collective spirit insofar has how the tweaks were evenly doled out amongst the Reds, the Czarists and the West. Warner presented Ninotchka in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and the print and mastering job are of more than decent quality. The quality of the Dolby 1.0 Mono audio also suffices. The primary quibble to be had with Warner's DVD presentation of Ninotchka is in the extras package, which is as spartan as its heroine's Moscow flat. The theatrical trailer is all that's provided. Given WHV's track record with providing worthwhile audio commentaries on its product, the absence of such on a film comedy of Ninotchka's stature is as confusing as it is disappointing. For more information about Ninotchka, visit Warner Video. To order Ninotchka, go to TCM Shopping. by Jay S. Steinberg

Quotes

We don't have men like you in my country.
- Ninotchka
Thank you.
- Leon
That is why I believe in the future of my country.
- Ninotchka
It's midnight. Look at the clock, one hand has met the other hand, they kiss. Isn't that wonderful?
- Leon
Do you like me just a little bit?
- Count Leon D'Algout
Your general appearance is not distasteful.
- Ninotchka
Don't make an issue of my womanhood.
- Ninotchka
Why do you want to carry my bags?
- Ninotchka
That is my business.
- Porter
That's no business. That's social injustice.
- Ninotchka
That depends on the tip.
- Porter

Trivia

This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1990.

The tagline "Garbo laughs!" came before the screenplay was written; the film was built around that single, now legendary, slogan.

Garbo did not wear any makeup for her scenes where she is the stern envoy.

According to published newspaper reports in the spring of 1939, Spencer Tracy was a leading contender for the role of Leon.

Notes

An onscreen inscription preceding the action of the film reads: "This picture takes place in Paris in those wonderful days when a siren was a brunette and not an alarm...and if a Frenchman turned out the light it was not on account of an air raid!" While the film contains a scene in which Felix Bressart tells Greta Garbo that his name-Buljanoff-is spelled with two "l's," the credits have the name with only one "l."
       Ninotchka marked Ernst Lubitsch's first assignment as producer for M-G-M. An August 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that a version of the script was prepared by Jacques Deval. According to an April 1939 New York Times news item, M-G-M was prevented by the Hays Office from scripting a scene in which "Ninotchka" was to thwart the romantic advances of "Count Leon d'Algout" because it would have tended to show that "the Communists are a very low breed." The studio softened many of the potentially controversial aspects of the interplay between capitalist and Communist philosophies in Melchior Lengyel's original story. The New York Times article also noted that M-G-M changed the locale of the story from Moscow to Paris in order to avoid having to depict living conditions in the Russian city as being either "pleasant or unpleasant." Modern sources indicate that author Melchior Lengyel, S. N. Behrman, and Salka Viertel also wrote drafts of the script, and that Gottfried Reinhardt was originally assigned to direct.
       Hollywood Reporter pre-production news items noted that M-G-M originally wanted Cary Grant to play the male lead; that production assistant Dr. Eric Lock went to Paris to "get backgrounds"; that the studio negotiated with Universal for the loan of actor Mischa Auer; and that filming began without a male lead having been cast. According to Hollywood Reporter, William Powell was considered for the male lead one week before the start of production. Ninotchka marked Garbo's first starring role in an American comedy and was billed as the film in which "Garbo laughs!"-an obvious play on the publicity campaign for her first sound film Anna Christie, which was advertised with the slogan "Garbo talks!" Modern sources indicate that the slogan "Garbo Laughs!" was created long before the actress was cast in the film. A news item in Hollywood Reporter in 1980 states that the sound of Garbo's laugh was dubbed by another actress because the star "couldn't summon up more than a sombre chuckle." In an October 1939 New York Times article written by Lubitsch, the director stated that he found Garbo to be the "most inhibited person I have ever worked with," and related that he had encountered difficulties in getting her to play a drunk scene because she was too timid to play it in a restaurant filled with extras. Studio publicity information indicates that for the first time in her career as an actress, Garbo attended the preview screenings of the film, one of which took place in Long Beach, where Garbo reportedly stood in line to buy tickets for fifteen minutes before anyone recognized her. According to a Hollywood Reporter pre-release news item, John Waters' second unit filmed the Russian street action and details of Red Square in Moscow.
       Ninotchka had problems with censors in many parts of the world, especially with the Soviet censors, who, in 1950-51, according to news items in Motion Picture Herald and Los Angeles Times, threatened theater owners in Vienna with reprisals if they exhibited the film. The Soviets also waged an advertising campaign in Vienna to counter Ninotchka's publicity by buying up all the billboard space in the city and advertising the anti-West film The Fall of Berlin. Exhibition of the film was resumed in Vienna in March 1951, following the transfer of the city's rule from the Russians to the British. A April 3, 1948 Motion Picture Herald article relates a humorous incident that arose from a Soviet note sent to Rome, demanding that authorities take Ninotchka out of the theaters. The note reportedly resulted in a misunderstanding when the Italian officials, who were without a translator on that particular day, believed that the note concerned the Soviet tripartite proposal for Trieste. The Italian Foreign Ministry was said to have been "thrown into an uproar" over the matter.
       Ninotchka was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture, and appeared on the National Board of Review and FD's "ten best" lists for 1939. Garbo was also nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. In 1957, the Writers Guild called the film an "outstanding triumph of original writing."
       The first stage production of Ninotchka opened in Paris on April 4, 1950 and starred Sophie Desmarets and Henri Guisal. On February 24, 1954, a musical stage version of the story, entitled Silk Stockings, with songs by Cole Porter, opened in New York with Cy Feuer directing and Hildegarde Neff and Don Ameche starring. Ninotchka was remade by M-G-M in 1957 as Silk Stockings, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. Two actors who appeared in the 1939 film, Rolfe Sedan and George Tobias, also appeared in Silk Stockings, but they did not recreate their earlier roles. An ABC Special television production of Ninotchka, which aired on the network on April 20, 1960, was directed by Tom Donovan and starred Maria Schell and Gig Young.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States August 1989

Released in United States November 1972

Shown at Norwegian Film Festival in Haugesund (Norwegian Film Institute Golden Aniversary) August 19-25, 1989.

Released in USA on video.

Selected in 1990 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States August 1989 (Shown at Norwegian Film Festival in Haugesund (Norwegian Film Institute Golden Aniversary) August 19-25, 1989.)

Released in United States November 1972 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Billy Wilder Marathon) November 9-19, 1972.)