That’s the big marketing phrase that sold this 1939 romantic comedy starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. One of the few performers to successfully navigate the transition from silent film to “talkies”, Garbo had a reputation for doing serious dramas and “Ninotchka” was her big entry into comedy. Sadly, she only made two more films after this.
Made at a time when the U.S. and Russia were still allies, modern audiences might be a little put off by the slightly sympathetic tone the film has toward Communist Russia. The film does lampoon the more stodgy nature of Communists of the day, but it pulls it off in a good natured way. As a child of the Cold War Era, I found it a little awkward.
No stranger to screwball comedies, I went into Ninotchka with a certain preconceived notion of what to expect; I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather tender love story. Comedy was still the order of the day, and I have a feeling it was even funnier in 1939. The guys playing Garbo’s three eccentric Russian friends nearly steal the movie, but Melvyn Douglas is charming, if not a little unbelievable as a 36 year old lawyer who falls in love with Communist loyalist, Ninotchka, played by Garbo. Fans of the horror classic Dracula (as well as b-movie classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space) will be amused to see Bela Lugosi turning a scene as Garbo’s superior.
If you want a light, entertaining movie that effectively uses the Nazi salute as a sight gag, this is probably a good film to catch. Find out just what it is that gets Garbo laughing!