Movie Review: Ninotchka (1939, Ernst Lubitsch, dir.)

Ninotchka (1939) Poster

Ninotchka, available on

I’m a huge fan of classic movies, and every so often, I get the urge to share.

In the days when the Communist government had its tightest stranglehold in Russia, three Russian emissaries had been sent to Paris, and apparently, they were spending money like water and living the good life in Paris.  Ninotchka (played to the max by Greta Garbo), a fiercely loyal member of the Communist party, is sent to Paris (by Bela Lugosi in an unusual, comic role), to retrieve the three wayward comarades and shuffle them back to Russia.  Ninotchka doesn’t wish to go to Paris, a den of capitalist decadence, but agrees to do her duty.

Once in Paris, Ninotchka is pursued by a suave man of the world, Leon, played smoothly by Melvyn Douglas.  Leon manages to break through Ninotchka’s severe Soviet veneer.  She softens up enough to enjoy a silly a la mode hat, flimsy silk underwear, a floaty chffon evening gown, and enough champagne to cause her to slowly sink down the apartment wall into a heap on the floor.

But loyalty is a hard habit to break, and Ninotchka corrals the three truants, and they all go back to Russia.  Life in Russia is accurately depicted, where there are several families sharing one apartment, food shortages, and severe clothing worn for dull jobs.  Leon’s letters to Ninotchka are redacted.  All she can see is “Love, Leon.”

I promise you all that this is a comedy and there is a happy ending for everyone, so don’t miss Greta Garbo, et al, in Ninotchka, a most unusual Valentine’s Day date flick.  Don’t forget the champagne.

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