Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Ninotchka (Garbo) is a proud Soviet, a woman who eschews all luxury and believes in the tenets of Communism to the letter. Sent to Paris to hurry along a sale of jewels needed to raise money, she finds her three colleagues have fallen into a dissipated Capitalist life, holed up in a beautiful hotel and living the god life. While she tries to whip them into line and get the jewels sold, she meets Count Leon (Douglas) who she starts to fall for, but his wealth and privilege are everything she despises. And just to complicate things, his old mistress also just happens to be the owner of the jewels, who will renounce all claim to them if Ninotchka will cut off her relationship with Count Leon.
Sometimes called Garbo’s last great screen role and one of her few films that’s a comedy, she is eminently watchable in this film. Her ice queen persona seems to hide a passionate heart, and you want her to get her man, though there will be a few twists and turns before she does.
It’s funny to watch a film like this that makes fun of Communists and their hatred of Capitalism. It’s all very light hearted, in a way that McCarthyisms scare mongering and the Cold War would change. Communism would later be considered no laughing matter. But here, it’s the butt of the joke, and sometimes it’s quite funny. It’s not really a political film, the focus is really on the couple and their will they/won’t they romance, but it’s just an interesting point.
I liked Garbo in the role, and I liked Melvyn’s casting as her love interest. Directed by Lubitsch, this film has a lot of charm, though some argue it doesn’t have his signature touch. Billy Wilder’s witty dialogue and scripting is also in fine form here. It’s a solid and entertaining film, and very enjoyable, even if it feels very of it’s time. There’s something sweet about this hard woman learning to accept a little luxury and romance into her strict life.
See It If: A great performance from Garbo, this is a funny film with a lovely sweet heart to it. An unusual Valentine.