59 Stunning Photos of Greta Garbo in the Film ‘Ninotchka’ (1939)

Ninotchka is a 1939 American romantic comedy film made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by producer and director Ernst Lubitsch and starring 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; she received her third and final Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. It is one of the first American films which, under the cover of a satirical, light romance, depicted the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin as being rigid and gray, in this instance comparing it with the free and sunny Parisian society of pre-war years.

Three Soviet agents, Iranoff (Sig Ruman), Buljanoff (Felix Bressart), and Kopalski (Alexander Granach), arrive in Paris to sell jewellery confiscated from the aristocracy during the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Count Alexis Rakonin (Gregory Gaye), a White Russian nobleman reduced to employment as a waiter in the hotel where the trio are staying, overhears details of their mission and informs the former Russian Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire) that her court jewels are to be sold by the three men. Her debonair paramour, Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas) offers to help retrieve her jewellery before it is sold.

In their hotel suite, Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski negotiate with Mercier (Edwin Maxwell) a prominent Parisian jeweller, when Leon interrupts the meeting. He explains that the jewels were seized illegally by the Soviet government and a petition has been filed preventing their sale or removal. Mercier withdraws his offer to purchase the jewellery until the lawsuit is settled.

The amiable, charming and cunning Leon treats the three Russians to an extravagant lunch, gets them drunk and easily wins their confidence and friendship. He sends a telegram to Moscow in their name suggesting a compromise.

Moscow, angered by the telegram, then sends Nina Ivanovna “Ninotchka” Yakushova (Greta Garbo), a special envoy whose goal is to win the lawsuit, complete the jewellery sale and return with the three renegade Russians. Ninotchka is methodical, rigid and stern, chastising Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski for failing to complete their mission.

Ninotchka and Leon first meet outside the hotel, their respective identities unknown to one another. He flirts, but she is uninterested. Intrigued, Leon follows her to the Eiffel Tower and shows her his home through a telescope. Intrigued by his behavior, Ninotchka tells him he might warrant study and suggests they go to his apartment. Ninotchka becomes attracted to Leon and eventually, they kiss, but they are interrupted by a phone call from Buljanoff. Ninotchka and Leon both realize they are each other’s adversaries over the jewellery and she leaves the apartment, despite Leon’s protestations.

While attending to the various legal matters over the lawsuit, Ninotchka gradually becomes seduced by the west and by the persistent Leon, who has fallen in love with her and broken down her resistance. At a dinner date with Leon where she unexpectedly meets Swana face-to-face (her rival for the jewellery and for Leon’s affections), Ninotchka consumes champagne for the first time and quickly becomes intoxicated. The following afternoon, a hungover Ninotchka is awakened by Swana and discovers Rakonin has stolen the jewellery during the night. Swana tells Ninotchka that she will return the jewels and drop the litigation if Ninotchka leaves Paris for Russia immediately so that Swana can have Leon to herself. Ninotchka reluctantly agrees and completes the sale of the jewellery to Mercier. Later that evening, Ninotchka, Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski fly back to Moscow. Meanwhile, Leon visits Swana and confesses his love for Ninotchka. Swana then informs Leon that Ninotchka has already left for Moscow. He attempts to follow her but is denied a Russian visa, because of his nobility.

Sometime later, in Moscow, Ninotchka invites her three comrades to her shared apartment for dinner and they nostalgically recall their time in Paris. Ninotchka finally receives a letter from Leon, but it has been completely censored by the authorities, and she is devastated.

More time passes; Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski once again run afoul of their superiors after they fail at their mission to sell furs in Constantinople. Against her wishes, Ninotchka is sent by Commissar Razinin (Bela Lugosi) to investigate and retrieve the trio.

After Ninotchka arrives in Constantinople, the three Russians inform her that they have opened a restaurant and will not be returning to Moscow. When Ninotchka asks them who was responsible for this idea, they point to a balcony where Leon is standing. He explains that he was barred from entering Russia to win Ninotchka back, so he and the three Russians conspired to get her to leave the country. He asks her to stay with him and she happily agrees.

The final shot in the film is of Kopalski carrying a protest sign complaining that Iranoff and Buljanoff are unfair, because his name does not illuminate on the electric sign in front of their new restaurant. (Wikipedia)


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