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Film: Ninotchka
"A Russian! I love Russians! Comrade, I've been fascinated by your five-year plan for the last fifteen years."

"The last mass trials have been a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."
— Ninotchka

Ninotchka is a 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Romantic Comedy, directed by legendary director Ernst Lubitsch, co-written by Billy Wilder and starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas, set in interbellum Paris and Moscow.

Three bungling Soviet diplomats aim to sell some Romanov diamonds to a Parisian jeweller to raise funds for the Soviet Union. Nina Ivanovna Yakushova, nicknamed "Ninotchka" (Garbo), an Ice Queen diplomat, is sent over to help them after they make a mess of it, where she meets and falls in love with Parisian boulevardier and aristocrat Leon d'Algout (Douglas). In this she finds herself rivaled by the diamonds' original owner, the Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire), who wishes to retrieve both the jewels and Leon's affections. Swana manipulates Ninotchka into abandoning Leon in order to keep the jewels for Russia. Leon, however, does not accept the situation...

The story was later remade as the musical Silk Stockings, with music by Cole Porter, which was itself adapted into a 1957 MGM film with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in the Douglas and Garbo parts, respectively.


This film provides examples of:

  • Bad Boss: Komissar Razinin is feared by pretty much all of his underlings, as he has the power to order deportations to Siberia.
  • Blonde Communist Sex Kitten
  • The Butler Did It: Double subverted. The butler seemed suspicious from the beginning. Then the jewelry is gone and Leon becomes the prime suspect, but it turns out it was indeed the butler.
  • Character Development: Ninotchka and Leon change each other. She loosens up, and he starts urging his butler to revolt.
  • Character Title
  • Contrived Coincidence: Who does Leon unknowingly meet in the streets and immediately fall in love with? The adversary in his lawsuit.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When Ninotchka asks Leon some odd questions, he gives some silly answers with a straight face.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Ninotchka.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Leon, but soon he wins Ninotchka over with his charm.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Leon falls into this trap with the cream versus milk joke.
  • French Maid: Three of them, cigarette girls at the hotel that the three bumbling Russian envoys have a good time with.
  • Gay Paree
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Most stereotypes are present in this movie.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Before the film's release, World War II broke out and ruined the premise. Hence, there's a title card which rather artfully tells us that the movie takes place before the war.
  • The Hedonist: Leon, in the beginning.
  • Impoverished Patrician: One of the waiters at Ninotchka's hotel is a White Russian count.
  • Internal Reveal: When Leon learns who Ninotchka really is.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Leon turns over a whole new leaf after meeting Ninotchka.
  • Meet Cute: As seen in the page image—Leon meets Ninotchka at a street crossing as she's puzzing over a map.
  • No Sense of Humor: Leon attempts to make Ninotchka laugh by telling her jokes, to absolutely no effect.:Then she sees him fall on his ass, and...
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Ninotchka insists on taking the stairs at the Eiffel Tower. Leon takes the elevator. When he gets to the observation platform she's there to meet him.
  • Playing Against Type: Garbo Laughs!
    • It's also one of the very few non-horror films Lugosi appeared in (though he's still pretty scary).
    • That tagline was a Call Back to Garbo's first sound picture, Anna Christie, which was marketed with the tagline "Garbo Talks!".
  • Scar Survey:
    Ninotschka: Would you like to see my wound?
    Leon: I'd love to.
    Ninotschka: A Polish lancer. I was 16.
  • Shout-Out: In the form of a direct repudiation of Garbo's Signature Line from her earlier hit, Grand Hotel:
    Iranoff: Do you want to be alone, comrade?
    Ninotchka: No.
    • Double Subverted, though, when she later tells Leon's butler: "Go to bed, Little Father — we want to be alone."
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Played with: Leon gives a long speech about love, and Ninotchka replies, "You're very talkative." Except he's the one who plants one on her right after that. However, it's played straight when he's about to give another long speech about love a few seconds later, and she stops him by kissing him.
  • The Spock: Ninotchka, in the beginning.
  • Third Act Misunderstanding: Subverted. When Ninotchka wakes from her late night out, the jewels are gone and the first person to suspect is of course Leon. However, the trope is abandoned immediately with the Duchess revealing that The Butler Did It.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Ninotchka's worldview in the beginning.
  • Translation Convention: Everyone speaks English, even though all the characters are either French or Russian.
  • Uptight Loves Wild, with a genderflip from the usual pattern.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: "The last mass trials have been a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Wherever they go, the three scoundrels can't hide their origins for long.

It Happened One NightRomantic ComedyTop Hat
A Little PrincessFilms of the 1930sMr. Smith Goes To Washington
Mr. Smith Goes To WashingtonAcademy AwardStagecoach
Bringing Up BabyNational Film RegistryFantasia

alternative title(s): Ninotchka
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