NINOTCHKA (NR, 110 min., B&W, MGM, Nov. 3, 1939)
“This movie is the most sublime and passionate political picture ever made in Hollywood.” This was the assessment of Maurice Zolotow in his 1977 book about Billy Wilder. In later years Wilder would speak insightfully and passionately about “The Lubitsch Touch”. NINOTCHKA was the film that gave him (along with his writing partner at the time, Charlie Brackett) his first up close look at Ernst Lubitsch at work.
It’s the standout comedy in Hollywood’s standout year. Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett would be enough any given day but what makes NINOTCHKA an embarrassment of riches is the cast. Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire sublime, every one. The supporting cast – fantastic. “Garbo Laughs!” MGM’s publicity department came up with NINOTCHKA’s tagline as an obvious nod to the one it used to announce her first talking picture, ANNA CHRISTIE (1930). Greta Garbo does indeed laugh. And so do we.
Director: Ernst Lubitsch, Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch (Screenplay), Melchior Lengyel (Story), Producer: Ernst Lubitsch, Cinematographer: William Daniels, Composer: Werner R. Heymann, Editor: Gene Ruggiero
CAST: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Rugman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach
Watched on DVD (Warner Bros. Home Video)
*Most Mondays I watch a classic or historically significant movie that falls into one of these categories: 1) Have never seen it, or 2) Have never seen it uncut, or 3) Have only seen it once, or 4) Haven’t seen it in a very long time.
Some information from: IMDb Pro, BoxOfficeMojo