Ninotchka (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939)


One Sheet Poster


Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Producer: Ernest Lubitsch

Associate Producer: Sidney Franklin

Director: Ernest Lubitsch

Assistant Director: Horace Hough

Second Unit Director: John Waters

Screenplay: Charles Brackett

Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch

Original Story: Melchior Lengyel

Cinematography: William Daniels

Second Camera Operator: A. Lindsley Lane

Assistant Camera: William Riley

Grip: Arnold Webster

Music: Werner R. Heymann

Editor: Gene Roggiero

Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons

Associate Art Director: Randall Duel

Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis

Props: George Elder

Recording Director: Douglas Shearer

Sound Engineer: Conrad Kahn

Still Photographer: Milton Brown

Costumes: Adrian

Costume Jeweller: Eugene Joseff

Wardrobe: Jack Rowan

Makeup: Jack Dawn

Production Assistant: Eric Locke

Chief Electrician: Floyd Porter

Running Time: 110 minutes

Copyright Number: LP9158, October 2, 1939


Greta Garbo: Lena Yakushova (Ninotchka)

Melvin Douglas: Count Leon Dolga

Ina Claire: Grand Duchess Swana

Sig Rumann: Michael Ironoff

Felix Bressart: Buljanoff

Alexander Granach: Kolpaski

Bela Lugosi: Commissar Razinin

Gregory Gaye: Count Alexisis Rakonin

Richard Carle: Vasson

Edwin Maxwell: Mercier

Rolfe Sedan: Hotel Manager

George Tobias: Russian visa official

Dorothy Adams: Jacqueline, Swana’s maid

Lawrence grant: General Savitsky

Charles Judels: Pere Mathieu, cafe owner

Frank Reicher: Soviet Lawyer

Edwin Stanley: Soviet Lawyer

Peggy Moran: French maid

Marek Windheim: Manager

Mary Forbes: Lady Lavenham

Alexander Schonberg: Bearded man, Eiffel Tower tourist

George Davis: Porter

Armand Kaliz: Louis, the headwaiter

Wolfgang Zilzer: Taxi driver

Tamara Shayne: Anna, Moscow roommate

William Irving: Bartender

Bess Flowers: Gossip

Elizabeth Williams: Indignant woman

Paul Weigel: Vladimir

Harry Semels: Gurganov, neighbour spy

Jody Gilbert: Streetcar conductress

Florence Shirley: Marianne

Elinor Vandivere: Gossip

Sandra Morgan: Gossip

Emily Cabanne: Gossip

Symona Boniface: Gossip

Monya Andre: Gossip

Kay Stewart: Cigarette girl

Jennifer Gray: Cigarette girl

Lucille Pinson: German woman at train station

Hans Joby: Man at train station

George Davis: Train station porter

Nino Bellini: Swana’s restaurant guest

Wilda Bennett: Swana’s restaurant guest

Frederika Brown: Swana’s Restaurant Patron

Fred Farrell: Attendant

Winifred Harris: English woman getting visa

Charles Judels: Pere Mathieu, the cafe owner

Ray Hendricks: Waiter

Albert Pollet: Waiter

Constantine Romanoff: Man in restaurant

Florence Shirley: Marianne , Swana’s phone friend

George Sorrel: Swana’s restaurant guest

Jacques Vanaire: Hotel desk clerk

Paul Ellis

Frank Fletcher


Variety, December 31, 19398

Selection of Ernst Lubitsch to pilot Garbo in her first light performance in pictures proves a bull’s-eye.

The punchy and humorous jabs directed at the Russian political system and representatives, and the contrast of bolshevik receptiveness to capitalistic luxuries and customs, are displayed in farcical vein, but there still remains the serious intent of comparisons between the political systems in the background [based on an original story by Melchior Lengyel].

Three Russian trade representatives arrive in Paris to dispose of royal jewels ‘legally confiscated’. Playboy Melvyn Douglas is intent on cutting himself in for part of the jewel sale. Tying up the gems in lawsuit for former owner, Ina Claire, Douglas is confronted by special envoy Garbo who arrives to speed the transactions. Douglas gets romantic, while Garbo treats love as a biological problem.


Springfield Republican, July 9, 1939

Ninotchka, Springfield Republican, July 9, 1939*

The Times-Picayune, September 1, 1939

Ninotchka, The Times-Picayune, September 1, 1939*

Richmond Times Dispatch, September 3, 1939

Ninotchka, Richmond Times Dispatch, September 3, 1939*

Variety, October 6, 1939

Ninotchka, Variety, October 6, 1939


Springfield Republican, November 9, 1939

Ninotchka, Springfield Republican, November 9, 1939


The New York Times, November 10, 1939


‘Ninotchka,’ an Impious Soviet Satire Directed by

Lubitsch, Opens at the Music Hall


Stalin won’t like it. Molotoff may even recall his envoy from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. We still will say Garbo’s “Ninotchka” is one of the sprightliest comedies of the year, a gay and impertinent and malicious show which never pulls its punch lines (no matter how far below the belt they may land) and finds the screen’s austere first lady of drama playing a dead-pan comedy role with the assurance of a Buster Keaton. Nothing quite so astonishing has come to the Music Hall since the Rockefellers landed on Fiftieth Street. And not even the Rockefellers could have imagined M-G-M getting a laugh out of Garbo at the U.S.S.R.’s expense.

Ernst Lubitsch, who directed it, finally has brought the screen around to a humorist’s view of those sober-sided folk who have read Marx but never the funny page, who refuse to employ the word “love” to describe an elementary chemico-biological process, who reduce a Spring morning to an item in a weather chart and who never, never drink champagne without reminding its buyer that goat’s milk is richer in vitamins. In poking a derisive finger into these sobersides, Mr. Lubitsch hasn’t been entirely honest. But, then, what humorist is? He has created, instead, an amusing panel of caricatures, has read them a jocular script, has expressed—through it all—the philosophy that people are much the same wherever you find them and decent enough at heart. What more could any one ask?

Certainly we ask for little more, in the way of thoroughly entertaining screen fare, than the tale of his Ninotchka, the flat-heeled, Five-Year-Plannish, unromantically mannish comrade who was sent to Paris by her commissar to take over the duties of a comically floundering three-man mission entrusted with the sale of the former Duchess Swana’s court jewels. Paris in the Spring being what it is and Melvyn Douglas, as an insidious capitalistic meddler, being what he is, Comrade Ninotchka so far forgot Marx, in Mr. Lubitsch’s fable, as to buy a completely frivolous hat, to fall in love and, after her retreat to Moscow, to march in the May Day parade without caring much whether she was in step or not.

If that seems a dullish way of phrasing it, we can only take refuge in the adventitious Chinese argument that one picture is worth a million words. Mr. Lubitsch’s picture is worth at least a few thousand more words than we have room for here. To do justice to it we should have to spend a few hundred describing the arrival of the Soviet delegation in Paris where they debate the merits of the Hotel Terminus (a shoddy place) and the Hotel Clarence where one need push a button once for hot water, twice for a waiter, thrice for a French maid. Would Lenin really have said, as Comrade Kopalski insisted, “Buljanoff, don’t be a fool! Go in there and ring three times.”

We should need a few hundred more to describe the Paris tour of Ninotchka, under Mr. Douglas’s stunned capitalistic guidance; the typically Lubitsch treatment of a stag dinner party, with the camera focussed on a door and only the microphone capable of distinguishing between the arrival of a cold meat platter and that of three cigarette girls on the hoof; the Moscow roommate’s elaboration of the effect of a laundered Parisian chemise upon the becottoned feminine population of an entirely too-cooperative apartment house.

For these are matters so cinematic, so strictly limited to the screen, that news print cannot be expected to do justice to them, any more than it could do full justice to Miss Garbo’s delightful debut as a comedienne. It must be monotonous, this superb rightness of Garbo’s playing. We almost wish she would handle a scene badly once in a while just to provide us with an opportunity to show we are not a member of a fan club. But she remains infallible and Garbo, always exactly what the situation demands, always as fine as her script and director permit her to be. We did not like her “drunk” scene here, but, in disliking it, we knew it was the writer’s fault and Mr. Lubitsch’s. They made her carry it too far.

We objected, out of charity, to some of the lines in the script: to that when Ninotchka reports: “The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians”; and to that when the passport official assures the worried traveler she need not fret about the towel situation in Moscow hotels because “we change the towel every week.” But that is almost all. The comedy, through Mr. Douglas’s debonair performance and those of Ina Claire as the duchess and Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart and Alexander Grannach as the unholy three emissaries; through Mr. Lubitsch’s facile direction; and through the cleverly written script of Walter Reisch, Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, has come off brilliantly. Stalin, we repeat, won’t like it; but, unless your tastes hew too closely to the party line, we think you will, immensely.
NINOTCHKA, adapted by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder and Walter Reisch from an original screen story by Melchior Lengyel; directed by Ernst Lubitsch for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Radio City Music Hall.
Ninotchka . . . . . Greta Garbo
Count Leon d’Algout . . . . . Melvyn Douglas
Duchess Swana . . . . . Ina Claire
Iranoff . . . . . Sig Rumann
Buljanoff . . . . . Felix Bressart
Kopalski . . . . . Alexander Granach
Commissar Razinin . . . . . Bela Lugosi
Count Rakonin . . . . . Gregory Gaye
Hotel Manager . . . . . Rolfe Sedan
Mercier . . . . . Edwin Maxwell
Gaston . . . . . Richard Carle


San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 1939

Ninotchka, San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 1939


The Milwaukee Sentinel, November 24, 1939

Ninotchka, The Milwaukee Sentinel, November 24, 1939*

Springfield Republican, November 24, 1939

Ninotchka, Springfield Republican, November 24, 1939


Seattle Daily Times, December 1, 1939

Ninotchka, Seattle Daily Times, December 1, 1939


Richmond Times Dispatch, December 2, 1939

Ninotchka, Richmond Times Dispatch, December 2, 1939


San Francisco Chronicle, December 13, 1939

Ninotchka, San Francisco Chronicle, December 13, 1939


Dallas Morning News, December 14, 1947

Ninotchka, Dallas Morning News, December 14, 1947







Mexican Lobby Card

Ninotchka Mexican Lobby Card



Metro Cinema, Buenos Aires




Wardrobe Test

Ninotchka Wardrobe Test

Garbo and Lugosi



Screen Shots