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Coming at a time in which Greta Garbo’s career was in sharp decline—her popularity waned in the US, while in Europe war was on the horizon—Ninotchka allowed MGM the artistically inspired choice to pair Garbo with Ernst Lubitsch, their head of production and Hollywood’s greatest director of comedies. Here Garbo plays Nina Ivanovna “Ninotchka” Yakushova, a Russian envoy sent to Paris to return three compatriot jewel-smugglers selling looted merchandise. True to Garbo’s star profile, Ninotchka falls for Leon (Melvyn Douglas), who has been enlisted to retrieve the jewels before their sale on the black market. International intrigue, absurd comedic situations, and high pathos follow in a film which MGM, nine years after Garbo first contracted to with the studio, advertised with the tagline “Garbo laughs!” With Ninotchka, Garbo finally broke from serious romantic roles (although she plays gloriously with and against type here) and was nominated for an Academy Award, but retired from acting two years later at the age of 35. “It was inevitable that [Lubitsch] would direct Garbo, and it was one of her best performances—meaning it was one of the most luminous performances ever committed to celluloid.”—Charles Silver, The Museum of Modern Art.

Genres: Comedy

Other Films by Ernst Lubitsch

Trouble In Paradise

The playboy/thief Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) meets the expert pickpocket Lily (Miriam Hopkins) on the Riviera, and they, of course, fall in love. Initially, they try to steal from each other—a kind of foreplay among  secretary to the wealthy heiress to a perfume company, Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), hiring Lily as maid, so they

To Be Or Not To Be

Like Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Lubitsch’s film was widely criticized upon release for trying to find laughs in Hitler’s assault on civilization and, in this case, the desperate and tragic situation in Poland. But on its 75th anniversary, it remains a black-humored classic and one of the most profound comedies ever made. Jack Benny and

Heaven Can Wait

Aging playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) dies and dutifully heads directly to hell, where the lobby looks very similar to massive, marbled bank branch. The devil (Laird Cregar) greets Van Cleve, and agrees to hear his story before admitting him below. Thus the film proceeds backwards through the touchstones of Van Cleve’s life: his