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Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

United States 1939 110 mins. In English

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.