Critics Consensus

With Greta Garbo proving her comedy chops in the twilight of her career, Ninotchka is a can't-miss classic.



Total Count: 34
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Movie Info

"Garbo Laughs!" declared the ads for Ninotchka. In the face of dwindling foreign revenues, MGM decided to put Greta Garbo, a bigger draw in Europe than the US, in a box-office-savvy comedy, engaging the services of master farceur Ernst Lubitsch to direct. The film opens in Paris during the aftermath of the Russian revolution. A trio of Russian delegates (Sig Rumann, Felix Bressart, and Alexander Granach) are sent to Paris to sell the Imperial Jewels for ready cash. Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire), who once owned the jewels, sends her boyfriend Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas) to retrieve the diamonds, and he turns the trio into full-fledged capitalists, wining and dining them all through Paris. Moscow then dispatches the humorless, doggedly loyal Comrade Ninotchka (Garbo) to retrieve both the prodigal Soviets and the gems. When Leon turns his charm on Ninotchka, she regards him coldly, informing him that love is merely a "chemical reaction." Even his kisses fail to weaken her resolve. Leon finally wins her over by taking an accidental fall in a restaurant, whereupon Ninotchka laughs for the first time in her life. She goes on a shopping spree and gets drunk, while Leon begins falling in love with her in earnest. As a bonus to the frothy script, by Billy Wilder and others, and its surefire star power, Ninotchka features what is perhaps Bela Lugosi's most likeable and relaxed performance.

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Greta Garbo
as Nina Ivanovna 'Ninotchka' Yakushova
Bela Lugosi
as Commissar Razinin
Ina Claire
as Grand Duchess Swana
Sig Rumann
as Michael Ironoff
Felix Bressart
as Buljanoff
Gregory Gaye
as Count Alexis Rakonin
Rolfe Sedan
as Hotel Manager
George Tobias
as Russian Visa Official
Dorothy Adams
as Jacqueline
Lawrence Grant
as Gen. Savitsky
Jo Gilbert
as Streetcar Conductress
Charles Judels
as Pere Mathieu
Peggy Moran
as French Maid
Mary Forbes
as Lady Lavenham
Wolfgang Zilzer
as Taxi Driver
William Irving
as Bartender
Elizabeth Williams
as Indignant Woman
Paul Weigel
as Vladimir
Harry Semels
as Neighbor/Spy
Jody Gilbert
as Streetcar Conductress
Kay Stewart
as Cigarette Girl
Jenifer Gray
as Cigarette Girl
Lucille Pinson
as German Woman at Railroad Station
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Critic Reviews for Ninotchka

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (7)

  • The romantic roundelay, linking fine emotions with fine lingerie, is shadowed by the brutality of Soviet tyranny.

    May 9, 2016 | Full Review…
  • This one is neither crude clowning nor crude prejudice, but a literate and knowingly directed satire which lands many a shrewd crack about phony Five Year Plans, collective farms, Communist jargon and pseudo-scientific gab.

    Jan 15, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Ninotchka is delicate flirtation and political satire made into a perfect whole, and a reminder of skills that studio writers have largely lost.

    Dec 27, 2012 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Selection of Ernst Lubitsch to pilot Garbo in her first light performance in pictures proves a bull's-eye.

    Feb 3, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The satire may be mostly a matter of easy contrasts, but the lovers inhabit a world of elegance and poise that is uniquely and movingly Lubitsch's.

    Feb 3, 2009 | Full Review…
  • It's still consistently amusing, and Garbo throws herself into the fray with engaging vigour.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Brown

    Time Out
    Top Critic

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