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German title Ninochka
Original title Ninotchka
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1939
length 110 minutes
Director Ernst Lubitsch
script Charles Brackett ,
Billy Wilder ,
Walter Reisch
production Ernst Lubitsch,
Sidney Franklin for MGM
music Werner Richard Heymann
camera William H. Daniels
cut Gene Ruggiero

Ninotschka (OT: Ninotchka ) is a love comedy by Ernst Lubitsch from 1939 with Greta Garbo in the leading role. Greta Garbo was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar at the 1940 Academy Awards.


The Soviet comrades Buljanoff, Iranoff and Kopalski are sent to Paris by their government to sell confiscated jewelery from the tsarist family and thus improve the state treasury. By chance, Grand Duchess Swana learns of the jewels. She is the previous owner of the jewels, who lived in exile in Paris and lost them during the Russian Revolution . The comrades begin to take pleasure in the capitalist lifestyle and celebrate wild parties in their prince's room in the best hotel in town, while Grand Duchess Swana contests them for the jewels in court. When the negotiations did not progress, the three comrade Ninotschka Yakushova, a communist who was loyal to the line , was sent on as a special representative. She should bring the sale of the precious pieces to the jeweler Mercier to a quick conclusion.

Ninotschka meets Count Leon on a traffic island, who falls in love with her. It just so happens that the count is also the Grand Duchess' closest confidante and lover and is supposed to handle the process with the jewels for her. The count introduces Ninotschka to the higher society of Paris, and they increasingly enjoy luxury and freedom. In a restaurant, Ninotschka meets the Grand Duchess, who is jealous of Leon's feelings for her. Tensions arise between the two when the Grand Duchess threatens to put off the sale of her jewelry for years through legal proceedings. She suggests to Ninotschka that she abandon the trial if she promises to return to Russia and never see Leon again. Out of loyalty to the Soviet Union, Ninotschka accepts this proposal and returns to Russia with the comrades. Leon tries in vain to follow her there. In Moscow, the four mourn their time in Paris. A little later Buljanoff, Iranoff and Kopalski are sent to Constantinople to sell Russian furs there. An anonymous report arrives in Moscow, denouncing the decadence and incompetence of the three ambassadors, so that Ninotschka is sent after them again by their superior Razinin.

Arriving in Constantinople, Ninotschka realizes that the three comrades are enjoying capitalism to the full again and are planning to stay in Constantinople for a longer period of time, as they have opened a Russian restaurant there. The problems that the three reported turn out to be a ruse - Leon wanted to see Ninotschka again, he wrote the anonymous report. He confesses his love for her and convinces her to stay with him in the west.


After Greta Garbo's last film, the historical drama Maria Walewska , which cost almost 3 million US dollars, had a loss of 1.8 million dollars in the end, MGM tried to change Garbo's image and adapt it to the changed world market. The European countries, which so far brought the bulk of the foreign income for Garbo films, were threatened by war, and in the USA the actress's popularity declined more and more in 1938. The attempt to use Garbo in a comedy was not new, but it was only now that the search for a suitable subject began. The choice of Ernst Lubitsch as director was based on an initiative by Garbo, who wanted to work with the German director for Queen Christine . Choosing a subject about Russian emigrants was not uncommon as a number of comedies had used the subject. Ginger Rogers in Roberta , Carole Lombard in A Princess for America and Claudette Colbert in Midnight - Revelation at midnight were more or less fake Russian countesses, Norma Shearer had just mimed a fake Russian duchess in the play Idiot's Delight a few months earlier and was there how she later admitted her character laid out as a parody of Greta Garbo. The studio promoted Greta Garbo's first comedy with the slogan "Garbo laughs!", Which the studio used to parody the advertising campaign for Anna Christie , Garbo's first sound film ("Garbo talks!"). After Ninotschka , Garbo only made one other film, the barely successful comedy The Woman with Two Faces , and then withdrew completely from the film business. Greta Garbo was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar at the 1940 Academy Awards. In the following year, MGM shot a thinly concealed remake called Comrade X , in which Hedy Lamarr plays a bus driver in Moscow and a staunch communist, who is convinced by Clark Gable , an American reporter, of the advantages of the western way of life. Columbia Pictures took over the basic idea for the comedy He Stayed For Breakfast , in which the staunch communist Melvyn Douglas is seduced in Paris by the wealthy Loretta Young and re-educated to be a capitalist. Both films were only moderately successful.

The comedy, which is based largely on the play Ninocska from 1937 by Melchior Lengyel , was the first American film in which the Soviet Union was criticized in the form of a light comedy as bleak and stiff during the Stalin era . This earned the film a ban on showing in the Soviet Union. When the film was released in Western Europe at the beginning of the Second World War , it became a great success there. In Germany, the film only had its cinema premiere in 1948, but only in the western zones. In 1954 a musical version of the play Ninotschka was premiered on Broadway under the title Silk Stockings . The music comes from Cole Porter and Hildegard Knef played the main female role . In 1965 Ruth Leuwerik played the Ninotschka in an adaptation for German television.

Theatrical release

The film was lavishly staged with a budget of $ 1,365,000. It was a huge hit at the box office, grossing $ 1,187,000 when it premiered in the US and $ 1,092,000 in the rest of the world for a total of $ 2,279,000. At $ 138,000, however, the profit fell short of expectations.


The dubbing came about in the 1950s at Willy-Zeyn Film GmbH in Berlin under the direction of Erich Kobler .

role actor German Dubbing voice
Nina Yakushova "Ninotchka" Ivanoff Greta Garbo Ingeborg Grunewald
Count Léon d'Algout Melvyn Douglas Hans Nielsen
Grand Duchess Swana Ina Claire Ruth Killer
Commissioner Razinin Bela Lugosi Herbert Gernot


The reviews were benevolent for the director and the star. In the New York Times , Frank S. Nugent wrote :

“Stalin wouldn't like him. Molotoff would probably withdraw his agents from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. We're simply saying that Garbo's Ninotschka is one of the zippy comedies of the year, a cheeky, impertinent, and vicious story whose punch lines know no bounds (no matter how far below the belt), and which introduces the first dramatic actress to be the one Plays comedy role with the expression of Buster Keaton. […] And not even the Rockefellers could expect MGM to elicit a laugh from Garbo at the expense of the Soviet Union. [...] For this reason, the material is so exclusively suitable for the screen that no newspaper article can even begin to do justice to it or Miss Garbo's wonderful premiere as a comedian. The Garbo's monotonous game has to be easy. We almost hope that she will play a scene poorly to fill us with reluctance and dispel suspicions that we are members of a fan club. But she remains infallible, and Garbo is always in control of the situation and does exactly what the script and director ask of her. We don't like your 'drinking' scene, but because we don't like it, we know that the fault lies with the author and Mr. Lubitsch. Here they put too much on her. "

The lexicon of international films was also friendly:

“Classic Hollywood comedy with excellent actors, staged with subtle humor from a brilliantly written script. Under Lubitsch's subtle direction, Greta Garbo played her only really successful comic role. "

The Protestant film observer also expressed his appreciation:

“Classic of upscale entertainment by Ernst Lubitsch, written in the USA in 1939. As a still fresh and accurate example of this genre and for the work of Lubitsch as well as significant evidence of the political-historical naivety of the Americans towards the USSR still worth seeing and recommended for the dispute from 16. "


The film went to the 1940 Academy Awards with four nominations without winning any of the awards:

  • best movie
  • best main actress
  • best template for a script
  • best script

In 1990 the film was entered into the National Film Registry .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas Siedhoff: Das Handbuch des Musicals: The most important titles from AZ , 1st edition, Schott Music, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-7957-0154-3 , p. 561.
  2. Laura von Wangenheim sees in her grandmother Inge von Wangenheim the role model for Inspector Ninotschka: "I compared the photos from the film with those my grandmother took of the room in Kusnetzkij most. Almost everything matched: The ceiling above the door, the curtains to separate the areas, the divan, the books. (..) Even the portrait of Lenin on the wall was not missing, the only difference was that in my grandparents' apartment it was one of Stalin's in: In the clutches of history. Inge von Wangenheim. Photographs from Soviet exile 1933–1945, Rotbuch-Verlag, Berlin, 2013. Ernst Lubitsch visited Inge and Gustav von Wangenheim on the occasion of a film festival in 1936 in their exile in Moscow.
  3. Ninotschka at the synchronized files
  4. 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. [...] And not even the Rockefellers could have imagined MGM getting a laugh out of Garbo at the USSR's expense. [...] For these are matters so cinematic, so strictly limited to the screen, that newsprint 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.
  5. ^ Ninochka. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed July 8, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used