As a sex symbol, Greta Garbo may seem like an odd choice -- she lacked the drop-dead gorgeousness of subsequent Swedes like Ingrid Bergman -- but few stars have built or maintained a bigger reputation in Hollywood. A silent film star, Garbo caused a sensation when American audiences finally heard her voice ("Garbo talks!"). Ninotchka is one of Garbo's few comedies, and part of its success is because the script plays off of the actress' slightly stiff, very foreign demeanor.
Garbo plays Ninotchka, a Soviet envoy sent to Paris to sell jewels that belonged to a former Russian duchess now turned Parisian socialite (Ina Claire). Melvyn Douglas is a count who becomes infatuated with Ninotchka and tries to divert her away from her duty to the Party. It's not Casablanca -- but it's not just another frothy romantic comedy either, thanks to Garbo's performance and the clever screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett (who also co-wrote the legendary Sunset Boulevard and The Lost Weekend).
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