Ninotchka

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Ninotchka is a 1939 film about a stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business who finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest.

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and Walter Reisch.
M-G-M's Laugh Riot!taglines


Ninotchka[edit]

  • Don't make an issue of my womanhood. We're here for work. All of us. Let's not waste any time. Shall we go?
  • The last mass trials have been a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.
  • [looking at a ladies' hat in a display window] How can such a civilization survive which permits their women to put things like that on their heads? It won't be long now comrades.
  • [to Gaston, Leon's butler] Is this what you call the butler? ...Good evening, comrade. This man is very old. You shouldn't make him work...He looks sad. Do you whip him?...[She puts her hand on his shoulder] The day will come when you'll be free. Go to bed, little father. We want to be alone.
  • [Giving money to her comrades to enjoy Paris] Here are fifty francs...Bring me back forty-five.
  • Oh Leon, don't ever ask me for a picture of myself. I couldn't bear the thought of being shut up in a drawer. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't stand it.

Swana[edit]

  • [to Leon] We won't have to worry about our future if you're willing to raffle off your past.
  • [relaying what her lawyer sais about retrieving her jewels] There may be a chance, that's all. The French government has recognized Soviet Russia and he doubts that they will risk a war for my poor sake. He might be able to make up some kind of a case but it would cost money, money, money. That's all they are interested in - those lawyers!
  • Oh dear me...I must be losing my finesse. If I'm not careful, I'll be understood by everybody.

Others[edit]

  • Title card: This picture takes place in Paris in those wonderful days when a siren was a brunette and not an alarm --- and if a Frenchman turned out the light, it was not on account of an air raid!
  • Hotel manager: [to Kopalski, Iranoff, and Buljanoff] The apartment may suit your convenience but I doubt that it will fit your convictions.

Dialogue[edit]

Swana: It's really a wretched morning, wretched. I can't get myself right. I wanted to look mellow and I look brittle. My face doesn't compose well - it's all highlights. How can I dim myself down, Leon? Suggest something. Oh, I'm so bored with this face. I wish I had someone else's face. Who's face would you have if you had your choice? Oh well, I guess one gets the face one deserves.
Leon: There's one marvelous advantage to your conversation, Swana. However many questions you ask, you never expect an answer.

Mercier: [examining the jewels] Very good, superb, excellent, it would be foolish to belittle the quality of the merchandise but your terms are impossible. My counter offer is the absolute maximum...We're undertaking this deal only because of the prestige involved. And frankly, we're expected to take a loss.
Iranoff: [scoffing] Capitalistic methods.
Buljanoff: They accumulate millions by taking loss after loss.

Ninotchka: Why should you carry other people's bags?
Porter: Well, that's my business, Madame.
Ninotchka: That's no business. That's social injustice.
Porter: That depends on the tip.

Ninotchka: [seeing the large size of her room] Which part of the room is mine?...If I stay here a week, I will cost the Russian people seven cows. Who am I to cost the Russian people seven cows?... [She loyally places a picture of Lenin on the desk] I'm ashamed to put the picture of Lenin in a room like this.
Iranoff: Do you want to be alone, comrade?
Ninotchka: No.

Ninotchka: [on a street corner] How long must we wait here?
Leon: Well, uh, until the policeman blows his whistle again.
Ninotchka: At what intervals does he whistle?
Leon: What?
Ninotchka: How many minutes between the first and second whistle?
Leon: You know that's very funny. I never thought of that before.
Ninotchka: You've never been caught in a similar situation?
Leon: Yes, I have, now that I've come to think about it. It's staggering. Good heavens. If I add it all up, I must have spent years waiting for signals. Imagine, an important part of my life wasted between whistles.
Ninotchka: In other words, you don't know.
Leon: No.
Ninotchka: Thank you.
Leon: You're welcome.

Ninotchka: [looking at a map] Correct me if I'm wrong. We are facing north, aren't we?
Leon: Facing north? Well now, I'd have to commit myself without my compass. Pardon me, are you an explorer?
Ninotchka: No, I am looking for the Eiffel Tower.
Leon: Good heavens, is that thing lost again? Oh, are you interested in a view?
Ninotchka: I'm interested in the Eiffel Tower from a technical standpoint.
Leon: Technical? No, no, I'm afraid I couldn't be of much help from that angle. You see, a Parisian only goes to the Tower in moments of despair to jump off.
Ninotchka: How long does it take a man to land?
Leon: Now isn't that too bad. The last time I jumped, I forgot to time it. Let me see now, the Eiffel Tower - ah, your finger please?
Ninotchka: Why do you need my finger?
Leon: It's bad manners to point with your own. There, the Eiffel Tower.
Ninotchka: And where are we?
Leon: Where are we? Let me see. Where are we? Ah, here we are. There you are, and here am I. Feel it?
Ninotchka: I am interested only in the shortest distance between these two points. Must you flirt?
Leon: Well, I don't have to, but I find it natural.
Ninotchka: Suppress it!
Leon: I'll try.
Ninotchka: For my own information, would you call your approach toward me typical of the local morale?
Leon: Mademoiselle, it is that approach which has made Paris what it is.
Ninotchka: You're very sure of yourself, aren't you?
Leon: Well, nothing's happened recently to shake my self-confidence.
Ninotchka: I have heard of the arrogant male in capitalistic society. It is having a superior earning power that makes you that way.
Leon: A Russian! I love Russians! Comrade. I've been fascinated by your Five-Year Plan for the last fifteen years.
Ninotchka: Your type will soon be extinct.

Leon: [atop the Eiffel Tower] I'm glad I saw it before becoming extinct.
Ninotchka: Now don't misunderstand me. I do not hold your frivolity against you. As basic material, you may not be bad. But you are the unfortunate product of a doomed culture. I feel very sorry for you.
Leon: Ah, but you must admit that this doomed old civilization sparkles. Look at it. It glitters!

Leon: [pointing out his apartment] It's such a pleasant little place. It has all the comforts. Easy to reach - near the subway, bus, and streetcar.
Ninotchka: Does it mean you want me to go there?
Leon: Oh, now please, please, don't misunderstand me.
Ninotchka: Then you don't want me to go there?
Leon: No, no, no, no! No, no, I didn't say that either. Naturally, nothing would please me more.
Ninotchka: Then why don't we go? You might be an interesting subject of study.
Leon: I'll do my best.

Leon: I'm thirty-five years old, just over six feet tall, and weigh 182 pounds stripped.
Ninotchka: What is your profession?
Leon: My profession? Mmmm, keeping my body fit, keeping my mind alert, and keeping the landlord appeased. That's a full time job.
Ninotchka: And what do you do for mankind?
Leon: For mankind? Yes, uh, not so much for mankind. But for womankind, my record isn't quite so bleak.

Ninotchka: You are something we do not have in Russia.
Leon: Thank you.
Ninotchka: That's why I believe in the future of my country.
Leon: Yes. I'm beginning to believe in it myself since I met you. I still don't quite know what it's all about. Confuses me, frightens me. It fascinates me. Ninotchka, you like me just a little bit?
Ninotchka: Your general appearance is not distasteful.
Leon: Thank you.
Ninotchka: The whites of your eyes are clear. Your cornea is excellent.
Leon: Your cornea is terrific. Ninotchka, tell me, you're so expert on things: can it be that I'm falling in love with you?
Ninotchka: Why must you bring in wrong values? Love is a romantic designation for a most ordinary biological - or, shall we say, chemical - process. A lot of nonsense is talked and written about it.
Leon: Oh I see. What do you use instead?
Ninotchka: I acknowledge the existence of a natural impulse common to all.
Leon: What can I possibly do to encourage such an impulse in you?
Ninotchka: You don't have to do a thing. Chemically, we're already quite sympathetic.
Leon: You're the most incredible creature I've ever met. Ninotchka. Ninotchka.
Ninotchka: You repeat yourself.
Leon: Yes, I'd like to say it a thousand times. You must forgive me when I seem a little old-fashioned. After all, I'm just a poor bourgeois.
Ninotchka: It's never too late to change. I used to belong to the petite bourgeoisie myself.

Ninotchka: My father and mother wanted me to stay and work on the farm, but I preferred the bayonet.
Leon: The bayonet? Did you really?
Ninotchka: I was wounded before Warsaw.
Leon: Wounded? How?
Ninotchka: I was a sergeant in the Third Cavalry Brigade. Would you like to see my wound?
Leon: I'd love to.

Leon: What kind of a girl are you anyway?
Ninotchka: Just what you see. A tiny cog in the great wheel of evolution.
Leon: You're the most adorable cog I've ever seen. Ninotchka, let me confess something. Never did I dream I could feel like this toward a sergeant.

[The clock chimes midnight]
Leon: Do you hear that?
Ninotchka: It's twelve o'clock.
Leon: It's midnight. Look at the clock. One hand has met the other hand. They kiss. Isn't that wonderful?
Ninotchka: That's the way a clock works. What's wonderful about it?
Leon: Ninotchka, it's midnight. One half of Paris is making love to the other half.
Ninotchka: You merely feel you must put yourself in a romantic mood to add to your exhilaration.
Leon: I can't possibly think of any better reason.
Ninotchka: That's false sentimentality.
Leon: Oh, you analyze everything out of existence. You'd analyze me out of existence but I won't let you. Love isn't so simple, Ninotchka. Ninotchka, why do doves bill and coo? Why do snails, the coldest of all creatures, circle interminably around each other? Why do moths fly hundreds of miles to find their mates? Why do flowers slowly open their petals? Oh, Ninotchka, Ninotchka, surely you feel some slight symptom of the divine passion? A general warmth in the palms of your hands, a strange heaviness in your limbs, a burning of the lips that isn't thirst but something a thousand times more tantalizing, more exulting, than thirst?
Ninotchka: You are very talkative. [He kisses her]
Leon: Was that talkative?
Ninotchka: No, that was restful. Again. [After being encouraged, Leon kisses her again] Thank you.
Leon: Oh, my barbaric Ninotchka. My impossible, unromantic, statistical - [She takes charge and kisses him back] Again.

Ninotchka: I must go.
Leon: Or should I say Special Envoy Yakushova?
Ninotchka: Let's forget we ever met.
Leon: No, no, no, I have a much better suggestion. Let's forget the telephone ever rang. I never heard that you're Yakushova. You're Ninotchka. My Ninotchka.
Ninotchka: I was sent here by my country to fight you.
Leon: All right, fight me. Fight me as much as you want, only fight me tomorrow morning. There's nothing sweeter than sharing a secret with an enemy.
Ninotchka: You represent white Russia and I represent Red Russia.
Leon: No, tonight, let's not represent anybody but ourselves.
Ninotchka: It's out of the question. If you wish to approach me...
Leon: You know I want to.
Ninotchka: Then do it through my lawyer.
Leon: But Ninotchka, you can't walk out like this. I'm crazy about you. I thought I'd made an impression on you. You liked the white of my eye.
Ninotchka: I must go.
Leon: Oh no, Ninotchka. I held you in my arms. You kissed me!
Ninotchka: [She lowers her eyes] I kissed the Polish lancer too, before he died.

Ninotchka: [in a cafe] Raw beets and carrots.
Mathieu: Madame, this is a restaurant, not a meadow.

Ninotchka: Bring me something simple. I never think about food.
Mathieu: [horrified] Madame, if you don't think about food, what do you think about?
Ninotchka: The future of the common people.
Mathieu: That's also a question of food.
[Mathieu leaves]
Leon: You insulted him, you know that? You hurt his feelings. It was just like telling a musician that you don't like music. Why that good old man believes in food just as you believe in Karl Marx. You can't go around hurting people like that, Comrade Yakushova. But you can make it up to him. Do you know how? By eating everything that he brings you with relish, by drinking everything with gusto, by having a good time for the first time in your natural life!

Leon: When we first went to my apartment, did I have the slightest idea that you were connected with this deal?
Ninotchka: You know now. And I know now that you are a man who employs business methods which in Russia would be punished by death.
Leon: Ohhh, death, death! Always so glum! What about life, Ninotchka? Do Russians never think about life? Of the moment in which we are living? The only moment we ever really have? Oh, Ninotchka, don't take things so seriously. Nothing is worth it, really. Please...relax...I beg you, Sergeant, smile!
Ninotchka: What?
Leon: Will you smile?
Ninotchka: Why?
Leon: Well, just smile.
Ninotchka: At what?
Leon: At anything. At the whole ridiculous spectacle of life. At people being so serious, taking themselves pompously, exaggerating their own importance. If you can't think of anything else to laugh at, you can laugh at you and me.
Ninotchka: Why?
Leon: Because we are an odd couple.
Ninotchka: Then you should go back to your table.
Leon: No. No, I can't leave you. I won't. Not yet. Not until I've made you laugh...at least once.

Leon: [trying to make Ninotchka laugh] Maybe the trouble isn't with the joke, maybe it's with you. I'll give you one more chance. When I first heard this joke, I laughed myself sick! Here goes. A man comes into a restaurant. He sits down at the table and he says, 'Waiter, bring me a cup of coffee without cream.' Five minutes later, the waiter comes back and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, we have no cream. Can it be without milk?'
[no reaction from Ninotchka]
Leon: Oh you have no sense of humor! None whatsoever. Not a grain of humor in you. There's not a laugh in you. Everybody laughs at it but not you!
[Leon leans backward on the shaky table behind him and accidentally topples over in his chair, causing everything to crash to the floor, causing Ninotchka to finally laugh]
Leon: What's so funny about this? [he starts laughing]

Ninotchka: I don't look too foolish?
Leon: Foolish? If this dress were walking down the boulevard all by itself, I would follow it from one end of Paris to the other, and when I caught up with it, I would say, 'Wait a moment, you charming little dress. I want you to meet Ninotchka...you two were meant for each other.'

Leon: I have things to tell you about which I can't shout. Darling...I...oh... [He takes her in his arms and kisses her] You see, I couldn't shout that.
Ninotchka: Oh Leon, Leon, you know the jokes you told me a few days ago? I wake up in the middle of the night and laugh at them. You know that's wrong. They aren't funny, they're silly, they're stupid. And still, I laugh at them...and when I look at Buljanoff and Iranoff and Kopalski I know they are scoundrels and I should hate them - then I realize who made them like that, and instead of sending my report to Moscow I go down and buy a ridiculous hat, and if this keeps on - am I too talkative?
Leon: No, no...go on.
Ninotchka: Leon, I want to tell you something which I thought I would never say, which I thought nobody ever should say, because I didn't think it existed...and, Leon...I can't say it...[They kiss again and then embrace]
Leon: What a gesture for a Sergeant.

Ninotchka: The closest I ever came to champagne was in a newsreel. The wife of some president was throwing it at a battleship.
Leon: It's always good luck to launch something with champagne; a battleship...or an evening.
Ninotchka: It's funny to look back. I was brought up on goat's milk. I had a ration of vodka in the army, and now champagne.
Leon: From goats to grapes. That's drinking in the right direction.
Ninotchka: [After her first taste, her face grimaces but then breaks into a smile] It's good. [She drinks the whole glass down at once] From what I read I thought champagne was a strong drink. It's delicate. Does anyone ever get drunk on this?
Leon: Well, there have been cases...but the headache the next morning is worth while - if you drink it with the right toast. [They toast, raising their glasses] To us, Ninotchka!

Swana: Is that what they're wearing in Moscow this year?
Ninotchka: No, last year, madame.
Swana: Isn't it amazing? One gets the wrong impression of the new Russia. It must be charming. I'm delighted conditions have improved so. I assume this is what the factory workers wear at their dances.
Ninotchka: Exactly. You see, it would have been very embarrassing for people of my sort to wear low-cut gowns in the old Russia. The lashes of the Cossacks across our backs were not very becoming, and you know how vain women are.
Swana: Yes, you're quite right about the Cossacks. We made a great mistake when we let them use their whips. They had such reliable guns.

Swana: The only thing we have in common is our lawsuit and that will be settled next week. I understand everything will be over by Thursday. Am I right?...It's too bad you have so few more days here in Paris. [To Leon] Now Leon, be sure and redouble your efforts so that Madame can take some pleasant memories when she returns to Moscow.
[Swana leaves]
Leon: The only thing that will be over on Thursday will be the lawsuit. There will be no Thursday for us, next week or any other week. I won't let it happen. I'll tear it out of the calendar. Is that a good story?

Ninotchka: Let's form our own Party.
Leon: Right. 'Lovers of the World Unite!'
Ninotchka: And we won't stretch up our arms...
Leon: No! No!
Ninotchka: ...and we won't clench our fists...
Leon: No! No!
Ninotchka: Our salute will be a kiss.
Leon: Yes...a kiss. Salute! [She sinks into his arms and they kiss]
Ninotchka: I am so happy. Oh I'm so happy. No one can be so happy without being punished. I will be punished and I should be punished. Leon, I want to confess.
Leon: I know...it's the Russian soul.
Ninotchka: Well, everyone wants to confess and if they don't confess, they make them confess. I am a traitor. When I kissed you, I betrayed a Russian ideal. I should be stood up against the wall.
Leon: Would that make you any happier?
Ninotchka: Much happier.
Leon: All right.

Ninotchka: Radio. What's radio?
Leon: Radio is a little box that you buy on the installment plan and before you tune it in, they tell you there's a new model out.

Ninotchka: I must ask you to leave.
Swana: Leave? That's exactly what I came here to ask you to do. Leave! I don't mean this hotel and I don't mean Paris...I mean France. There's a plane for Moscow at five-forty.
Ninotchka: Do you still think you're issuing orders from your palace in Petrograd?
Swana: My palace in Petrograd...yes, you took that away from me. You took away my Czar, my country, my people, everything I had...but nothing more.
Ninotchka: People cannot be taken away madame, neither a hundred and sixty million nor one. Not if you have their love. You hadn't. That's why you're not in Russia any longer, and that's why you came here this morning. Problems were never solved by bowing from a balcony.

Swana: [about the jewels] They were given to me by my mother. They were given to her by her mother, in fact they're mine, you can't steal what belongs to you!
Ninotchka: They always belonged to the Russian people. They paid for them with their blood, their lives and you'll give them back!

Anna: Aren't you living a little above your ration?
Ninotchka: I've saved two eggs and each of my friends is bringing his own. We'll manage.
Anna: It just goes to prove the theory of our State. If you stand alone it means a boiled egg, but if you're true to the collective spirit and stick together, you've got an omelet.

Anna: [about Ninotchka's underwear] Some said it's what we all ought to wear. Others said it's like hanging foreign ideas on our clothesline. It undermines our whole cause... You know how it is today. All you have to do is wear a pair of silk stockings and they suspect you of counter-revolution.
Ninotchka: I should hate to see our country endangered by my underwear.

Ninotchka: That's how they live in the other world. Here, we dress to cover up our bodies, to keep warm.
Anna: And there?
Ninotchka: Sometimes they're not completely covered, but they don't freeze.

Buljanoff: [in a hotel in Constantinople] Imagine, we don't have to whisper any more.
Iranoff: No, we can say whatever we want. We can shout...we can complain...Look. [He opens the door and speaks loudly into the corridor] The service in this hotel is terrible! [He shuts the door] See! Nobody comes...nobody pays any attention. That's freedom.
Buljanoff: That's bad management.

Leon: All right, if you don't stay with me, then I'll have to continue my fight. I'll travel wherever there are Russian commissions. I'll turn them all into Iranoffs, Buljanoffs, and Kopalskis. The world will be crowded with Russian restaurants. I'll depopulate Russia. Comrade, once you saved your country by going back. This time, you can only save it by staying here.
Ninotchka: Well, if it's a choice between my personal interest and the good of my country, how can I waver? No one shall say Ninotchka was a bad Russian.
Leon: Darling. [they kiss]

Taglines[edit]

  • M-G-M's Laugh Riot!
  • Don't Pronounce It . . . See It !
  • In Moscow they planted medals on her bosom . . . in Paris they planted kisses on her cheek . . .
  • "It's only human to kiss!"
  • Garbo laughs
  • The picture that kids the commissars!

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]

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