A lovely painting by Alejandro Mogollo who features vintage films and stars and includes an iconic line of dialogue; in this case Garbo in NINOTCHKA to Melvyn Douglas.

(Alejandro’s work, which is for sale, can be viewed at


Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.


Was this a headache for the MGM publicity team – how do you promote a title like NINOTCHKA?

Well, of course, they made it work. Don’t try to pronounce it- Nanootshka?……’Ninowtchky?

  • ”Dont pronounce it!  See it!”
    It’s “Topnotchka “!   Keep them ‘Hotchka’  for Ninotchka!



Garbo laughs” was also a headline ( reminiscent of Garbo’s first talkie, ANNIE CHRISTIE,  advertised as “Garbo Talks.”

Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.

This was Garbo’s first comedy – though Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune described her as “a past mistress of comedy!”

”NINOTCHKA” was banned in the Soviet Union. ( the depiction of Stalinist Russia was satirised so well).

Garbo’s salary was $125,000 ( $2 million today!)

Garbo attended the film’s preview at the Long Beach theater in Sept.1939. ( wish we had pictures of that event.)

Ninotchka” became a Cole Porter Broadway musical in 1955 , SILK STOCKINGS and starred Hildegarde Neff and Don Ameche. And of course the film musical version starred Fred Astaire and  Cyd Charisse.

A great website for all things Garbo –

A colorised  version  was shown on television in 1990 and released on home video.



I never understood Ninotchka’s fascination with this hat!


.With director Ernst Lubitsch

All those colourful posters and lobby cards. If only MGM had splashed out on Technicolor.

Love how Lubitsch and Wilder get exclamation marks after their names.


Last scene the movie.

I always liked Ina Claire (1893-1985) as the Grand Duchess Swana., so fashionable, witty, caustic.

When speaking to Ninotchka , Swana says: “Oh dear  me. I must be losing my finesse. If I’m not careful, I’ll be understood by everybody.”


Ina Claire, Melvyn Douglas

Ina ,born Ina Fagan, only made about dozen films between 1915 and 1943. She was a Broadway star who had been in the ZIEGFELD FOLLIES of 1915 and 1916.  Her career was primarily as a comedienne.
She was in the first version of THE AWFUL TRUTH (1929), playing the role made famous by Irene Dunne. Unfortunately Ina’s version is considered a lost film. Her costar was Henry Daniell.

And Ina had played the lead in the original stage version of “The Awful Truth” in 1922.

Ina Claire, Henry Daniell as Lucy and Jerry Warriner.

Still trying  to imagine Henry Daniell in the role Cary Grant played.


(Spelling: ‘Daniel’ )


Before appearing together in “Ninotchka”, Ina Clare and Garbo were featured in a magazine article at the time of Ina’s marriage to John Gilbert in 1929. The article says that Garbo was expected to be Gilbert’s next bride.


Ina was married to John Gilbert ( her second husband) from 1929 to 1931.

In later years Ina lived for decades on Nob  Hill in San Francisco with her husband William R. Wallace, a lawyer.

Of her career, Ina said, “I wished I could have played up to my real name of Fagan and done more varied parts.”

I don’t know why Ina didn’t make more films. Her age may have been against her – approaching 40 by the time of her first sound film; she perhaps preferred the live audiences of Broadway where she was a big star.

Her last film was as Dorothy McGuire’s mother in CLAUDIA (1943).

She  retired from the stage in 1954.


Ina Claire


I caught up with THREE BROADWAY GIRLS (1932) on You Tube. . .originally released as  “The Greeks Have a Word for Them”, I guess it was decided audiences wouldn’t understand that title. Or the original Broadway play title,” The Greeks Have a word for IT!” – the 1930 comedy was by Zoe Akins who coined this phrase. ( So much of the English language is based on the Ancient Greek language.)

The story of the three girls who live on their youth, looks and ability to make men pay for whatever they want. Not too subtle in the pre- code era , and I didn’t find it particularly funny though I liked all three performers – Ina  Claire, Joan Blondell and Madge Evans, with Ina in the main role, wisecracking and leading the action.

Interesting  to see the film’s director, Lowell Sherman (1884-1934) also playing a role in the film. I liked his comedy style. He went on to direct two quite different films in 1933 – “She Done Him Wrong” and “Morning Glory.”
Sherman had been acting  since 1914. He sadly died in 1934, aged 46.

Lowell Sherman, Katharine Hepburn.


Lowell Sherman also starred in WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD, with Constance Bennett and Neil Hamilton.


The plot line of “Three  Broadway Girls”  was used in “THREE BLIND MICE” and “HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE.”

In “Three Broadway Girls”, Joan Blondell is called ‘Schatzi Sutro’ and Madge Evans is ‘Polaire’, while Ina has the plain name of ‘Jean.’
In “How To Marry a Millionaire” Lauren Bacall is also called ‘Schatze’ ,while Marilyn is ‘Pola’

There is quite a good print on You Tube.

Ina had been in the 1919 play, “THE GOLD DIGGERS“ – possibly the first use of that term.

Another Ina Claire I’d like to see, THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY. 


10 responses »

  1. Thank you for giving equal “air time” to Ina Claire, as big a star on Broadway as Garbo was in movies, and probably for a longer time.

  2. I loved this interesting and thorough post! I’m a fan of Garbo, Ninotchka, Ina Claire, Lowell Sherman — and Alejandro Mogollo!! Good stuff.

      • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I hope you’ll enjoy the next one as well — it’s our 100th issue, so we’re doing something special! Here’s the link to newsletter:

        Thank you! 🙂

  3. On the subject of Garbo and comedy, I have a definite soft spot for TWO-FACED WOMAN. Garbo does screwball comedy.

  4. What a great post! Thorough and a great tribute. I’ve always loved Garbo in Ninotchka. And Three Broadway Girls! Haven’t seen that one in aaaaages, need to re-visit.

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