Observer arts writer Lawrence Toppman is blogging about the best year in film history, 1939. Learn about the first two movies in his monthly series – “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Ninotchka” – at charlotteobserver.com/arts or stateoftheartclt.blogspot.com. Here’s a snippet:
“Ninotchka” was marketed with the tagline “Garbo laughs!” Greta Garbo had been one of Hollywood’s tragedy queens for more than a decade when she earned her fourth and final Oscar nomination in the title role of this Ernst Lubitsch comedy.
Director Lubitsch, a German emigre and three-time Oscar nominee himself, made two films about Europe during World War II: “Ninotchka” and “To Be or Not To Be.” His urbane comedies often dealt with serious subjects in a witty way, whether lampooning Hitler in “To Be or Not To Be” or mocking Soviet totalitarianism in “Ninotchka.”