Join Lawrence Toppman in loving the movies of 1939

04/26/2014 12:00 AM

04/25/2014 11:24 AM

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 or 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.”

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