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Join Lawrence Toppman in loving the movies of 1939

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.”

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