Greta Garbo

January 31, 2009

Greta Garbo in a scene from Ninotchka. Yes, I drew this one because I am on an outrageous hat kick. (But also because Ninotchka is a superb movie)

Ernst Lubitsch was the director of Ninotchka, and I think that one of his trademarks was turning a very dark, somber subject into light fare comedy, and actually succeeding at it. Case in point: To Be or Not To Be. How light and funny is it? It stars Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. How dark is the subject? Nazis invading Poland. Seriously. And it works. Ninotchka is an adventure in the same form- Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas (increasingly becoming one of my favorite male actors, but I will save that for another post) star in a farcical comedy about communist Russia.

The movie starts out by introducing us to three Bolsheviks, two of which are among my favorite character actors: Felix Bressart and Sig Rumann. They have arrived in Paris to collect the jewels of a Russian countess and bring them back to Russia. When the Bolsheviks find capitalism is a heck of a lot more fun than communism, and neglect to bring back the jewels, Greta Garbo—Ninotchka—is sent in to collect the jewels and the wayward Bolsheviks. The first symbol of capitalism that Garbo sees in Paris is an outrageous hat in a store window. She utters, “how can such a civilization survive which permits women to put things like that on their heads?” I guess you can surmise what happens in the film considering that my drawing depicts her wearing said hat.

PS. My other favorite Garbo film is Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise, which isn’t actually on DVD. If you ever see it in your tv listings, make sure you watch it! It’s a great movie with Clark Gable that you don’t want to miss.

Prismacolor marker on white sketch paper

No comments: