7 Best Movies About the Russians: From Bolsheviks to Berlin
Now that the Left, 150 million dead people later, has finally decided that Russia is a threat to democracy, and Democrat leaders are finally talking about the KGB 25 years after it was disbanded (note to Juan Williams, it’s called the FSB now, and it’s not quite the same thing), we thought it was time to look at some highlights of how Russian and American relations have played out throughout the decades in Hollywood.
From early mockery of Marxism to the dramatic symbol of communism provided by the Berlin Wall, overt Soviet communism did not fare well in major Hollywood productions (despite a concerted effort to introduce themes by the Comintern). However, the threat of nuclear annihilation scared liberal Hollywood into a posture that began to push a moral equivalence that warriors on both sides were to be mistrusted.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was the Russian mob that became the ubiquitous boogeyman in film and television.
Now, of course, the KGB is being blamed for Democrat losses, and they are the big bad guys on the world stage. It will be interesting to see if Hollywood liberals follow suit in a way they rarely did with Islamist terror.
Note: The list is arranged in historical order, not in production order, and great Cold War British movies will have to wait for another list.
First up, two pre-war (and pre-Hitler/Stalin Pact) romantic comedies satirized Soviet communism with big stars and big laughs:
1. Ninotchka (1939)
Ninotchka is the more accomplished of the two, with one of Greta Garbo’s most famous performances as a stern Soviet apparatchik. She's been sent to rein in three Russians sent to Paris to sell off the Czar’s jewelry who have been seduced by capitalism and freedom. Ninotchka is then herself seduced by freedom—and Melvyn Douglas. During the war, a revival of the film in America was suppressed because, by then, the Soviets were our “allies.”
Directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch, who also mined big laughs from Nazis in To Be or Not to Be, and led by a screenwriting team that included Billy Wilder (also to appear later) the movie is filled with great lines such as when Garbo deadpans, “The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.”
2. Comrade X (1940)
In Comrade X, Clark Gable is the romantic foil, who seduces Hedy Lamar. Gable plays a newspaperman filing unflattering stories from Moscow under a pen name. His valet discovers his identity and blackmails him into marrying his daughter to get her out to freedom—despite her being a committed communist. It’s more slapstick than Ninotchka, and the closing line is a classic.