Rouben Mamoulian

Sog.: ispired from Ninotchka (1939) by Melchior Lengyel and from the pìece of the same name (1955). Scen.: Leonard Gershe, Leonard Spigelgass. F.: Robert Bronner. M.: Harold F. Kress. Scgf.: William A. Horning, Randall Duell. Mus.: Cole Porter. Int.: Fred Astaire (Steve Canfield), Cyd Charisse (Ninotchka Yoschenko), Janis Paige (Peggy Dayton), Peter Lorre (Brankov), George Tobias (Vassili Markovitch), Jules Munshin (Bibinski), Joseph Buloff (Ivanov), Wim Sonneveld (Peter Ilyitch Boroff). Prod.: Arthur Freed per Arthur Freed Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 35mm. D.: 117’. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

In this, Mamoulian’s final film and his most nuanced work on the power of seduction, a famous Russian composer in Paris, courted by a Hollywood producer (Fred Astaire as Steve) to write music for his upcoming production of War and Peace, defects to the West. Three commissars are sent to take him back to Moscow. Lured by the charms of Paris, they fail. It is then that a female envoy (Cyd Charisse) is sent to save the face of communism. This is not just a musical remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka with songs by Cole Porter – it’s a terrific film in its own right, with Mamoulian putting the emphasis on themes drastically different from the original.
Next to Two Weeks in Another Town by Vincente Minnelli, Silk Stockings is a great work of self-reflective cinema that contemplates the demise of a Hollywood now at the mercy of cheaper labour in European film studios. The self-reflective mode (manifested in songs) in combination with the film-within-film narrative (a musical about making a musical) allows Mamoulian to directly and freely comment on the state of American cinema in the late 1950s.
Mamoulian shows two types of seduction at work: one material (ephemeral, vulgar, capitalistic) and the other sensual (personal and transformative). His critique of material  seduction  is  both a satire on how Soviet communism removes desire from life and perhaps an even better satire on the shallowness of Hollywood, through the relentless caricature of an Esther-Williams-type of movie star, played by Janis Paige.
All values are in rapid downfall. While Mamoulian looks at the changing world with some disdain he still acknowledges the beauty of desire through touch, costume and memories. When Ninotchka is finally beguiled by the charms of the West she drifts into a lush solo dance. It is now her turn to seduce someone: the viewer. This is an exquisite scene as we, the audience, are given the chance to see her transformation even before Steve does. This is one of those rare moments in which Mamoulian is directly speaking to us. In an otherwise sardonic film about an industry that has become increasingly gimmicky and devoid of true meaning, Mamoulian invites us to the last dance.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Copy From

courtesy of Park Circus.