When three Russian emissaries sent to Paris to sell jewels are dazzled by the evils of capitalism, it is up to humorless Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) to ensure the Russian people and the socialist ideals are not abandoned and that the jewels are not held up in court by their former owner, the Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire), who lost the jewels during the Revolution. Her faithful friend Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas) makes it his goal to seduce Ninotchka, or at very least get her to smile.
While the US and the Soviet Union were still allies in 1939, this era between the two World Wars marks the beginning of Hollywood's war against the communist way of life. The filmmakers present a stark contrast between a dreary, oppressive Russia and a carefree, beautiful Paris, where one can live life without a care.
Partly for security reasons, and partly because they are bad communists, the three emissaries rent the royal suite in the largest hotel in Paris, while back in Moscow they must live in cramped quarters, sharing a small room with several other people, constantly living with the fear of being reported and sent to Siberia. But in Paris, they can have grand parties in the royal suite with bottles and bottles of champagne.
Ninotchka, upon her arrival, puts an end to all happiness. She inspects the Eiffel Tower from a technical standpoint, and when told that the tower is only used by desperate Parisians as a place to jump, she asks how long it takes them to land. When the Count does get her to laugh, it destroys her entire facade, and with it the majority of her ideals. To the filmmakers communism is not only an economic system, but also a suppression of happiness. It is impossible to be a communist and truly be alive.