by Steve Finefrock, founder Hollywood Conservative Forum
“Garbo laughs” was the tagline for “Ninotchka” during WW2, a comedy with a theme lampooning the commie capitol of Russia. And, soon that nation would be our ally, to defeat fascism. Intervening years have shown a remarkable lack of similar confrontation of the threats that befall us. This is as it was for Hollywood, and the liberals generally, from “Ninotchka” to present day. The twilight struggle against communism was hindered by sunshine patriots and summer soldiers of the left, many scoffing at “Ninotchka” and its themes.
Some can see, some cannot, others will not – thus the old saw, None Are So Blind As Those Who Will Not See. And so today, there are floods of Ninotchkas, yet to arrive at beaming Paris, the City of Lights and have their eyes opened to the truth. In this glorious film, a Russian agent meets errant errand boys at the train station, noting how the latest news has been: “The last mass trials were a success: there will be fewer, but better Russians.”
Directed by Ernest Lubitsch, and co-written by a later famed director, Billy Wilder, it showed the truth seen by those recent immigrants who had seen totalitarian thought, and could laugh at it. Unlike commie-hugger Charles Chaplin – who lampooned only Hitler – Lubitschians saw the evil on the left, and laughed it into submission. They saw clearly the Ninotchka nostrums as insight. Soon, the film’s heroine meets Leon, a discounted count serving a Russian refugee; Leon charms Ninotchka, after corrupting the threesome she’s come to discipline. On meeting that trio, Leon cheerfully observes, “A Russian! I love Russians! Comrade, I’ve been fascinated by your five-year plan for the last fifteen years.”
Today’s Ninotchka is by the legion, as the threat has changed, but the silliness of the left has not. Some see, and some do not – and some lampoon those who do see. Such as Sarah Palin’s answer about Russia, as an Alaskan. You remember her symbolic statement: I can see Russia from my house.
Unfortunately, some women’s thoughts go the ‘female’ way, bypassing the intermediate logical steps to the conclusion which seems obvious to the speaker, but not to the listener. Had only Sarah added, “I lived, with Alaskans generally for three generations, beneath those B-52 bombers laden with megatonnage of nuclear death. Their target, Russia, was just across the water. We, I, all of us could see Russia from our front porch, or at least the clouds over Russia’s Siberian weather. Yes, I can see Russia from my house. I know Russia. I know evil when I see, for I saw it then. How about you, Mr. Reporter? Do you know evil when it’s your neighbor?”
Of course, in this soundbite world, much of that glorious utterance would be edited, and the “from my house” fragment would still have been the news. Palin is our darling, for most conservatives understood implicitly what her quick quip meant. She should have done a “Leno”: explain your context before delivering the punchline. She will learn much better in the coming years.
After Ninotchka returns to Russia, Leon enters a visa office, overhearing a Russian official responding to a phone query: “Hello! Comrade Kasabian? No, I am sorry. He hasn’t been with us for six months. He was called back to Russia and was investigated. You can get further details from his widow.”
Did liberals ‘get’ that line, then or now? Were there filmmakers of today’s younger generation who came from new realms of evil, we might see a Ninotchka with a different ethnic or ideological or religious spin. For the Lubitsch and Wilder generation knew, they saw, the evil they lampooned. They could see Russia from their front porch, side window, back door.
As Sarah Palin sees, understands, grasps. When she learns the ‘set up’ to such clever punchlines, the rhetoric will improve. She’ll have to absorb advice from Joseph Pulitzer:
“Put it to them briefly, so they will read it; clearly, so they will appreciate it; picturesquely, so they will remember it; and, above all, accurately, so they will be guided by its light.”
Her cheer and joy and energy will lighten the world when Sarah takes the podium at CPAC this week. She is the New Ninotchka, who lamented on finding love with Leon: “I’m so happy, I’m so happy! Nobody can be so happy without being punished.” Unlike the greenie scolds in the Gore dungeon, Sarah ‘gets’ it and knows that we need not build a nation with commissars who consume fuel in private jets, while admonishing everyone else to fly coach, or take the bus.
As one Latinate scholar has offered, as one slogan for our Sarah: “Saram nostram nolite tangere!!! ” Which means simply: Lay off our Sarah. Not that she needs a bodyguard of eyes and ears protecting her from journalistic excess. She has lived her own Chronicles of Sarah, akin to “Terminator” heroine Sarah Conner. Our Sarah knows what Conner had to learn the hard, arduous way: there is evil, and some see, others don’t, and far too many will not see.
Sarah Conner didn’t see anything from her silly-girl porch, until the protector taught her battle hardness. Our Sarah knows the terminator forces will not relent, will not stop, will not slow down, until we are all dead. She can see Ninotchka from her house, her home, her mind, her moral sense of ancient verities.
Our Sarah knows Ninotchka, Ninotchka was her neighbor, and she sees what Ninotchka eventually opened her eyes to see. Barack Obama, you’re no Ninotchka. Not now, not ever. Sarah saw more from her porch on a single day’s errands than the DNC will see in a generation. She has Ninotchka eyes. Obama’s crowd are more akin to the commissar played by Bela Lugosi near the film’s end, who sends her on another mission, this time – unknown to him – it is her escape back to Leon.
Remember Lugosi? Known for playing vampires: those critters who can’t generate their own blood sustenance, so have to suck it out of others to keep themselves functioning. Much like socialism, communism, liberalism. That is what Sarah could see from her porch in Wasilla, Alaska. She could imagine those B-52 contrails overhead in the blue sky heading across the straits, into Russia, and returning contrails of Russian attack planes and missiles. She lived next door to Ninotchka her whole life.
And where did Obama live? In the corrupt bosom of Cook County, the land of vampires who rig elections, jokingly admonishing citizens to “Vote Early, and Vote Often” without a single blush at the meaning of that slogan.
That is what Sarah can see from that CPAC podium this week. She sees Russia, and militant Islam, and the other dangers, which today would be played in a modern film by current Legosi actors. As Obama does not, and indeed will not see.
copyright 2009 Steve Finefrock
Finefrock is founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to “Bring the Potomac to the Palisades” on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called "A State of the Union"], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA's Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation’s capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters. Finefrock is proprietor of PhoneBooth: The Smallest Space in Hollywood…