Silk Stockings – Rouben Mamoulian
In one of the film’s few technical lapses, we find ourselves without transition in Russia about a year later. The Soviets meet for a reunion in Ninotchka’s portion of a somber flat shared with several others. Soviet life is depicted as void of luxury, privacy, pleasure, and beauty. Ninotchka receives a letter from Canfield, completely censored except for the salutation and closing. Boroff reveals that he has adopted a new musical style and performs “The Red Blues.” The other occupants of Ninotchka’s flat join the singing and dancing to express their dissatisfaction with Soviet life.
When Brankov, Bibinski, and Ivanov are sent to Paris again, an anonymous letter informs the Minister of Culture that they have again been taken in by the city’s decadence. Ninotchka must go once more to bring them home to Russia. When she arrives at the hotel in Paris, she is struck by the Soviet motif in the decor. Her three comrades, dressed in Western clothing, insist that she see the show at the cafe. The production features Steve Canfield dancing and singing “The Ritz Roll and Rock,” a piece written especially for the film by Cole Porter to comment on a brash new musical genre. In their office afterwards, the three Russians tell Ninotchka that they have bought the cafe and do not intend to return to Moscow. She also learns that the anonymous letter was sent by Canfield, who had finally decided it was the only way that he could get her out of Russia. He announces his intention to marry her, and the film ends with “Too Bad,” the same song with which it began.
Silk Stockings was the last show which Cole Porter wrote for the stage, the last film directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and the last musical film in which Fred Astaire appeared as leading man. Contemporary critical response varied from the opinion that the story line was too ponderous for musical comedy treatment to rhapsodies over the dancing of Astaire and Charisse. The dancing is, indeed, the film’s strongest point. Whether it be an expression of the sexual chemistry between the two principals, a manifestation of the frivolity of gay Paris, or merely a showcase for the talented cast, the dancing ‘in Silk Stockings makes the film a worthwhile experience even in an age when the values of the 1950’s seem peculiarly foreign.