A Communist envoy in Paris aims to sell jewels for her country but falls in love with a playboy.
In Paris Russians Iranoff (Sig Ruman), Buljanoff (Felix Bressart), and Kopalski (Alexander Granach) decide to rent the royal suite to put jewels in a large safe. Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas) tells Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire) he can sell her memoirs; but she learns that the three Bolsheviks are trying to sell her jewels. Mercier makes a counter offer to the three. Leon comes in and serves papers for Swana's claim to the jewels. Mercier leaves, and Leon orders lunch. Three cigarette girls entertain Iranoff, Buljanoff, and Kopolski. Leon writes a telegram for the three, proposing a 50-50 split. The three Russians greet special envoy Ninotchka (Greta Garbo), who carries her own bag. She says the room is too expensive and assigns them tasks. On the street Ninotchka asks Leon questions to find the Eiffel Tower. She says his culture is doomed but goes to his house to study him. Ninotchka calls love a nuptial impulse and chemistry. Leon kisses her and gets a call about the envoy. Ninotchka says she must fight him and leaves.
Ninotchka goes to a restaurant for workers, and Leon follows her. He tries to make her laugh with jokes. When he falls down, she finally laughs. Ninotchka tells the lawyers now they must wait. She lets the three go out and tries on her new hat. Leon's butler Gaston says that Leon has changed. Ninotchka comes in, and Leon admires her new dress. Leon tells her he loves her, and she is jealous of Swana. In a restaurant Leon and Ninotchka drink champagne. Swana joins them, talking and clashing with them. Leon assures Ninotchka their relationship won't end with the lawsuit. Tipsy Ninotchka wants to make a speech. Leon learns she organized a strike in the powder-room. In her room Leon has Ninotchka open the safe. She says the jewels are the tears of Russia. He crowns her and carries her to bed before leaving.
Swana calls on Ninotchka the next day and tells her to leave France. Ninotchka realizes the jewels are gone, and Swana has them. Swana offers Ninotchka the jewels if she leaves without seeing Leon. Ninotchka gets a call from Leon and flowers with goat milk. Swana finds Leon waiting for her. He says he is in love, but Swana says that Ninotchka has gone.
Leon asks for a visa to Russia but is denied. In Moscow Ninotchka's roommate Anna (Tamara Shayne) asks her about Paris. Iranoff, Buljanoff, and Kopolski come in and make an omelet. Ninotchka gets a letter from Leon, but it is censored. Commissar Razinin (Bela Lugosi) tells Ninotchka that Iranoff, Buljanoff, and Kopolski are celebrating in Constantinople, and he sends her there. The three invite Ninotchka to their restaurant, and she sees Leon. He persuades her to stay with him or he will corrupt more Russians.
This romantic comedy satirizes Communist ideology and
social customs in contrast to glamorous Paris as the disciplined
Ninotchka gradually thaws out under the influence of love.