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Balalaika (1939)

Approved | | Musical, Romance | 29 December 1939 (USA)
A Russian prince disguised as a worker and a cafe singer secretly involved in revolutionary activities fall in love.


Reinhold Schünzel (as Reinhold Schunzel)


Leon Gordon (screenplay), Charles Bennett (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Nelson Eddy ... Prince Peter Karagin, aka Peter Teranda
Ilona Massey ... Lydia Pavlovna Marakova
Charles Ruggles ... Nicki Popoff (as Charlie Ruggles)
Frank Morgan ... Ivan Danchenoff
Lionel Atwill ... Prof. Marakov
C. Aubrey Smith ... Gen. Karagin
Joyce Compton ... Masha (Lydia's maid)
Dalies Frantz ... Dimitri Marakov
Walter Woolf King ... Capt. Michael Sibirsky
Phillip Terry ... Lt. Smirnoff
Frederick Worlock ... Ramensky
Abner Biberman ... Leo Proplinski
Arthur W. Cernitz Arthur W. Cernitz ... Capt. Sergei Pavloff
Roland Varno ... Lt. Nikitin
George Tobias ... Slaski (bartender)


Prince Peter Karagin, an officer in the Cossack army, sees and hears lovely Lydia Marakova in the cafe Balalaika in St. Petersburg and wants to meet her. When he hears she likes to fraternize with a lower class of people, he gives a student 50 rubles for his clothing. She eventually accepts his persistant presence and they fall in love. Peter uses his influence to get Lydia an audition at the opera house, where she is hired and is scheduled to perform later. The Prince, however, is not aware that she, her father and brother are part of a revolutionary movement. Their mutual deception is quickly shattered when Peter and the Cossacks violently break up a revolutionary rally in the public square, where Lydia's brother is killed. Soon afterwards, she learns that the rebels plan to assassinate Peter and his uncle, General Karagin, at the opera house on opening night, and still in love, she warns Peter not to go to the performance. He cancels the reservations, but General Karagin decides to... Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Wine, women and song fill the screen as M-G-M thrills the world with its gay, dashing, musical triumph! See more »


Musical | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This film's initial telecast in Los Angeles took place Thursday 21 November 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Philadelphia Thursday 13 February 1958 on WFIL (Channel 6); in San Francisco it first aired 8 July 1959 on KGO (Channel 7), and, finally, in New York City, 17 May 1961 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »


Nicki Popoff: [after Princess Naalya Petrovna asks him to dance in his Parisian café] Oh, your highness. Well, and to think it took a revolution to bring us together.
See more »


Featured in From the Ends of the Earth (1939) See more »


Silent Night (Stille Nacht)
Written by Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber
Sung in German by Nelson Eddy and by Austrian soldiers.
See more »

User Reviews

Uneven, uninspired musical with Eddy at least singing magnificently...
11 July 2006 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

MGM gave NELSON EDDY a chance to co-star with someone other than JEANETTE MacDONALD, but they gave him a lumbering musical about a Russian prince who disguises himself as a commoner in order to woo a princess. It's the kind of story done countless times before and the only distinction here is the music.

Nelson sings some rousing Russian numbers and is joined in song by the beautiful ILONA MASSEY, who looks like a younger, blonder edition of Marlene Dietrich, sunken cheekbones and all. Given the complete glamor treatment with glossy MGM close-ups complimenting her vivacious good looks, Massey has what seems a contralto singing voice and not quite the soprano the songs want her to be. Neverthelss, she makes a striking picture opposite the robust baritone who is in excellent voice here.

As usual, there are comedy moments to lighten the rather dark story set against the Russian revolution, and these are handled rather indifferently by Frank Morgan, Charlie Ruggles and George Tobias. Sharp-eyed movie fans can catch a glimpse of actor Phillip Terry who is kept mostly in the background during the cabaret sequences.

Overall, it's a cumbersome story, with a predictable outcome, that takes too many long stretches between songs to tell a rather tedious story of lovers separated by their politics.

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Release Date:

29 December 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Balalajka See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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