Nikita Khrushchev Goes to Hollywood

Lunch with the Soviet leader was Tinseltown’s hottest ticket, with famous celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin

The Soviet leader makes his entrance at 20th Century Fox on September 19, 1959. He would call Can-Can exploitive and pornographic. (Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images)
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"Don't believe everything you read," Skouras shot back. That got a laugh, too.

When Skouras sat down, Lodge stood up to introduce Khrushchev. While the ambassador droned on about America's alleged affection for Russian culture, Khrushchev heckled him, plugging a new Soviet movie.

"Have you seen They Fought for Their Homeland?" the premier called out. "It is based on a novel by Mikhail Sholokhov."

"No," Lodge said, a bit taken aback.

"Well, buy it," said Khrushchev. "You should see it."

Smiling, the dictator stepped to the dais and invited the stars to visit the Soviet Union: "Please come," he said. "We will give you our traditional Russian pies."

He turned to Skouras—"my dear brother Greek"—and said he was impressed by his capitalist rags-to-riches story. But then he topped it with a communist rags-to-riches story. "I started working as soon as I learned how to walk," he said. "I herded cows for the capitalists. That was before I was 15. After that, I worked in a factory for a German. Then I worked in a French-owned mine." He paused and smiled. "Today, I am the premier of the great Soviet state."

Now it was Skouras' turn to heckle. "How many premiers do you have?"

"I will answer that," Khrushchev replied. He was premier of the whole country, he said, and then each of the 15 republics had its own premier. "Do you have that many?"

"We have two million American presidents of American corporations," Skouras replied.


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