Friday, March 4, 2011

Grand Hotel (1932).

Grand Hotel(1932), has stood the test of time because of it's all-star cast. Directed by Edmund Goulding. The screenplay by William A. Drake and Bela Balázs is based on the 1930 play of the same title by Drake, who had adapted it from the 1929 novel Menschen im Hotel by Vicki Baum.

The film is the only one to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture without it or its actors being nominated in any other category. The film was remade as, Week-End at the Waldorf (1945).

The film begins when, Grand Hotel permanent resident Doctor Otternschlag, a veteran of World War I,  is looking on while people are coming and going.

Next.. you have Baron Felix von Geigern, who supports himself gambling and part-time jewel thief. He becomes friends with Otto Kringelein , who is dying and wants to spend his last days in a beautiful hotel after a life time scrimping and saving.

Then you have.. Kringelein's former employer, Preysing, closing a deal with the help of his stenographer, Flaemmchen. Who really wants to become an actress and she is willing to do anything to advance her acting career.

Another guest is... Russian ballerina Grusinskaya , whose career is beginning to fade. When She returns from the theatre, she finds Baron in her room stealing her pearls and she tells him, "I want to be alone." Baron decides to stay and Grusinskaya, does not seem to really want him to leave.

The next morning, Baron returns Grusinskaya's pearls, but after a wonderful night with him, she does not seem to concerned about the necklace and invites him to travel with her to Vienna, which he accepts the invitation.

Later, during afternoon tea, the Baron joins Kringelein and Flaemmchen, talks the frail man into dancing with her. Preysing, demands she join him in his suite. Not happy, with his former boss rude behavior, Kringelein gives him a piece of his mind. Preysing, is about to hit Kringelein up side the head, when the Baron jumps in and invites him to join him in a game of cards. Kringelein accepts and wins everything, when he becomes intoxicated and drops his wallet, the Baron picks it up and hides it in his jacket pocket. When Kringelein, begins to search for his lost wallet, the Baron pretends to have suddenly have found the wallet returns it to him.

As part of a merger, Preysing must travel to London and he asks Flaemmchen to join him. Later, when the two are in her room, Preysing sees the shadow of the Baron going through his things. He confronts the Baron and the two get into a fight. Preysing hits the Baron with the telephone, killing him. Flaemmchen comes in and sees what happened. Preysing, insists he acted in self-defense, but Kringelein calls the police and has Preysing arrested.

Grusinskaya leaves for the train station, expecting to find the Baron waiting for her. Kringelein, offers to take Flaemmchen, to Paris to find a cure for his illness. As they leave the hotel, Doctor Otternschlag once again watches, the people coming and going in "Grand Hotel"....

Greta Garbo, is definitely the star of the film, but Joan Crawford, also gives a wonderful performance. Lionel Barrymore and John Barrymore are also impressive. The cinematography is beautiful, as it gives us the grandness of the Grand Hotel, the overhead shot of the operators who are taking the calls and then focusing on everyone who are busy with their own lives, is very interesting to watch.

 Fun Facts:

There are no scenes where Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford are in the same frame. This was done to eliminate the possibility that one of the two great stars might upstage the other.

Joan Crawford was irked by Greta Garbo's insistence on top billing and decided to take her revenge. Knowing that Garbo loathed tardiness and Marlene Dietrich in equal measures, Crawford played Dietrich records between shots and made sure to arrive late on set.

The only Best Picture Oscar winner not to be nominated for any other Academy Awards.

Lewis Stone (November 15, 1879 – September 12, 1953). He performed in the film, Nomads of the North(1920), playing a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. He performed in the title role in the silent film version of, The Prisoner of Zenda(1922), as well as, Rudolf Rassendyll.

Stone was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for, The Patriot (1929). After that, he performed in seven movies with Greta Garbo, in both the silent and sound periods. He played the role of Dr. Otternschlag in the Garbo film, Grand Hotel, in which, completely unaware of all the high drama that is going on, he says the famous closing line: "Grand Hotel. People come. People go. Nothing ever happens". He played a larger role in the Garbo film, Queen Christina(1933).  He performed in the films, Big house, The Lost World (1925),The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) and Missing Persons (1933).

In 1937, Stone began the role which would become his most famous, that of Judge James Hardy, in the Mickey Rooney "Andy Hardy" series. Stone performed as the judge in fifteen movies, beginning with You're Only Young Once (1937).


  1. That Joan - always thinking! Got to love her for that.

  2. Dawn,
    Sorry, typos on the last post. Anyway, Greta and Joan in the same picture. How can you beat that! Both so beautiful! I watched some of it last night, have seen it many times. Wonderful!

  3. I'm a huge fan of this film. Thalberg was such a genius in terms of knowing what would work and who to use. Everyone in the cast was at the top of his/her game, but I love Crawford in this because she's allowed to do more than play the "secretary in love" or "the flapper" or any of the other types she was known for. It's also a film that works better after several viewings. The pacing of early sound films is very different from what would come later, and it takes a little getting used to it.

  4. Classicfilmboy, I agree, What a great cast!! Grand Hotel, is a film that does get better after several viewings.


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