Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best picture – Grand Hotel (1932)

Starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore and Joan Crawford

Rating 8/10

As you can see from the impressive cast, this film was destined to win Best Picture. The story is solid, the production, beautiful. It is a timeless story with enduring meaning.

Grand Hotel is set in Berlin at the end of World War I. It is a top notch hotel; only the most important people stay here. The foyer is impressive. It is a cylinder shape reaching to the roof, making for some impressive shots. The movie itself is circular. As with all hotels, stories and people come and go. As the doctor famously says; “People come and go. Nothing ever happens.” As I said, the narrative is rock solid! This is because it is based on the German novel, Menschen im Hotel and the massively successful Broadway musical.

Don’t you just love movies with lovable characters? Hooray, I actually care about these random personalities. I love when I care! At first I didn’t know who was who, especially with such a fuzzy picture, but soon it all made sense.

There is the Baron Felix von Geigern(John Barrymore); a charming thief of a man who is really rather lovable. He falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Russian ballerina, Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo). Then there is the gentle soul, the dying accountant, Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) who has nothing to lose. And his ruthless boss, General Director Preysing who employs Flaemmchen (Joan Collins) to be his stenographer and perhaps something else a little more sordid. Phew! What a list. What a cast.

These seeming mismatched characters arrive separately but their lives all become entwined. Drama follows the meeting of these random people. It gets serious, really serious. There may be tears and dramatic embraces. Themes such as, death, redemption, purity, hope and greed run riot through this cracker of a film. Gee it’s fun to meet these old, beautiful films. It is so precious.

Grand Hotel is impressive. There’s nothing outrageously adventurous about it. It’s simply about life and death and the choices people make along the way. At one stage, Kringelein says, “If a man doesn’t know death, he doesn’t know life.” Out of all of the characters it is Kringelein who knows the value of life and how to live it.

This is a most watchable movie. Though it is filmed entirely within the walls (and out the front) of the Grand Hotel, it is not a slow movie. It has action, heart, romance and death; all vital ingredients for a truly great film. It is a pleasure to see stars like Garbo, Collins and Barrymore deliver such a moving tale. It is like watching Royalty.

The only downside to Grand Hotel was the quality. I had to wear earphones to hear the dialogue over the background noise and the picture was really hard to look at. I’m sure you can buy this on dvd somewhere on planet earth if you are that keen. It is definitely a keeper. Check out the opening scene here for a taster!

Grand Hotel Trivia:

  • Budget : $700 000
  • Here’s the goss on Garbo and Collins: According to our friends at Wikipedia, the girls were so competitive they refused to be in the same scene. Also, Collins knew that Garbo hated people arriving late, so she would deliberately be tardy just to watch Garbo boil.
  • Grand Hotel was remade in 1945. The film? Weekend at the Waldorf. Check it out, contrast and compare!
  • Garbo’s famous quote, “I want to be alone” has been one of the world’s most misquoted lines. Many people thought it was, “I want to be let alone,” which changes the meaning quite a bit don’t you think?
  • In rehearsal, Greta Garbo asked that the stage be lit with red lights in the romantic scenes to set the mood.

Next week we set sail on a journey through time with Cavalcade.This one will be tricky to track down as it hasn’t yet been released on dvd. But don’t give up, I won’t. I will post a link when I find it. Drop me a line and let me know what you think of Oscar Club and the films so far!


One comment on “Best picture – Grand Hotel (1932)

  1. Kaye
    September 14, 2010

    Looks great,will U tube later tonight,have no time this week and am off tomorrow and Thursday and is the Barrymore men of Drew Barrymores family?

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