We are travelling back to 1932 today to take a look at the fourth film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The film is titled Grand Hotel and featured some of the biggest names in classic cinema. For a lot of people that probably isn’t a big deal but for me it was the first time I have seen some of these actors and actresses. This was the first time I had witnessed the talents of Gretta Garbo, Joan Crawford or John Barrymore. The film was surprisingly enjoyable and full of a number of crazy and vivid characters.
The film all takes place in one bulding, the Grand Hotel in Berlin. The story begins by introducing six different characters with six different stories and then allowing those stories to intertwine and interact. At the start and end of the film, one of the characters referred to as the Doctor gives us the famous quote “The Grand Hotel….always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” This quote serves as a way to describe the film as a whole, though we don’t realize it until the very end. The film begins by showing a car pulling up to the Grand Hotel and then by allowing us to hear one side of a phone conversation from each main character. These conversations allow the audience to understand each character’s reason for staying at the Grand Hotel.
• Grusenskaya (Greta Garbo)- a famous ballet dancer in town for a number of different shows. A tempermental dancer who seems to be losing her appeal with the public, Gru is generally not happy. After a dance, she finds the Baron hiding in her room and though he admits to trying to steal her pearls, the two fall madly in love and plan on running away together.
• The Baron (John Barrymore)- The Baron has been sent to the Grand Hotel to steal Gru’s pearls. An extremely charming character, the Baron befriends nearly everyone he meets including Mr. Kringelein and Flae. After instantly falling for Gru, the Baron abandonds his quest to steal her pearls and embarks on a quest to gain enough money to run away with her through cons and thievery. Though he is a theif and a con artist, the Baron has a conscious, not coning good people like poor Mr. Kringelein, out of their money (during the course of the film at least). The Baron ends up attempting to steal from General Director Preysing resulting in disaster for both of them.
• General Director Preysing (Wallace Berry)- owner of a large textile company, Preysing is desperately trying to merge his company with another. The only way the merger will go through is if Pirsing gets the business of yet another company. Hiring Flaemmche to compose messages for him, Preysing desperately tries to get the company’s business as well as make the merger go through.
• Mr. Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore)- a man who has worked in Preysing’s textile factory and saved money all his life, Mr. K has recently found out only has weeks to live. Dead set on living as lavishly as possible for the rest of his short life, Mr. K is going out in style by spending the rest of his money at the expensive Grand Hotel. A simple man, Mr. K befriends the Baron and Flaemmche, not believing that someone as sophisticated as the Baron or as beatufiul as Flaemmche would ever like him. Mr. K is, in my opinion, the best character in the film. Lovable and happy just to live the rest of his life in happiness and around people, Mr. K’s happiness seems to permeate and infect most of those he comes in contatct with.
• Flaemmche (Joan Crawford)- a young woman trying to get by, Flaemmche jumps at the chance to type for Preysing and to be put up at the Grand Hotel. Spending her free time living it up in the lavish hotel, Flaemmche meets both the Baron and Mr. K. Beocming a friend to both and helping the Baron with his problems, Flaemmche ends the film trying to help Mr. K live the life he deserves.
Overall I found this film to be wonderfully enjoyable. The acting was outstanding, introducing me to some fabulous actors and actress I have never before seen on screen. The directing was a prime example of classic directing. Edmund Golding played with shot composition, shadows, light and camera angles to tell a story with the camera as well as dialogue. After explaining the role each chatacter has in the film, you may think I was crazy to say the Doctor’s quote describes the film. As the film ends, all the characters leave the Grand Hotel to go on whatever new adventures they have placed or face whatever consequences await them. As the characters leave, another car drives up and a whole new group of characters enter the hotel, prompting the Doctor to repeat the same quote. Nothing ever happens to the Grand Hotel, it just continues to house different guests, spit them out and then house more. I give this film a 8.5 out of 10. It easily proves that one shouldn’t jump to judge a film just because it is old. In fact, this film was better than some of the recent Oscar Best Picture winners that I have seen.