falderal : a moving images blog
Grand Hotel ; 1932  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: Edmund Goulding
Actors: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, I would like to say “Happy birthday!” to the “Queen of MGM”, Norma Shearer. I didn’t have any more Shearer films with me so I decided to post about a film that Shearer would have been in except word has it that her fans begged her not to star in it. I wish that Shearer was in it, but I love the cast of Grand Hotel as it is. Nevertheless, happy birthday, and may you rest in peace.

The whole idea of Grand Hotel is stated by the Doctor (Stone) saying, “Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” Although it seems like it goes against all the drama that does happen in the film, it does show the nature of the hotel. People come in and go out all the time and although there are things happening in the place, in the end the stories that happen there doesn’t matter because it is replaced by the new flood of people that come. The drama that happened one time in Grand Hotel is all forgotten eventually.

Or at least that is my take on it.

I highly enjoyed this film the first time I watched it and when I watched it the second time around, I was more interested in how the hotel functions as a place. There is so much going on but everything is ephemeral there: the food, the music, the romance, nothing ever lasts. People change while they are in this hotel, but the hotel never changes and always does the same thing by serving the people under its roof. The story we see in this film is just a small fraction of what happened at that one period of time in the hotel’s history and it’ll soon just be irrelevant replaced by the new couple who come to the hotel in the end and eventually their presence and actions will be forgotten. I love that the hotel creates the opportunity of mishmashing between all kinds of different people such as a stenographer, an ill man, a ballerina, a baron, and a textiles business man. How the drama unfolds in this film is perfect and the ending is bittersweet. Surprisingly the second time around, I didn’t feel much sadness for Grusinskaya (Garbo) and felt even happier for Flaemmchen (Crawford) and Kringelein (L. Barrymore). I guess Grusinskaya was simply too selfish for me the second time around whereas when I first saw her, my fascination with Garbo and her beauty enraptured me.

Crawford’s performance in this film was spectacular. Even Garbo couldn’t outshine Crawford because Garbo seemed too overdone and almost not genuine. While I thought that she did portray her character well, Crawford’s timing and face expressions were performed so perfectly that I enjoyed every minute of her screen time. Her little talk with the Baron (J. Barrymore) was flawless because her body language and face expressions made it clear what kind of person she was. Crawford has such a presence in each scene that you have to see this film just for her.

Also, I have to point out my amusement of how long it takes for Greta Garbo to appear in a film. And on top of that, her entrance is always dragged out and her glorious face is always obscured by something and then makes a dramatic entrance. It’s almost laughable at times and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I saw how the bed sheets just happen to cover her face in Grand Hotel and the camera does almost a full circle until it gets to Garbo and her face.

I believe that this film was the first all-star cast film to ever be made in America. I think that MGM succeeded in creating a film that had the star power and a great story to go with it. I highly recommend it and just like how the hotel changes over time, your thoughts about the film and what intrigues you will change every time you watch it as well.

IMDb Link: Grand Hotel
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Leave a Reply