Monday, September 10, 2007

Grand Hotel review

Grant Hotel (1932) is one of my favorite films of all time and even though it's won an academy award it's widely overlooked by people who are into 1930's cinema.

Grand Hotel boasts the five greatest stars of their day all sharing the screen together. Of course now, Joan Crawford, John and Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo and Wallace Berry are not names that the general movie going public is well-acquainted with which changes the viewing experience significantly. Nevertheless, some of the performances are transcendent. Without knowing anything about them it’s easy to understand why Garbo was considered such an exotic treasure, John Barrymore as a prototype for the matinee idol, and Joan Crawford has leading-lady material the likes of which would make Julia Roberts jealous.

Wallace Berry plays Mr. Prising a testy industrial giant on a business trip. Next door to him, John Barrymore plays a Baron whose title does not give him any wealth and he must resort to stealing. Joan Crawford plays a stenographer who’s sweet on the Baron but is hired by the industrial giant who desires an affair with her. Garbo plays a reclusive ballerina whose jewels are targeted by the Baron and Lionel Barrymore plays a nebbish employee of Prising’s Company who’s become terminally ill due to lack of health care provided by the company.

That’s just the introduction and I haven’t even gotten to what happens over the course of the story but needless to say, things do happen and more complications ensue, but briefly put, two people fall in love, one person loses his/her life’s possessions, one person loses his/her life, and one person gains his/hers.

Set in a hotel where the lives of five guests intertwine, it’s breezy, lively and light-hearted enough to rival an art deco musical in escapist value. At the same time, it is a very telling story of class conflict that resonates with a lot of weight when the five stories come together so serendipitously (although minor stint: in such a short movie, Greta Garbo has a couple extraneous scenes that don’t really mesh into the rest of the movie that well). It’s really a beautiful and profound story that really should be more advertised.


Justine said...

Agreed, more people should see this gem. It really started the "All Star cast" idea, and I don't think it's ever been beat within that strange little niche. The story is wonderfully melodramatic, and all the performers are at the top of their game. I especially love Crawford and John Barrymore, but the entire cast is at the top of their game. One of the best of the year (I rank Trouble in Paradise above it), more people should see it.

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