A newspaper man, his ignored fiancée, and his former employee, a down on his luck reporter, hatch an elaborate scheme to turn a false news story into the truth in order to prevent a high-society woman from suing for libel.
Millicent Jordan is pre-occupied with the plans she is making for a high-class dinner party. Her husband Oliver is in failing health, and he is also worried because someone is trying to buy up the stock in his shipping business - even his old friend Carlotta wants to sell her stock. Hoping to get help from businessman Dan Packard, he persuades Millicent, against her wishes, to invite Packard and his wife to the dinner. As Oliver's problems get worse, Millicent is increasingly quick-tempered because the plans for the party are not going smoothly. As the time for the dinner approaches, it appears that the hosts and the guests will all have plenty on their minds. Written by
I love this movie, especially the wonderfully over-the-top comic scenes in which Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery square off, but I never have understood how the timing for the dinner evening was supposed to work. Everyone was to gather for dinner at 8, and the hostess (Billie Burke) said she had planned for the group to go to a Broadway play ("Say It With Music") and to a nightclub after that. How? Curtain time then was, at the latest, 8:30, and I don't see this high-toned crowd wolfing down a carefully prepared meal and dashing across town to a theater. And no one in that assemblage, except for Harlow, seemed likely to go in for late-night clubbing. (I'll concede that the hostess canceled the nightclub reservation after learning the truth about her husband's health, but there's still the matter of bolting down dinner and zooming off to the theater.) See more »
One of the Best Comedies M-G-M made During the 1930s
The movie Dinner at Eight is one of the best comedies ever made in Hollywood. Any reviewer who has claimed that it isn't a comedy needs to re-examine the picture. Although undeniably dark in its tone, the film is undeniably hilarious, especially when certain actors are on-screen. It could be called a dark comedy, even a black comedy, but a comedy it is nonetheless. There are eight `above-the-title' stars in this picture.
Billie Burke, except for the scene in which she discovers her husband is ill, is a parody of the society woman. Every line of hers, emphasizing her scatterbrain-ness and her lack of priorities, reeks of hilarity. Her role is pure comedy.
Lionel Barrymore, playing a sickly business tycoon, has a less comedic role. His opening lines about `Australian mutton' are hilarious. The way he watches his wife planning the party is also quite comedic. His dramatic moments juxtapose alongside his wife's to create some of her funniest moments. His part is almost split down the middle between comedy and drama.
Wallace Beery, portraying a ruthless, uncouth business man, is hilarious. His vulgarity contradict everything Mrs. Jordan views as ideal. He screams, yells, and has a violent temper. And, boy, is he funny to watch. Anyone who tries to label his performance as anywhere near dramatic should have his or her head examined. He gives the funnies male performance in the film. The role is almost all comedy.
Jean Harlow, as his slutty, common, vixen-of-a-wife gives the finest comedic performance of her entire career. She snarls, changes her voice in different conversations, manipulates, and lies, all to comedic perfection. Just the sound of her voice, saying the most outrageous dialogue to boot, triggers the laughs. This is the most comedic role in the picture.
John Barrymore, as an aging silent matinee idol, is the film's most dramatic performance. Although he has some comic moments (very few), and some ironic and satirical actions (when he kills himself, for example, he positions the light perfectly to capture his profile), for the most part, his scenes give the film their most dramatic moments. The performance is about 90% drama.
Edmund Lowe, playing a doctor-cum-playboy having a tryst with Harlow, has his part split down the middle. He is often funny, never reaching the sheer hilarity of some of the others, but, also, never quite elevating to the heights of histrionics either. His views on extramarital affairs are pretty funny, but when he has to tell a patient of impending illness, its drama. The fact that he specializes in `bedside manner' is just funny, and his first embrace with his `patient' is a scathing critique of corrupt society. Just as Lionel Barrymore's role, Lowe's is split fifty-fifty, right down the middle.
Lee Tracy, as John Barrymore's agent, is simply hilarious. His vocal fluctuations were his trademark, and the part seems tailor-made for him. Although he has many dramatic moments, he is very funny most of the time. His reactions and gestures are wonderful. In all, this part is about 60% comedy, 40% drama.
Marie Dressler, as a grand dame of the 1890s, is priceless. She all-but steals the picture from her co-stars. Sprinkled among her part are dozens of comic innuendos and perfect double takes. She is perfect and absolutely hilarious at all time, with the exception of the one scene in which she must explain to a young woman that her lover has committed suicide. The rest of the time she goes traipsing about making a perfect spectacle of herself, and she is the greatest asset to the film, acting-wise. Her part is 99% comic, except for that one scene.
The supporting actors, particularly Louise Closser Hale and Grant Withers, are comedic perfection. With the exception of the scenes in John Barryore's room at the Hotel Versailles, almost every supporting role is meant to be funny. The sets and costumes poke fun at the times too, and in the last analysis, the picture is a dramatic comedy, but a comedy bien sûr!
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