Grand Hotel (1932) Poster

(I) (1932)

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The Last Days of Weimar
bkoganbing27 February 2007
It's interesting that the Best Picture of the year before Hitler came to power in Germany, set in Germany, made no mention of the political situation in the country at the time. There was mention of the Depression Germany and the rest of the world was in and all five of the principal players were affected by it, one way or another. John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, and Joan Crawford all check into the Grand Hotel one day and their lives are never the same.

Greta Garbo is the temperamental Russian ballerina Grusinskaya and her artistic tantrums are getting less and less tolerable in many ways because of the Depression. John Barrymore is the aristocrat now living in genteel poverty. His world ended with World War I, but the Depression reduced him to being a sneak thief. Lionel Barrymore is the terminally ill bookkeeper who now just wants to spend his last days living it up. He's just going to ignore the Depression. Wallace Beery is the Prussian industrialist who's used to high living having married the boss's daughter, but his firm as so many others is about to go under unless he can pull off a merger. Lionel Barrymore is one of hundreds who work for him and know what an extremely little man he is, that Beery is really lacking in any real ability for business. Finally there's Joan Crawford who's a working class girl, hired as a stenographer by Beery who has other things on his mind for Crawford.

Whether in Germany or America Joan Crawford is the eternal shop girl. To her credit she does not attempt any kind of a Teutonic accent and her performance rings true. This is in complete contrast to Susan and God where she was consciously trying to imitate Gertrude Lawrence from the stage. This was the Depression in America too and many could identify with her.

No one epitomized class and old world elegance like John Barrymore, he was not better on film than here in Grand Hotel. He hates the life that poverty has reduced him to. Using his old world charm as a facade for being a thief tears him inside. Meeting Greta Garbo gives him a last chance at redeeming his life.

Garbo's performance is one of her best as well. I'm not sure any other actress could have made you sympathize with the temperamental ballerina. In the hands of anyone less skilled, the audience would have sympathized with the management of her ballet company who want to can her. When John Barrymore enters her life he's like the audience she entertained over the years rolled up in one person who still cares about her the individual. It's a last chance for happiness for her as well.

Wallace Beery had a funny thing not happened to him in Grand Hotel which I won't reveal might have been quite comfortable with the regime to come in Germany. Beery is the only one in the film to attempt any kind of Germanic speech and he does succeed in his portrayal of the hateful industrialist Preysing.

My favorite in Grand Hotel has always been Lionel Barrymore. Lionel may very well have been the most talented in the Barrymore family. Playing the gentle, terminally ill Kringelein is light years different from Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life or Captain Disko Troup in Captains Courageous. Three very different roles yet Lionel Barrymore imprints his personality on every one. A meek little man, he's got courage enough now, courage that comes when you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Grand Hotel is now 75 years old. The style of acting you see here is old fashioned indeed, no one could remake Grand Hotel today in the same style. It's melodramatic, but it works. It's a fascinating look into the last days of the Weimar Republic as seen from the balcony of a suite at the Grand Hotel in Berlin.
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Check Into This Establishment
Ron Oliver9 February 2000
A world-weary prima ballerina, desperate for love. A noble cat thief, desperate for money. A dying clerk, out on a last fling. His industrialist boss, passionate & brutal. A pretty young stenographer, willing to do almost anything to get ahead. A hotel bell captain, anxious to hear about his pregnant wife. And a cynical, war-scarred doctor. Destiny awaits them all in one of Europe's most renowned establishments - Berlin's GRAND HOTEL.

This is considered to be the first `all star' movie. It was certainly MGM's most opulent film up to that time. The studio loaded it with an A List of star performers:

Greta Garbo, uttering her trademark phrase, `I want to be alone.' Radiant in love, one can only imagine the despair that awaits her after the film ends.

John Barrymore, suave, sophisticated & ultimately tragic.

Lionel Barrymore, in a performance that will stay in your memory, slowly dying.

Wallace Beery in a heavy role, all bullying bluff & bluster.

Joan Crawford, tough as nails & good as gold.

Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt, Rafaela Ottiano & Ferdinand Gottschalk all lend sterling support.

There was concern that putting so much talent into one film, instead of spreading the stars out over 4 or 5 films, would lose the studio money. Not to worry. It was a great success, financially & critically. Watch how the plot weaves the threads of the characters' lives into a finished tapestry. One of the great movies. Tremendously satisfying.
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Dated, melodramatic...and MAGNIFICENT
ms9480120 June 2002
I've seen "Grand Hotel" at least fifteen times -- more than any other '30s film with the possible exception of two other classics: "King Kong" and Astaire and Rogers' "The Gay Divorcee."

Quite a few others reviewers here have commented negatively on this "creaky" old film. They are correct -- it is -- and yet, who cares? It's utterly wonderful!

The whole cast is superb -- charming, desperate, vulnerable John Barrymore; cynical, sad, appealing Joan Crawford; pathetic, whining, irrepressible Lionel Barrymore; coarse, selfish, all-too-humanly cruel Wallace Beery; and of course, the great Greta Garbo. The supporting cast, led by Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt, are equally good.

Those who criticize Garbo as over-the-top in her portrayal of the prima ballerina are right. She IS over-the-top, AND she is absolutely glorious, whether wallowing in self-pitying, suicidal despair or radiant as the spring with a new love which astonishes and transports her. What a unique, unforgettable screen presence! What a Goddess!

"Grand Hotel" holds this viewer, anyway, entranced from beginning to end. In addition to the superlative acting, the art deco design is stunning and the music always appropriate.

Creaky? You bet. Do they make movies like this anymore? Nope. Do I wish they did? I sure do.
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Hotel Berlin
lugonian28 February 2003
GRAND HOTEL (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1932), directed by Edmund Goulding, from the stage production by Vicki Baum, marks one of MGM's most prestigious projects. Other than being one of those rare films from the 1930s to be frequently revived, if not overplayed, on television over the past decades, it has stood the test of time solely due its impressive all-star cast. Of the five major leading actors, feature billing goes to Greta Garbo, MGM's most important box-office star to date. Unlike other Garbo films, GRAND HOTEL, is not all Garbo. She shares screen time with other top-named MGM performers, ranging from John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and Lewis Stone. The only other major actress to appear in this production is the youthful and down-to-earth Joan Crawford, who, in fact, is on screen more than the legendary Garbo. While many might consider Crawford the best of the two female stars, Garbo, who's acting style is somewhat different from the others, should be observed and studied. Her role as Grusinskaya, the Russian ballerina, is performed two ways, that of a lonely, depressed dancer striving for success, then, after encountering the Baron (John Barrymore), becomes full of joy and laughter. Watching this transformation on screen is like seeing the two sides of Garbo.

Edmund Goulding directs this 113 minute drama at a fast-pace, starting its opening with overhead camera shots of numerous switchboard operators connecting the incoming calls, followed by the brief introduction of the central characters conversing on the telephone in the hotel lobby: Senf (Jean Hersholt), the head hotel clerk, awaits the news of his wife who is about to give birth to their child; Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), a bookkeeper, diagnosed with an incurable disease who quits his job to enjoy his remaining days to the fullest; Preysing (Wallace Beery), a no-nonsense industrialist staying at the hotel to negotiate a business deal with important clients; Suzette (Rafaella Ottiano), the maid to the famous Russian dancer, Grusinskaya, who expresses concern about her employer; Baron Felix Von Greigern (John Barrymore), an adventurer traveling with his Dachshund dog, desperately in need of money to pay off a heavy debt, planning his latest robbery by stealing valuable jewels from the famous ballerina; and Otternschlag (Lewis Stone), a scarred doctor who walks about the hotel lobby, observing the goings on, and reciting to himself quietly, "Grand Hotel, people come, people go, and NOTHING ever happens!"

Things start to happen as Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), a stenographer with ambition, is hired by Preysing as his personal secretary. She soon makes the acquaintance of the handsome Baron and the poorly dressed Kringelein. Later that evening, after the lonely and unhappy Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) leaves the hotel for the theater, the Baron sneaks into her room from the outside window to rob her. After she returns, the Baron, still there, hides himself, only to take notice that Grusinskaya, unhappy, intends on taking her own life. He suddenly appears, telling her he's one of her biggest admirers. In spite of telling the Baron that she wants to be alone, the Baron remains and confesses everything. How will the Baron be able to get money he so desperately needs? As for the other guests, will Preysing, a married man with two grown daughters who has made Flaemmchen his mistress after working hours, succeed with his business negotiations? Will Flaemmchen continue to get something out of life by not being particular on how she does it? Will Grusinskaya marry her beloved jewel thief Baron or will she go on with her career? Will Kringelein find the happiness he deserves before he succumbs? What will his hotel bill be after checking out from most expensive hotel in Germany? Will that kill him before his illness does?

While GRAND HOTEL could have told its stories in separate installments, it's done as one film focusing on separate characters through different time frames. Of the central characters, only Senf, the hotel clerk (Hersholt) is the least important, appearing only in a few scenes unrelated to the plot. Lewis Stone's role is also secondary, but memorable, especially with his opening and closing lines. Wallace Berry, is cast against type, sporting glasses, a short haircut, mustache and the only American actor speaking with a German accent. Lionel Barrymore, sporting a derby, over-sized clothing, thick mustache and glasses, is almost unrecognizable as Kringelein. In fact, he almost comes off best over all the major actors. Although playing a tragic figure, he does have a classic drunken comedy bit, along with a poignant scene where, after winning a large sum of money playing cards, discovers that his wallet containing all his money, is missing.

Fortunately, GRAND HOTEL does not play like a filmed stage play. The art deco and luxurious sets are a sight to behold. And why not? The Grand Hotel happens to be the most expensive and luxurious hotel in Berlin. GRAND HOTEL obviously registered well upon its release. It won the Academy Award as Best Picture of 1931/32. In later years, GRAND HOTEL has become imitated and spoofed many times. MGM remade GRAND HOTEL as WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF (1945), modernizing the story to contemporary New York City with World War II background, featuring its top marquee names of the day: Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon and Van Johnson. It was later adapted into a Broadway musical in the 1990s. Both screen versions are available on video cassette, DVD and Turner Classic Movies cable television. For a good time with a film classic, check in the GRAND HOTEL and see what the stars are doing for the weekend. (****)
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A Grand Classic!
Chrysanthepop24 December 2007
More than 70 years later and it stood the test of time. Edmund Goulding directs the movie which starts at a slower pace but towards as things proceed, pace picks up. Greta Garbo was definitely the star of the time but here she's quite a drama queen. It's Joan Crawford who gives the best performance (and has a more fleshed out role than Garbo). The actress indeed has a stronger presence than Garbo and she's simply terrific. Lionel Barrymore and John Barrymore are equally impressive. Lionel is particularly good in balancing his characters tragedy and comedy. The supporting cast is adequate.

The cinematography is amazing as it gives us a marvelous glare of the grandness of the Grand Hotel, the overhead shot of the operators who're connecting the incoming calls, and then focussing on the different characters who're all either desperate for money, happiness or nothing (as they are satisfied with what they have e.g. the head hotel clerk). Everyone is shown to be busy with their own individual life and this is further stressed on in the final scene.

In addition to that, the set designs are spectacular reflecting the indifferent atmosphere and the beauty of the hotel. The reference to the War is also put in a very subtle way (as the film was made in the 30s) through the Baron's story and the scar on the doctor's face. Some might be bored in the beginning (due to the slow pace) but just bear with it, the film does get better and one will indeed understand why it stood the test of time. A grand classic it is indeed!
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thurberdrawing18 January 2005
Setting aside the fact that this is a landmark in the history of Hollywood, it has an unintended effect of foreshadowing the Second World War. GRAND HOTEL, filmed in 1932, is set in a luxury hotel in contemporary Berlin. There are several moments (during scenes with the disfigured doctor in particular) when characters refer to their sacrifices in the First World War. The most pointed remark runs something like "we won battle after battle, only to be told we'd lost the war.") At the time this film was made, Hitler was about a year and a half away from becoming Chancellor. GRAND HOTEL, based on a work by Vicki Baum, who wrote for a German readership, is less a story of the idle rich and the poor who serve them than an observation of the quiet rage stealing over a society whose war wounds only seem to deepen as time passes. Wallace Beery's character, a corrupt industrialist, was, in 1932, a staple of German art and theatre. An American audience in 1932 would merely have seen him as a fat-cat, but, in the Weimar Republic, particularly just before the Nazis took power, such a stereotype was provocative. Watching GRAND HOTEL with a sense of what was about to happen in Germany, one sees not so much a sophisticated soap-opera as a macabre meditation on the genteel side of a very dark phase in history.
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Impressive Star Power
Snow Leopard6 August 2001
The impressive array of stars is what makes "Grand Hotel" worth watching. It's also a pretty good feat of writing to create enough room for Garbo, Crawford, the Barrymores, and Beery all to operate. Each of them gets good characters and plenty of screen time in which to perform. The plot is not really that great, but it is written so as to bring all of these characters together in one place.

Which of the stars gives the best performance probably depends on which character you like the best. They all have their own story lines, and while much of the plot is rather implausible, the acting is such that you don't notice it that much most of the time. The ways that the characters react and change according to circumstances lets you see some fine performers show what they can do.

While it may be old-fashioned now in a number of respects, it's still a good film, and a rare chance to see this many film greats all at once.
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She wanted to be alone
jotix10021 September 2005
Vicky Baum's novel "Menschen I'm Hotel" serves as the basis for this 1932 film that was a vehicle for Greta Garbo. "Grand Hotel", as directed by Edmund Golding, was a magnificent film that had a lot of first class stars of the era in prominent roles. In fact, this seems to be one of the first films to have relied in the prominent "names" it gathered to portray the different characters in the movie.

By today's standards, the film is dated, but for a discriminating film fan, "Grand Hotel" is a classic because of the star turns one witnesses. Also, today's fans have to make concessions for the style of acting that was prevalent at the time. The movies have begun "talking" not long before this film was made and the stars of those silents were still doing their acting in front of the camera as though no one was going to hear them talk. In fact, most of the complaints in comments submitted to this forum would have been different if this was 1932 and the film had just come out.

The best advice for anyone new to this film is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the trials and tribulations of the people seen at Berlin's Grand Hotel.

The biggest surprise of the film is the shortness of Greta Garbo presence in the film, in which for some unknown reason, she looms large above the rest of the players. As the Russian ballerina Grusinskaya, Ms. Garbo played one of the best characters of her career. Her way of acting is still imbued with what was expected of her.

John Barrymore as the Baron Von Geigern, the impoverished nobleman, is key to the story. The moment he meets the great Grusinskaya, he is lost forever. Lionel Barrymore is excellent as the poor Otto Kringelein, who thinks he is going to die real soon. Joan Crawford, is the stenographer Flaemmchen who seems to arise passion among all the men she meets. Ms. Crawford does excellent work in a role she discarded later on in favor of more dramatic appearances.

What makes "Grand Hotel" the timeless classic it became is the magnificent camera work by William H. Daniels, a man who knew how to get the best out of Greta Garbo in their many films together. Also the music which is from Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow" serves as a nice distraction in the background.

The most famous phrase in the film "I want to be alone", seems prophetic in retrospect as the divine Garbo had about eight more years in the movies.
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good now, great then
ryangilmer00711 March 1999
What was a great movie in 1932 is still a good movie in 1999. In the Grandest Hotel of them all as "People come, people go. (but) Nothing ever happens." This is a story of a day at the hotel. Nothing out of the ordinary occurs, except lots of drinking, gambling, a love triangle, .... This film is one of the last big-budget "studio" Hollywood movies from its era (20's-30's) and is frequently studied for both this aspect and its photographic techniques (like the revolving doorway). The two hours is well worth it. Lionel Barrymore's performance is also really memorable.
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Five Desperate People.
nycritic24 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Some seventy-odd years after its release in 1932, GRAND HOTEL today holds an interesting attraction more for the presence of its two leading ladies than from its cinematic power, although there will be some purists who will state that because the images of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo have been immortalized in their own respective canons, that in itself is cinematic power. I personally won't argue, preferring to stick to my own personal views instead of following the herd.

I've seen GRAND HOTEL twice now, and I'll grant it that despite its soap-opera like story lines, there seems to be something a little deeper going on which is only alluded to in the sidelines: the delicate tightrope which Flammchen (Joan Crawford) walks on as she is courted by Presyling (Wallace Beery) and later on decides to stay by Otto Kringelein's (Lionel Barrymore) side. This was most probably unintentional since sources state that the screenplay follows the story closely, but today's values would have Flammchen behave much differently. I find her character to be the moral opposite of Barbara Stanwyck's amoral Lily Powers in BABY FACE, another woman who uses her sexuality to advance to the top. Joan Crawford's Flammchen doesn't actively use her charms as sort of glide by while positively glowing and stealing all of the light from Garbo, and one can sense that were she of a much different nature, all of the men in GRAND HOTEL would have a dangerous young woman to deal with, and Barrymore's end would be similar to J. Howard Marshall's demise in the hands of (a much smarter, less coked-up) Anna Nicole Smith. She'd more than likely wind up owning the hotel herself in no time.

But not to digress. The plot moves along in a nice pace thanks to Goulding's direction; never does it linger on too much on one specific character, though at least for me, anytime Garbo was on screen the story came to a crashing halt. I'm going to get a lot of flack from rabid Garbo fans, but I don't get "her allure, her mystery," the essence that made her so intriguing. At twenty-seven, she already looks ten years older thanks to her severe nature. Her face is constantly in a frown, moody, full of angst reflected in her throaty voice. Her performance is so atrociously mannered I can see Jennifer Jason Leigh easily out-doing her, but better, more authentic (anyone who recalls her exacting yet eccentric portrayal of Dorothy Parker can easily see her becoming and improving Garbo). I never got to see what her character with the unpronounceable name was all about; no true trauma, just this death-wish to be "left alone." Then she capriciously takes on with the Baron von Geigern (a dashing yet shady John Barrymore) who is more interested in her jewels but tells her he could love her; he out-acts her at every turn with subtlety and genuine charm even when his part seems underwritten. In short, Garbo, for all her "mystique" is the sore thumb of GRAND HOTEL.

I much prefer the events surrounding Crawford and the older Barrymore. Lionel Barrymore, the horrible villain from IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, plays a meek former bookkeeper who is at the end of his life and wants to enjoy his stay at the hotel. His wish is quite simple: he wants to enjoy his last days, a diametric opposite to Garbo who wants to be alone (and she says it three times). He teams up with Crawford, enjoys a dance with her and falls for her even though she's much too young. All the time I got the sensation he knew the character of Kringelein, a man who has been pushed around by Preysling and is still not quite free of his micromanaging shadow. There is not a shed of ego in his performance. One can imagine seeing Crawford reach out to the older gentleman and actually making his days happier and is a fitting ending to her own storyline as she is lecherously pursued by Wallace Beery and romanced by John Barrymore. If anything, her character is the most sympathetic of the five main characters and the symbol of the emerging modern woman of the Thirties: ambitious but girlish, efficient but not a workaholic, smart and independent despite struggling to make ends meet.

GRAND HOTEL hasn't aged well. Its values were the thing back in the Depression era, showing glossy characters who were all looking for some form of security while surrounded by the exuberance of the hotel and who were not given much depth in their characterizations. The characters are more or less archetypes and are predicted to act in a certain way, and when their fates collide, it's (now) not a surprise. Now, what it did do was set the standard for lavish productions involving a roster of well-known actors and stars in a perfect balance of talent and star-power, most notably seen today in the films of Woody Allen and Robert Altman, but closer to the less intellectually challenging type of high-profile film seen in the 50s and throughout the 70s. I enjoyed it then and now and regard it as a classic film set in a pre-Code Hollywood that has its own ancient beauty, for more reasons than Garbo's mannered face.
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Yes! It is "Grand!"
mikhail08026 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Grand Hotel remains surprisingly effective even today, and as some reviewers have suggested, is a precursor to Robert Altman's style of film-making, in which many characters interact and bounce off one another in unexpected ways. The action moves at a quick pace, as the scene constantly shifts between the characters. Director Edmund Goulding even utilized "wipes" to change the scene, which must have seemed very high-tech back in the early 1930's.

The narrative form is fluid, allowing each character to nicely develop his or her storyline in relation to the others. A story like Grand Hotel could easily become staid and set-bound, especially considering it was taken from a play, but the interesting sets, exquisite costumes, and the countless players keep the excitement level high.

The performances are certainly first-rate, as one would expect from the A-list cast. I do realize that many of today's viewers find Greta Garbo's aging Russian ballerina to be an exercise in over-indulgence, but I do enjoy her immensely! And who here today actually knows for certain how an aging Russian ballerina would act out when alone in her hotel room or with her entourage? Have today's critics spent time with Garbo's contemporary Pavlova, and found her by example to be much more subdued and controlled? It is not too much of a stretch to believe that Garbo's Grusinskaya may have existed in the actuality of 1932.

And what fun it is watching her as she goes through every emotion imaginable! Her great voice was always one of her best tools, and she certainly uses it to advantage here, throwing away lines that other actresses would have played up, and vice-versa. And the tight close ups of her beautiful face are breathtaking! I will only mention one scene specifically: when she futilely attempts to telephone her lover, the Baron, in the middle of the night. Alone on the screen she pleads for him to pick up, at times excited and joyful, quickly turning into desperation and despair and back again. She cradles the telephone receiver as if it were her lover.

Another knock-out performance comes from the young Joan Crawford, who in this huge production proved to the world she was an excellent actress who could hold the screen with any seasoned pro. As the shapely stenographer Flaemmchen, Crawford is absolutely stunning, as beautiful as Garbo, and a sexuality that certainly made guys in the audience take careful notice. And the profile of her extraordinary face was surely as "great" as John Barrymore's more famous one! She lends a distinct eroticism to her role, as she expertly delivers her character's suggestive dialogue, often with an resigned air of cynicism or jaded pessimism.

Of the male characters, Wallace Beery definitely commands attention! His portrayal of the desperate industrialist Preysing is both repellent and charismatic. As a man who exudes power and slowly begins to lose control, his performance is expertly crafted and layered. And I'd be remiss not to mention the Barrymore brothers, who round out the cast superbly. John charms both the men and women on screen with natural ease, while Lionel whimpers and whines like no other ever could. Both their characters are heartbreaking, each in his individual way. Even lesser characters, like Lewis Stone's horribly scarred doctor (in make-up that truly is disturbing) and Rafaela Ottiano's maid have their moments in the spotlight.

Minor spoiler ahead:

One scene that I found poignant was the bell boy quickly escorting the Baron's poor pet dachshund out the hotel lobby by its leash. They pass a janitor sweeping the floor with a large push broom, who without reason shoves the small dog along with the broom, causing it to stumble. The poor thing, wondering what hit it, turns around as it scoots along, only to have the janitor sweep a cloud of dust into its face. A truly sad small moment, as the viewer is left to wonder what will become of the dog now that it has lost its status as the beloved pet of a nobleman.

End of minor spoiler

Yes, Grand Hotel still remains splendid entertainment!
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Very melodramatic - and pretty good
FilmOtaku4 January 2005
Edmund Goulding's 1932 film "Grand Hotel", about 48 hours in a plush German hotel has a dream cast. Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) is a Russian prima ballerina in town for several performances, who is lonely, a drama queen, and suicidal. She meets Baron von Geigern (John Barrymore) a hotel thief who inadvertently is in her room (having been in the process of stealing some jewelry) when she is about to commit suicide, and stays the night with her, convincing her not to end things. The two fall in love, of course, much to the disappointment of Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), a woman that von Geigern was romancing the day before. Flaemmchen is a stenographer, and her boss, German tycoon Preysing (Wallace Beery) is having a hard time with a merger he is trying to transact. One of Preysing's employees at a factory he owns is bookkeeper Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore). Otto is staying at the hotel because he only has a short time to live, so he takes his entire life savings and decides to live the rest of his life in luxury. Throughout the 48 hours that the action takes place, friendships are made, loves are found and lost, and a murder changes the lives of all of the main characters.

"Grand Hotel" won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1932, and it is easy to see why. The film is an epic without having an enormous cast or exotic locales. From the films that I have seen of this decade, this is one of the first examples of an intertwining narrative structure. We are used to seeing this now; (think Altman, in particular) where characters are all somehow connected, even though they may not even know each other. Another fine early example that I can recall was a decade later with "Tales of Manhattan". The acting is incredible, though Garbo's REALLY over-the-top performance was a bit much. Realizing that she was a drama queen as a profession, I excused a lot of it, but it got to a point where I was really snickering to myself after awhile, because she was acting just like Gloria Swanson later would in "Sunset Boulevard". One explanation could be that this was still a really early stage of the talking picture, and silent films solely relied on gestures and facial expressions to convey emotion. I was very impressed with the performances of the Barrymore brothers (I've always loved Lionel Barrymore), and was stunned by Crawford's talent as well as beauty.

"Grand Hotel" is rife with melodrama, but it was not hackneyed or maudlin. I am actually quite surprised it isn't on the IMDb top 250 list; I found it to be that good. I am a big fan of Douglas Sirk's melodramatic films of the 1940's and 1950's, and "Grand Hotel" is a great predecessor of that genre. 7/10 --Shelly
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Lavish Early-Era Oscar-Winning Soap Opera
tfrizzell6 May 2002
A drunk doctor, an eccentric dancer, a high-class thief, a businessman, his mistress and a terminally-ill bookkeeper cross paths in "Grand Hotel", the Best Picture Oscar winner from 1932. One of the first true soap operas ever produced by Hollywood follows an array of colorful characters as they all stay at a luxury hotel in 1930s Germany. Sub-stories, amazing performances and a clever screenplay keep this very large film above water. The film is also a strange footnote in Oscar history as it was only nominated for Best Picture and won that honor. Edmund Goulding became only the second of three people to direct a Best Picture winner and not be nominated himself (William A. Wellman for "Wings" in 1928 and Bruce Beresford for "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1989 are the only other two). The all-star cast acts as an ensemble with John and Lionel Barrymore making the biggest impressions on the audience. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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"There is a Grand Hotel in every city in the the world"
ackstasis2 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A hotel is merely a transit station. People come, people go. Guests partake in dinner, dancing and gambling; occasionally, something more dramatic unfolds – a man and woman fall in love, a heart is broken, a person is murdered. Then the guests leave, and new customers take their place, oblivious to the events that unfolded just the previous day. The slate is wiped clean; the hotel has a short memory. As Dr Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) knowingly muses, "Grand Hotel… always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens." Edmund Goulding's Oscar-winning 'Grand Hotel (1932)' is a mere snapshot of several days in the life of Berlin's finest rest-stop, in which lives are changed forever, and yet the guests' full stories can never be known. An astonishing cast – Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Jean Hersholt – introduced a new style of storytelling, with ensemble casts of unrelated characters whose lives inexplicably interweave. A slew of imitations followed in the early 1930s, and author Graham Greene was inspired to write his first successful novel, "Stamboul Train."

In 1932, the United States was still in the midst of the Great Depression, but Hollywood was optimistic. Producers knew that audiences flocked to cinemas precisely to escape their own worrisome lives, to temporarily imagine themselves beside their favourite movie stars in glittering surroundings. Films like 'Grand Hotel (1932)' and 'Top Hat (1935)' delivered on this promise, with extravagant hotel rooms and wealthy businessmen flaunting their wealth. The dreams of the working-class are depicted through Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), an unremarkable clerk whose impending death prompts him to splurge his savings and enjoy his final weeks. The cycle of life is used allegorically to symbolise the circular narrative of life at a hotel. While hotel porter Senf (Jean Hersholt) awaits news of his child's birth, a guest awaits his own death. By the film's end, one man is dead, and a baby is born. Other characters are abandoned before their stories have reached a satisfactory conclusion, mimicking the continuous nature of life itself.

The film's cast is occasionally hampered by an acting style left over from the silent era, but is otherwise excellent. John Barrymore is suave and charming as a good-hearted pearl thief, and brother Lionel is even better, offering a poignant portrait of a dying man who finally understands what living life is all about. Joan Crawford and Wallace Beery provide able support, but aren't quite as memorable as their co-stars. 'Grand Hotel' was my first film to feature actress Greta Garbo, and for a few minutes I was left wondering exactly why she is held in such high regard. Where was the subtlety in her performance? Then she smiled, and it was like the sun had risen on a new day. Perhaps Garbo hadn't yet moved on from the silent era, communicating her emotions with thick brush-strokes, but when your face can so dazzlingly light up the movie screen, there's no hurry. A modern remake of 'Grand Hotel' would be difficult. The film's impact rests largely on the glamour and reputations of its main stars, and I think it's safe to say that today's Hollywood doesn't create "stars" like it did in the 1930s.
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Nothing Ever Happens ...etc.l
theowinthrop25 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I still like this film. It has some grievous over-acting by Garbo as a ballerina on the skids. But the film works for all that. Grushinskaya has passed her prime as a ballerina, and her world weariness masks her awareness that her days of international greatness are over. She has nothing to look forward to - in fact her position is not that different from Anne Bancroft in THE TURNING POINT, who can teach ballet, but has no family life to comfort her like her old friend/rival Shirley MacLaine does.

She momentarily does get a shot for happiness in retirement: she meets Baron Geiger (John Barrymore) and finds he would be able to satisfy her. And he finds she would be fine for him. But his problem is he is broke, and owes his criminal partners for the money that set him up in this great hotel in Berlin. He has to pay them back - he was going to steal Grushinskaya's jewels, but he won't do that now.

GRAND HOTEL is like that, every time you watch it. It was written in the aftermath of World War I, and keeping that in mind you see the fractured bodies and lives that are colliding in the hotel. Lewis Stone, for example, is the man who makes the famous statement about "nothing ever happens" at the conclusion of the film. His Doctor Otternschlag is the hotel doctor, and is not very observant (by the time he makes the comment a murder has occurred in the hotel, and he is unaware of it). His face is scarred by a gas attack in the war. The war has probably made the doctor relatively quiet - and seeking quiet as much as possible. Hence his blindness. Wallace Beery is Preysling the textile manufacturer who is there for a big business conference and is facing bankruptcy - as was all of Germany (which had terrible inflation in 1923, due to war reparation and debt). Geiger's Pre-war cushion of wealth and position were swept away with the Hohenzollern dynasty in 1918. He was unlucky enough to survive his world, and most of his friends. And the small fry in the film: Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) and Flaemchen (Joan Crawford) find their futures in considerable doubt too. Lionel is dying (we are never quite sure of what, but it sounds like it's industrial related - he works for Preysling's firm), and Crawford is aware that secretaries are a dime a dozen and needs to better herself - even if it means sleeping with the likes of Preysling. One can also add Senf (Jean Hersholt) who has to stay at his hotel job, while his wife is facing a dangerous childbirth which is worrying him to death.

The collisions between the characters is fascinating too, as the Pre-war standards of social class is up in the air now. Preysling is aware of his feet of clay but he is still known as a big textile manufacturer to the public. So he is not deeply impressed by John Barrymore's Baron, but every time they confront each other, the Baron's superior breeding outshines Preysling's pompous bluster. Kringelein too is confronted by Preysling who thinks the bookkeeper's appearance at that expensive hostelry suggests embezzlement. Kringelein not only shows that he is not in a position to be threatened by police or discharge, but adds that Preysling's blunders are such as to have merited being fired if he hadn't been boss. Preysling does make a kind of headway with Flaemchen but it is only on a cash basis - she really is far friendlier to the Baron and Kringelein.

GRAND HOTEL had been a major Broadway stage success when it was acquired by MGM. Preysling was originally played by Siegfried Ruman (later Sig Ruman) and the Baron by Albert Van Dekker (later Albert Dekker). Neither ended up in the MGM production, though both had distinguished film careers later on. The producer of the film was Paul Bern, who would be found dead in his home in 1932 just before the final cut was made on the movie. This is not the spot to analyze whether Bern was a suicide (officially he was) or was murdered by his wife (Jean Harlow) or some other person (a previous wife who killed herself a day or so afterward), but it led to Bern's friend and mentor Irving Thalberg completing the film as producer. Neither man's name is on the credits. However, Bern's hand is on the film - including the casting. He would have been facing a great producing career if he had lived.

The most notable thing about the leads is that (except for Garbo's Swedish accent - here as a Russian ballerina) only Beery tries a German accent. It comes and goes, unfortunately, but Beery's lost bull in the china shop performance is good enough not to be harmed by it. Preysling is a weak man, who married the boss's daughter to get ahead but lacked the brains to keep the firm going. In the end he has to lie to try to survive his conference with rival Tully Marshall. Unfortunately he cannot control his passions and anger.

It is said on this thread that Buster Keaton was supposed to play Kringelien. Presumably his alcoholism prevented it. But Lionel Barrymore gives a good accounting as the dying man. Yet Buster actually liked the idea. He tried to create interest in a comedy to star himself, Edward Everett Horton, and Marie Dressler called GRAND MILLS HOTEL, set in the "infamous" flop house in Manhattan. The same blending of the film's plots would have occurred. It never got beyond the drawing board. Laurel & Hardy would have been in the Tully Marshall and Wallace Beery roles, as button manufacturers who are trying to make a contract. Pity, it might have been a good comedy.
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absolutely wonderful
MartinHafer2 March 2006
MGM made several star studded films in the 1930s featuring all their most important stars--such as this movie and DINNER AT 8. They shared a common soap opera-like approach and bounced back and forth between the characters as they prepared for the big dinner party or, as with Grand Hotel, explored their lives in their rooms and in the hotel lobby. The acting in both was superb as were the writing and direction. However, unlike DINNER AT 8, this film is a little darker as one of the plots involves thieves and character Wallace Beery plays is rather chilling. It's excellent and will keep your attention throughout. Also, make sure to see DINNER AT 8--it's even better, and that's saying a lot!
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People Coming, Going, Nothing Ever Happens
claudio_carvalho3 October 2004
Along a couple of days in Berlin of the 30s, the lives of some guests are connected in the fancy Grand Hotel. Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) is a dancer in crisis who falls in love for Baron Felix Von Geigern (John Barrymore, the grandfather of the sweet Drew Barrymore). The Baron is a bankrupted noble, a very gentle and refined person, but indeed a thief of hotel rooms. Preysing (Wallace Beery) is a tough businessman, dealing in Berlin an important contract. Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) is officially an stenographer and also an expensive 'working girl', making programs with her clients. Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) is a sick man who had worked most of his life as an accountant in one of the Preysing's company. During these days, one of these characters is murdered by another one. In the end, Grand Hotel is a place where people come, go, and nothing ever happens, in accordance with the definition of one character. Yesterday I saw this movie for the first time. The first point that called my attention was the constellation of the stars sharing lead roles: none of the previously mentioned character has less importance in the story. The long shots, with lots of figurants in the lobby of Grand Hotel, are very impressive. The beauty of Greta Garbo, who has a very theatrical performance, and Joan Crawford are amazing, even for the present standards. Unfortunately the quality of the image and sound of the Brazilian VHS is horrible. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): 'Grand Hotel'
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Grand Cliché
Holdjerhorses27 September 2005
The only production of "Grand Hotel" I've ever seen that actually worked (that, in fact, was deeply moving) was the Broadway musical from the early '90s. Of course, it didn't do so well, being head and shoulders above both the original play and this "all-star" M-G-M romp.

There is a reason why this is the only film to win "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards -- and nothing else.

"If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage," actors have maintained since, oh, Euripides.

Here, what's on the page is cliché after cliché -- pretentious conceits that were already old and tired by 1932.

What's fascinating is certainly not Goulding's hackneyed direction, but the various actors' more or less successful attempts to breathe real life into cardboard roles.

At the top of that list is Lionel Barrymore. In retrospect, and considering his entire filmic career, he was a far more versatile and better actor than John. One always gets a vivid character, and not Lionel Barrymore "playing" one. (Watch him in "You Can't Take It With You," for instance, when he had to work on crutches because of his advancing arthritis. Amazing.)

Next, Joan Crawford. Third-billed, and even with added Garbo scenes to keep Crawford from walking off with "Grand Hotel," she still does.

Crawford and Lionel Barrymore not only make their clichéd lines and characters wholly believable, they literally walk off into the sunrise together at the end, as clichés often do.

Wallace Beery is wonderful and dimensional and even heart-breaking as Preysing. (He apparently only accepted the role because he was promised he would be the single star with a German accent.)

John Barrymore, next, does the best he can playing a Baron who wears more eye shadow than Garbo. Oh, wait: Barrymore ALWAYS wore more eye shadow than his leading ladies. Whether a carryover from his theatrical makeups during his stage career, or a misguided attempt to give his puffy alcoholic's face some screen definition, it's hard to say. What's easy to say is that he's occasionally effective here, and affecting; but mostly self-conscious. "Why is that man wearing all that eye-shadow?" leads to an awareness that one can almost count, beat by beat, his stagy timing of even so simple a gesture as gently chucking Crawford's chin, or his vain attempt to make a mediocre script sound like iambic pentameter. In "Bill of Divorcement," with Katherine Hepburn, in this same year, he still wears more eye shadow than she, and is still given to the odd sing-song stage (as opposed to film) line reading. But he's much better. Then again, so is that play.

Then there's Garbo. Truly, a stunning film actress, an immortal phenomenon (and, as always, photographed by the brilliant William Daniels, breathtakingly beautiful). But please, out of courtesy to her talent and legend, don't compare her performance here with any of her others ("Camille," say, or "Ninotchka" or "Anna Karenina"). Director Goulding allowed her favorite mannerisms to get the best of her: the constantly dancing eyebrows in closeups, the tilt-back of the head to gaze soulfully at ceilings (were cue-cards pasted up there?).

Lewis Stone gets nothing to do but embody a one-man Greek Chorus, over and over, about (to paraphrase): "People come and go. But nothing ever happens in the Grand Hotel."

Adrian's costumes and Cedric Gibbons' art direction provide as much drama and character as the script. Possibly more: one finds oneself admiring the detailing in a hotel room door, or the sweep of a "moderne" upholstered chair in Lionel Barrymore's suite during his ecstatically played (and largely silent) drunk scene, at the expense of what's happening between the predictable characters.

Watchable? Certainly. A revelation? Yes, when Crawford and Lionel Barrymore are on screen. Great? No. It's a pretentious novel turned into a pretentious play turned into a pretentious film -- pretending to be profound, timeless and enduring.

Instead of the Grand Cliché that it is.
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a trend-setter at its time for the all-star glamor
lasttimeisaw19 July 2015
This early MGM talkie is a trend-setter at its time for the all-star glamor, also an Oscar BEST PICTURE winner (oddly enough, without any other nominations). There are five centre characters hemmed in Berlin's Grand Hotel, a Russian prima ballerina Grusinskaya (Garbo), a moneyless Baron Felix von Geigern (John Barrymore), an accountant Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), a dying man who decides to shell out all his savings by living in the luxury. Then a young stenographer Flaemmchen (Crawford), hired by the industrial magnate Preysing (Beery), who is negotiating a merger deal and is the former employer of Mr. Kringelein.

None of them are satisfied with their status quo, Grusinskaya is grievously rattled by the fading appeal of her dance as the turnout is ebbing away and the thought of suicide sneaks in, while the chivalric Baron must abase himself to theft in order to pay back his debt, but sadly that kind of deal doesn't go along with his blue blood, and when he resorts to his last straw - gamble, luck is not on his side when Otto's beginner's luck foreshadows his doomed nobility. But the ablaze passion between Grusinskaya and Felix appears so genuine and powerful, it might save both from their plights, they are planning to catch a train together but the twist of fate cannot let that happy ending happen. Here Garbo histrionically alternates between frowning in angst when dreads for her future and flitting about hyper-actively when a budding romance resuscitates her life. John Barrymore, revels in posing as suave and earnest, a heart-stealer in every sense, their ill-destined romance is the quintessential melodrama no matter how dated it comes across by today's standard.

Flaemmchen is charmed by Felix's debonair appearance too, but he returns with an avuncular affection, calls her "the funny one" and promises a dance only. She succumbs to reality, a pretty girl who needs money, when the one she loves cannot love her back, she moves on, grants tacit consent to become Preysing's mistress, but eventually, after a heartbreaking incident, fate offers her a better option and she does't hesitate to take it. Crawford is my pick of MVP in this movie, at her utter prime, she blends her magnetism perfectly with the worldly wisdom, her acting is less mannered and occasionally sparks with certain flair of self-assurance, a true flapper of its time.

As for Otto, he is supposedly to be a sympathetic character, but myself find Lionel Barrymore's all-over-the-place acting quite annoying, wanting any trace of subtlety needed to counterbalance the haphazardly-paced narrative, together with Beery's hateful Preysing, an outrageously repulsive character, becomes the nadir of star-power vehicle (Beery won BEST LEADING ACTOR at the same year for THE CHAMP 1931 though).

Director Edmund Goulding (THE RAZOR'S EDGE 1946, 7/10) is an important name in the Golden Age Hollywood - although never won any substantial accolade for his directing work, plus his filmography being too comprehensive to sum up thus it is difficult to extract his own directorial touch to be categorised as an auteur - his adroit skill in manoeuvring a large and elaborate set, the outstanding fluidity of shifting his camera within a confined interior and magnanimously permitting enough space for his stars to enjoy the spotlight, is undeniably a key factor is this polished hit of its era.
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See how the little hound sleeps as the machinations of men go on around him.
atlasmb1 December 2014
Garbo. Barrymore. Crawford. The starpower of this cast should be enough to guarantee a celluloid success. But it's the script that makes this film one of the best of its time or any time.

The Grand Hotel is the setting and it can be seen to represent many things, but primarily it represents life. The lobby and common areas are representative of public life with its social pretensions and conventions. The private rooms are, of course, the private lives.

In the course of one day, we glimpse various lives that are hanging in the balance and changed forever. At least in human terms. In objective terms, nothing much ever changes and the script plays out day after day, with minor revisions, regardless of the players.

The acting in this film is wonderful. Yes, Garbo might overdramatize even the smallest gesture, but what else should we expect from her? And besides, she is playing the part of a prima ballerina who thrives on attention from her public.

If one reads the trivia notes in IMDb for this film, where the petty concerns and rivalries of the major players are detailed, it adds another dimension to viewing "Grand Hotel". These actors were not so different from their characters--so involved with the slightest social slight.

The story is a universal one that has been told many times since, but "Grand Hotel" may have told it best.
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All the stars...
Film Dog14 March 1999
"All the stars in Hollywood". MGM took a gamble using so many top stars in one film, but it paid off. Irving Stone opens by pronouncing "nothing ever happens" at the Grand Hotel, but we know better. For one thing Garbo "vants to be alone". Also a young Joan Crawford. I hardly recognized her...she's actually attractive. Several intertwined stories revolving around the personal lives of the many characters made for a successful formula copied many times by such classics as "Dinner At Eight", and "Stage Coach". I would add it is a must-see for a classic film fan, but any REAL classic film fan has already seen it.
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Garbo leads nice ensemble of actors in a grand Best Picture
JRColvin2 August 2001
I saw this movie at the beautiful Louisville Palace as part of their summer 2001 Classic Movie Series, after first seeing it at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. ten years earlier. This is truly a fine ensemble feature, with Greta Garbo slightly outshining the others as a famous but depressed ballerina. The entire movie takes place in one weekend at the Grand Hotel in Berlin, and with interweaving storylines you really get a sense of the place. The dramatic style of the day is slightly over the top by modern standards, but it is nonetheless highly entertaining. ****
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Beautiful, Influential, But Increasingly Obscured By Passing Time
gftbiloxi11 June 2007
Published in 1921, Vicki Baum's German-language novel MENSCHEN IM HOTEL was an international bestseller. MGM purchased the rights and employed William A. Drake to adapt the novel to the stage. Titled GRAND HOTEL, it proved a great success on the Broadway stage, and with its fame as both novel and play the studio made the property the focus of its powerful array of contract talent. It was smash with both critics and audiences and won the Academy Award as Best Picture of 1932.

Although the 1930s was notable for social dramas, audiences of the Great Depression wanted an escape from the hardship of their lives, and no expense was spared to create the glittering and very high-gloss image moviegoers craved. Designed by legendary art director Cedric Gibbons, who mixed Deco and Moderne styles to tremendous effect, each set was built specifically for the film and no detail was overlooked; Adrian's costumes were also meticulous in their combination of high-fashion and romance. No detail was overlooked, and in terms of production values alone few films before or after have bested GRAND HOTEL.

But if GRAND HOTEL is distinctly of its era in terms of visual style, it is also distinctly of its era in terms of performance, and it is here that we run into a bit of trouble. Most actors of the silent era relied on a mannered performance style that compensated for the lack of sound. The arrival of sound forced them to invent a new performance style, and some proved more adaptable than others. In many respects, GRAND HOTEL is a study of the struggle to invent this new way of acting; some of the performers are excessively large, some are in transition between silent and sound modes, and some are distinctly modern in their approach.

In terms of story, GRAND HOTEL presents several overlapping and interweaving plot lines. Celebrated ballerina Grusinskaya (Garbo) is performing in Berlin--and is a deep depression that threatens her career. Baron von Geigern (John Barrymore) is in desperate need of money--and has agreed to steal Grusinskaya's famous pearls. When Grusinskaya's suicide attempt collides with the Baron's intended theft, romance is result. At the same time, industrialist Preysing (Wallace Beery) has arrived at the hotel in an effort to conclude a important business deal and has hired a stenographer named Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) to assist him--but Preysing is unaware that company accountant Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and has taken rooms at the hotel, determined to enjoy himself before he dies. These characters, along with Grusinskaya's maid (Rafaela Ottiano), the hotel doctor (Lewis Stone), and various hotel employees (including Jean Hersholt) collide repeatedly over the course of a few days--and none will emerge entirely unscathed from their encounters.

John Barrymore was noted for his larger-than-life performances on the stage, and he brought that same quality to many silent films; less fortunately, he also carried into the sound era, and his performance reads as excessively large. Although Garbo was a great star in the silent era, she quickly adapted to the new demands of sound in such films as ANNA Christie--but when faced with Barrymore's over-the-top performance she responds in kind, and the result is visually beautifully but incredibly mannered, and their scenes are not greatly aided by their dialogue, which is itself very much in "the grand manner." Although they are indeed fascinating, their performances are distinctly out of synch with the rest of the film, where a more natural style of acting is the norm.

While Wallace Beery and Lewis Stone are quite good, and while Lionel Barrymore is unexpectedly effective (and much less mannered than his brother John), it is really Joan Crawford that points the way toward the new acting style. Crawford herself had worked in silents, and scored notable successes in such films as OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS, but she has made an easy leap to the sound era and never overplays her hand; Flaemmchen is among the best of her early performances, and Crawford herself thought it among the best of her overall career. She wasn't wrong.

With the acting styles all over the map, GRAND HOTEL requires a modern viewer to make constant mental shifts; consequently, the film sometimes feels more than a little uphill. Even so, there are plenty of compensations: Garbo at the height of her beauty; Lionel Barrymore's multi-layered performance; a Crawford classic; and always, always the lush look and feel of the movie. Although I think it will most appeal to film buffs, there is no denying the thing has power, even though that power has become somewhat obscured by the passing years.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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MGM's finest in one spot!
didi-510 December 1999
What can be said about this film that hasn't been said already? A classic 67 years young - Garbo, two Barrymores, Crawford, and more ... The story of the terminally-ill worker on his last fling, the scheming baron, the boss and the secretary, and the fading ballerina just looks better and better every time you see it. It has some excellent scenes, and despite Garbo playing a character a little too old for her, it comes off. 8/10
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