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Anything can happen during a weekend at New York's Waldorf-Astoria: a glamorous movie star meets a world-weary war correspondent and mistakes him for a jewel thief; a soldier learns that without an operation he'll die and so looks for one last romance with a beautiful but ambitious stenographer; a cub reporter tries to get the goods on a shady man's dealing with a foreign potentate. And it all happens in the opulent, grandiose New York landmark hotel as a sort of tongue-in-cheek take-off on the classic movie Grand Hotel.Written by
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Yes. That's the Waldorf Astoria. Big place, isn't it? But, it's home to me, because I happen to live there.
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It's interesting to see MGM remake its own pre-code classic, Grand Hotel, a sophisticated, somewhat dark, romantic multi-story film that was the first to feature an all-star cast. The difference between Grand Hotel and Weekend At The Waldorf isn't just the difference between a film set in Weimar Berlin and one set in WWII Manhattan. It's the difference between how MGM approached filmmaking in the early 1930's vs. the mid-1940s.
While you can sense in Grand Hotel that the filmmakers were trying for a great film (whether or not they succeeded is open for debate), this was clearly not the case with Weekend At The Waldorf. It's meant to be a crowd-pleaser. Light entertainment, with some heavier moments, but no real depth. A confection, with all the gloss the studio can muster. And it delivers.
Maybe I'm quibbling when I say the screenplay isn't as witty as it might be, and a few of the situations seem trite, or a little too drawn out. But it's a very clever rewrite of the earlier film, with a first-rate cast. There are even a few moments when a couple of the characters talk about Grand Hotel, itself, and compare their situation to one in the film.
There are four big stars, and a few more medium-sized stars. There's Robert Benchley to narrate, and Xavier Cugat and his orchestra (featuring Lina Romay) to play some musical numbers. There's the Waldorf itself, featured in some stunning shots of 1945 New York City.
While watching the film, I kept feeling the two pairs of stars were somewhat mis-matched. Ginger Rogers and Walter Pidgeon don't seem quite right together. Likewise, Lana Turner and Van Johson seem slightly ill at ease as romantic partners.
Various subplots feature Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold, Phyllis Thaxter, Warner Anderson, Rosemary DeCamp, and Samuel S. Hinds.
Weekend At The Waldorf is a professional job of the highest quality and if you're looking for some escapist fare with glamor, music, romance, and humor, and a bit of drama, you could do worse.
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