Grand Hotel (1932)

Grand Hotel
Garbo and Barrymore pre-Hays code affection. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Plot: The Grand Hotel is a posh hotel in Berlin where, as one the regulars says, “People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” We are introduced to a cast of characters: a man who is dying and has decided to use his final savings to die in poshness, a corporate titan with anger and harassment issues, a cynical stenographer, an emotionally distraught dancer, and a broke baron-turned-thief. Their lives intersect throughout the film. The first 90 minutes are lighthearted and fun, but then a shift happens and the film’s final moments are quite sad.

Best Moment: I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one. John Barrymore is captivating, so I’ll just say whenever he is on screen was a best moment. There is the scene where Greta Garbo says “I want to be alone”–which ranked 30th on AFI’s 100 greatest movie quotes list.  So that should count for something.

Worst Moment: When the film ends. I fell in love with most of the characters and wanted to know what happened to them next!

Fun Facts: The movie was adapted from a play, which was adapted from a book written by Vicki Baum. Seriously, check out that bio. I loved that the film retained a play-like feel. It reminded me of the recent film adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences”–I felt like I was watching a play, but I was watching a movie. It takes a certain kind of artistry to achieve that.

That might explain why “Grand Hotel” won the Oscar for Best Picture. According to the internets, it is the only film to win Best Picture with no nominations in any other categories.

Recommendation: See it! You get Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford and two Barrymores. There is a melancholy about the line “people come, people go. Nothing happens.” It reminded me of the book “Slaughterhouse Five,” and the phrase “So it goes.” Life is life, and when people leave, life continues to roll on. When people leave the Grand Hotel, the hotel hums along.

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