Entertainment » Movies

Grand Hotel

by Ed Tapper
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 17, 2013
Grand Hotel

With the advent of talking pictures, MGM attempted to surpass its rival studios by assembling a stable of America's foremost screen actors. In 1932 the studio flexed its stellar muscle with "Grand Hotel," based on a popular novel of Vicki Baum. Premiered with an extravagant publicity campaign, the film featured most of MGM's A-list. Not only was it remade in 1945 as "Week-End at the Waldorf," but it also became the archetype for a successful, often imitated, screen formula, a collection of several individual subplots in which different characters converge at some large-scale venue. Certainly no more impressive cast members were ever aggregated for a movie. Barrymore brothers John, as a destitute aristocrat, and Lionel, portraying a terminally-ill clerk, share the spotlight with veteran character actors Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt. A frequent film heavy, Wallace Beery repulses as a despicable tycoon. Two graduates of the Silent Screen, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford have the female leads. As a world-weary ballerina, Garbo was never more striking. And she croaks out her signature line, "I want to be alone;" though her many fits of exaggerated histrionics are occasionally laughable. As a gold-digging stenographer, Crawford delivers a wisely, restrained performance, considered by many to be the finest in the film. The convergence of these characters at a five-star Berlin hotel proved a sensation, and "Grand Hotel" captured a Best Picture Oscar. Although some of the original gloss has dulled, the film remains a fascinating document.

"I want to be alone!"

Sadly, Warners' new "Grand Hotel" blu-ray offers only passable picture quality, a minor improvement over earlier DVD releases. Some of the scenes are grainy, and the contrast is often muddy. Certainly a film of this stature deserves more dutiful restoration. The previously-released extras include a brief documentary, some shorts (the footage of the gala premiere is astounding,) newsreels and trailers.

Grand Hotel


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