I cannot watch this movie anymore without hearing those lyrics of the title song from the 1990 Broadway musical. "People come, people go. Where there's life overflowing. Come begin in old Berlin. You're in the Grand Hotel!" The musical allowed the major characters to flow in for dramatic introductions, identified by the embittered partially blind doctor. "Nothing ever happens!", he says dramatically in both the movie and the musical, but you're hearing that from a man going through life with one eye shut. Lewis Stone, so wise as Judge Hardy, fails to convince in character. There's plenty happening in the most opulent hotel in all of 1930's Germany, a shell of itself after a world war, and at a turning point in it's history. Scary for many here, facing their mortality through their immorality.
The two immoral characters here are nobleman (and a thief!) John Barrymore and sadistic businessman Wallace Beery. Dying clerk Lionel Barrymore is the most vulnerable, wanting one last fling with life, and finding more than he bargained for. Typist Joan Crawford gets a rare glimpse of heaven on Earth, and finds hell, exploited by Beery and finding supposed romance with John Barrymore. Her friendship with Lionel Barrymore is the one honest relationship in the film, outside of ballerina Greta Garbo and her devoted companion, Rafaela Ottiano. Authors of the musical were so taken by Ottiano that they named the character in the musical after her.
Then there's hotel clerk Jean Hersholt, waiting for the news on his wife, in the hospital preparing to give birth. It's a minor part of the story, with the focus on Barrymore's (John that is...) seductions of both Crawford and Garbo. The two divas never cross paths or seem to be aware of the other's presence. Of the two, it's Crawford who is the most natural. Something in Garbo's performance indicates that she was pretty bored, wanting to be alone like her character, although through camera on her works its magic to fool the audience into thinking she's fully in character. Crawford shines in her energy, and her big eyes never more alluring. This has so much going for it that it is extremely difficult to find any fault. Truly a gem in pretty much every detail.
Action / Drama / Romance
Action / Drama / Romance
Berlin's plushest, most expensive hotel is the setting where in the words of Dr. Otternschlag "People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.". The doctor is usually drunk so he missed the fact that Baron von Geigern is broke and trying to steal eccentric dancer Grusinskaya's pearls. He ends up stealing her heart instead. Powerful German businessman Preysing brow beats Kringelein, one of his company's lowly bookkeepers but it is the terminally ill Kringelein who holds all the cards in the end. Meanwhile, the Baron also steals the heart of Preysing's mistress, Flaemmchen, but she doesn't end up with either one of them in the end...
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May 30, 2016 at 06:44 AM