Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grand Hotel (1932)

A Star-Studded cast perform in this melodrama that chronicles the lives of various guests at the famous Grand Hotel in Germany as they interact, fight, and fall in love.

Plot-wise, the film is essentially divided between the stories of these guests, which eventually merge with other stories and take on new stories and so on and so forth. We have Greta Garbo as The Dancer (her real name is kinda weird, and she's listed under both titles in the credits), a depressed, eccentric ballerina who wants to be both alone and in love. Joan Crawford is Flaemmchen, a stenographer for wealthy business man Preysing (Wallace Beery). Lionel Barrymore is Otto Kringelein, a dying man who is having his last hurrah with his life savings, and John Barrymore is The Baron, a down on his luck nobleman who must resort to some drastic measures to pay off his debts. The "main" plot (if there really is one) is the emerging love triangle between both The Baron, The Dancer, and Flaemmchen.

The acting for the most part, is pretty good. Joan Crawford is actually really likable and natural here, which serves as an odd counterpoint for Greta Garbo's performance. Now, I'm not bashing a legend here, but her performance is just so odd, in a sense. She successfully conveys the necessary emotion, so it's not a bad performance, just an odd one. She does a lot of grabbing her hair and wrinkling up her face and acting pretty tired most of the film. Granted, she's a suicidal ballerina, so that's a license to be out there. John Barrymore is charming and romantic, and it's very understandable why the two women would fall for him. Wallace Beery is essentially a brute, which is exactly what he's supposed to be, and Lionel Barrymore is so tragic and heartbreaking as someone who has been downtrodden their entire life only to still be treated poorly on his final stab at life.

The film is a great melodrama (it won Best Picture), well-made with wonderful sets and costumes, and as I mentioned, the acting is on a high level. It's also surprisingly sad in a lot of ways, but everything works out in a way that makes sense.

It's pretty easy to recommend this movie, especially given its classic status. Plus, it's got a great cast, and could be a great entry-level film into getting into Greta Garbos filmography, or Joan Crawford, or either of the Barrymores. So, watch it, it's a good little film.

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