Plot Development: 4 stars
Character Development: 5 stars
Cinematography: 4 stars
Costuming: 5 stars
Overall: 5 stars
This movie was one of the first to successfully handle an ensemble cast. Several famous actors are guests at the Grand Hotel in Berlin. Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) is a famous ballerina who is dealing with major depression and a failing career while staying in the hotel. Senf (Jean Hersholt), the head hotel clerk, isn't getting any sleep as he's waiting for his wife to give birth to their child. Preysing (Wallace Beery), is an easily-angered industrialist staying at the hotel to negotiate a business deal. He hires the lovely Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), a sassy stenographer, to serve as his personal secretary. Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), is an endearing man who used to work for Preysing. Having been diagnosed with a terminal disease, he has quit his job and moved to the hotel to flagrantly spend away his last days. Finally, Baron Felix Von Greigern (John Barrymore), an adventurer traveling with his Dachshund, is a man in need of money to pay off a heavy debt. His plot is to steal valuable jewels from Grusinskaya's room while she is away for a performance.
When Grusinskaya leaves the hotel to head for the theater, the Baron sneeks into her room to rob her. But Grusinskaya quickly returns because she is too depressed to perform. The Baron must quickly hide himself in her room, where he stays hidden until he sees that Grusinskaya intends to take her own life. He suddenly appears to stop her from suicide and stays in her room to profess his affection for her. Despite the fact that he admits he was trying to rob her, they spend the night together and fall hopelessly in love.
How will the Baron be able to pay off his debts? Will Grusinskaya marry the Baron or will she choose her career? As for the other guests, will Preysing, a married man with two grown daughters, be able to convince Flaemmchen to be his mistress after working hours? Will he be successful in his business negotiations? Will Kringelein get to relax and enjoy his last few days alive? Will Senf's wife make it through several days with no sleep and a wife in labor?
Out of all the Best Pictures I've watched this year (okay so there have only been 5), this was by far my favorite. I was so glad not to be disappointed again! Although my mother said she thought it was depressing, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
First of all, the hotel itself was quite stunning. With lovely rooms and a gorgeous, central, spiraling staircase to connect the many floors, it was a beautiful backdrop for all the crazy scenes. I enjoyed the opening scene when we were introduced to the main characters as they checked in or walked through the hotel lobby. With such a flurry of activity in such a grand space (and in such lovely clothes!), I was immediately drawn in.
A doctor staying the hotel says "Grand Hotel. People come and go. Nothing ever happens." But during the few days that we observe the patrons of this hotel, this statement couldn't be further from the truth. There is a plethora of excitement and drama as the characters mentioned above enjoy a few days in the Grand Hotel.
For once, there was (finally!) good character development. I loved getting to know each of the patrons and observing the developing stories of their lives. It is clear why these stars were famous -- they could actually act! From the simple-minded Kringelein, desperate to enjoy his last days, to the beautiful, lonely Grusinskaya, the characters were fully unique and fully realized. John Barrymore was quite dashing as the Baron, but my favorite was Joan Crawford's Flaemmchen. She really stole the show when she was on-screen, managing to appear both confident and naive.
I guess I should drop a hint that there is a surprise plot twist at the end. And it might intrigue you more if I let you know it involves the m-word. That's right, murder! Other than that, there's not much else to say on this film. It was thoroughly delightful and I would recommend it to anyone. Go out and rent it now!
- During the filming of the busy lobby scenes, the socks were worn on the outside of the actors' shoes to prevent noise. Reportedly two hundred pairs of woolen socks were worn out daily.
Sorry again for the delay, my husband and editor still hasn't had a chance to look at this one and make sure I didn't make any huge errors -- if you see any let me know! Cavalcade should be on here soon! Keep reading -- I promise I'll be better! -- Critic Fix