Monday, 8 December 2014


“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” - William Shakespeare

One of the things I love doing when the opportunity arises is to sit in the foyer of a big international hotel, in some exotic location around the world, and watch the people coming and going. One can tell a lot about people just by observing them, listening to the way they talk, how they are dressed, their manners (or lack of them!), the company they keep and the way they walk, stand, sit.  My mind is forever manufacturing stories around the people I see in those hotel foyers and I am busily concocting names, occupations, the relationships between them, the reasons why they are staying at the hotel, and so on and so forth…

We watched Edmund Goulding’s “Grand Hotel” (1932 – Won Oscar for Best Picture) last weekend) on an excellent digital transfer on DVD and I was able to play my game, but in a rather more restricted way, as the stories were all there for me and my imagination had to atrophy somewhat while I watched this film.  The Grand Hotel of the film title is Berlin's most expensive and luxurious hotel. It is the setting of (in the words of one of the cast, Dr. Otternschlag: “People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.”).

However, the good doctor seems to have missed some of the nefarious goings-on. For example, Baron von Geigern is broke and trying to steal eccentric dancer Grusinskaya’s pearls. Powerful magnate Preysing confronts the lowly Kringelein, one of his company’s bookkeepers, but it is the terminally ill Kringelein who manages to stand up to him. Flaemmchen, Preysing’s stenographer, is in love with the Baron, but she is willing to sell her favours to the highest bidder, or is she?

The cast is well-chose and they act superbly: The charming, desperate, vulnerable Baron played by John Barrymore; the cynical, sad, sexy stenographer, Joan Crawford; the pathetic, whining, but courageous Kringelein, Lionel Barrymore; the coarse, selfish, cruel Preysing, Wallace Beery; and of course, the great Greta Garbo as the ballet dancer, Grusinskaya (uttering her most famous line: “I want to be alone”). The art deco sets are fantastic and even the smallest details have been convincingly rendered.

The film won the 1932 best picture Academy Award and it is still a wonderful movie to watch. It is a soap opera, but the brand of the soap is the best and the suds last the whole wash through. The success of this movie led to a remake in 1945, the “Weekend at the Waldorf” with Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson, the story being given a timely post-war take. However, this later version is somewhat more cinematic but pedestrian. It lacks the 1930s glamour evident in the earlier film.

This is a film from the golden age of Hollywood, well worth watching it!

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