Fellow Film Club Members & Movie Buffs:
The theme for this month will be “Hotels as theatre; drama, comedy, & dramedy–the full gamut.”
Spring has sprung–a leak mostly, flooded basements, mudslides; all the good stuff for us to enjoy–but as your flowers & trees are coming to life, remember that April is Hotel month here at the Tacoma Film Club. We are pleased to be screening the classic film of that genre, GRAND HOTEL (1932), this Friday, April 4, 2014.
It was directed by Edmund Goulding, who was a London-born actor/playwright/director/producer/composer,
who was wounded severely in WWI & migrated to Hollywood in 1921, getting a contract with MGM in 1925. He directed 41 films from 1916-1957. He died at 68 during heart surgery in LA; some of his films included RIPTIDE (1934), THE DAWN PATROL (1938), DARK VICTORY (1939), OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1946), THE RAZOR’S EDGE (1946), NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), & MISTER 880 (1950).
The cinematography was done by the legendary B&W camera man, William H. Daniels, who was famous for shooting 21 movies that starred Greta Garbo; obviously he knew how to shoot her attractively. He lensed 166 films from 1922-1970; including FLESH & THE DEVIL (1926), ANNA CHRISTIE (1930), MATA HARI (1931), DINNER AT EIGHT (1933), ANNA KARENINA (1935), CAMILLE (1936), NINOTCHKA (1939), BACK STREET (1941), SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941), BRUTE FORCE (1947), THE NAKED CITY (1948), WINCHESTER ’73 (1950), PAT & MIKE (1952), THE FAR COUNTRY (1954), AWAY ALL BOATS (1956), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958), OCEAN’S ELEVEN (1960), VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965), & VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967).
John Barrymore said to Bill Daniels: “Look, I’m 50 years old, & Garbo is only 27; so make me look as young as Jackie Cooper’s grandson.”
The film’s musical score was done by Charles Maxwell (uncredited). This is the first time I found a composer who had worked on 224 movies, and was only credited for 2 films; obviously a wonderful collaborator, he seemed to be one of those rare talented composers, conductors, arrangers, musicians that was happy to be a long time staffer, & never insisted on much recognition.
GRAND HOTEL (1932)
Directed by MGM staffer, Edmund Goulding @ 112 mintues.
The film stars Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, & Jean Hersholt.
Synopsis: We join a colorful group of very unique individuals staying in a luxurious hotel in Berlin, between the World Wars, interacting & dealing with each other’s respective dramas.
Tagline: Thank the stars for a grand entertainment.
This film won the Oscar for Best Picture, & it is the only movie to have done so despite the fact that it was not nominated for any other awards at all.
“People come, people go–nothing ever happens.”
TRIVIA: Joan Crawford attempted to be civil to Greta Garbo, but Garbo snubbed her for the entire production; & it angered Crawford that Garbo received top billing; so she made sure she was always late for any scenes they shared. Crawford took the part of the sexy stenographer only after IrvingThalberg’s wife, Norma Shearer had turned it down.
Crawford turned down the role at first, feeling that much of the role would be too risque for the 30’s movie audience; & she was right, because a lot of her scenes became heavily censored, considered to be “obscene”.
Early on Wallace Beery stormed out of rehearsals, and swore the would not return to the set until Miss Crawford learned to act; ironically, Crawford got better reviews than he did. Buster Keaton was considered for the Lionel Barrymore part; later he wanted to do a comedic remake of the movie, calling it GRAND MILLS HOTEL, with Jimmy Durante, & Marie Dressler in it; it almost got made.
Greta Garbo basically directed herself, especially the close-ups and love scenes. She had been reluctant to take the part of the ballerina, not being happy to share the screen with so many other big stars; for this movie was the first time a studio had ever put together that many famous stars in one film.
Garbo’s famous quote, “I want to be alone.” is from this movie. Tickets for the Hollywood Premiere ran as high as $1.50; a fortune for the Depression era. Clark Gable was up for the Wallace Beery part, but it was felt he looked too young, & couldn’t to a credible German accent.
There had been publicity done before the Hollywood Premiere, that Greta Garbo would appear in a skit after the screening; but instead when the curtain rose they saw Wallace Beery in drag doing his impersonation of Garbo,”I vant tobee alone!”. The audience was not amused.
MGM had bought the rights to the book from author Vicki Baum, and they in turn made a fortune off the Broadway play they mounted before they made the film. It opened in 1930, & ran for 459 performances; starred Albert Dekker, Sam Jaffe, & Sig Ruman. There was a musical version of the play done on Broadway in 1989, starring Cyd Charisse, & it ran profitably for 1,017 performances. MGM remade the film as WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF (1945). Neil Simon used its format when he wrote his hit plays PLAZA SUITE, CALIFORNIA SUITE, & LONDON SUITE.
I think it was odd that the movie was not nominated for its production values, for Art Director Cedric Gibbons did a marvelous job with the opening lobby scenes.
Whitney Selbold of NERDIST wrote: The camera movements & production values are very elaborate, intriguing, & engaging.
Rotten Tomatoes rated the film at 88% Critic’s Approval, and 78% Audience Approval.
Mordaunt Hall of THE NEW YORK TIMES wrote: “It is a production/film thoroughly worthy of all the talk it has created; a movie to be proud of.”
Joanna Berry of the RADIO TIMES wrote: “The star-filled melodrama that is GRAND HOTEL has become a blue print for almost every glossy ensemble Hollywood soap opera to follow it.”
Josh Larson of LARSON ON FILM wrote: “Joan Crawford owns this movie–she made the great Greta Garbo seem superfluous.”
Jake Eukar of FILM CRITIC wrote: “If you are in the mood for a sentimental look back to the 1930’s, then by all means, check in.”
So mark your calendars for this Friday, April 4, 2014, & join the TFC as we screen the classic Garbo film GRAND HOTEL (1932). It will be shown at the Center for Spiritual Living church building, located at 206 North J Street, on the corner of 6th & Division streets, across from the Group Health hospital. Arrive early, around 6:15 p.m., & join other members downstairs for fun & fellowship. It is permitted to bring snacks & beverages, including wine, to share with others. Be sure to clean up after yourselves, & remember that it is not permitted to bring food or drinks into the sanctuary upstairs when watching the movie. Admission is free, but there will be a Donation Box upstairs, & all donations are appreciated; assisting the Club in renting the space & equipment, and purchasing a screening license necessary for public viewings.
GRAND HOTEL will screen at 7:15 p.m., and it runs 112 minutes, so it should be over before 9:30 p.m. Please be kind & courteous to others and silence your cell phones, & do no texting during the movie; thank-you. See you at the movies!