(out of 5)
Perfectly enjoyable melodrama that puts a huge assortment of MGM stars in the Grand Hotel for a night and watches them interact and (sometimes) come apart. Greta Garbo tops the pyramid as the Swedish skating star who just ‘vants to be alone’ (though she never really says that), and Joan Crawford is excellent as the secretary who’s a lot prettier under that stenographer’s hat than it at first seems (yeah right, big surprise). Other cast members, including Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone and an assortment of the Barrymores all have stories of their own and they’re all so much fun to peruse. Looks great after sixty years thanks to flashy art deco production design and snazzy costumes by Adrian. The formula was repeated a year later to moderately less success with George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight.
Directed by Edmund Goulding
Cinematography by William H. Daniels
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Music by Charles Maxwell
Production Design by Cedric Gibbons
Costume Design by Adrian
Film Editing by Blanche Sewell
Outstanding Production (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Believe it or not, somewhere beneath that frightening statue of a 1940s movie icon, Joan Crawford was undoubtedly a human being. Watch any of the many delightful musicals that she made in the 30s (before she was labelled “box-office poison” and made her comeback) and you’ll find the evidence. Most enjoyable is her non-musical but fetching turn as the secretary in Grand Hotel, in which she is shockingly relatable in her delight and desperation. Oscar didn’t have a supporting category for actors yet, and the film went completely unrecognised in all categories except the one that it triumphed in (oddly, Best Picture), but if things were different you can bet she would have at least scored a nomination.
Honour Roll: Mae West, Night After Night