"Grand Hotel... always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens."
— Dr. Otternschlag
Adapted from Vicki Baum's novel, this 1932 MGM
film was directed by Edmund Goulding and featured an All-Star Cast
that included Greta Garbo
, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford
, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore
. It tells the intertwining stories of the various guests who check into Berlin's famous Grand Hotel (based on the Real Life
- The Baron (John Barrymore), a poor aristocrat who's resorted to thievery to pay off his debts.
- Mr. Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), who has come to the Grand Hotel to live it up after finding out he is terminally ill.
- Flaemmchen (Crawford), a secretary who is barely scraping by.
- Preysing (Beery), a businessman who is desperate for a deal that could save his failing company.
- Grusinskaya (Garbo), a Russian ballerina who is burned out on life.
- Their stories are observed by Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone), who's too drunk to notice that stuff does happen in the Grand Hotel.
This film is probably the first true All-Star Cast
film ever made, featuring most every A-lister in the MGM lineup. Grand Hotel
won the Academy Award
for Best Picture, without even being nominated for any other Oscars, the only time this has ever happened. Contains the Signature Line
of Garbo's whole career—"I want to be alone."
Followed by a Spiritual Successor
, Dinner at Eight
, which not only featured a similar narrative structure but had several of the same actors playing similar parts. It was remade in The Forties
as Weekend at the Waldorf
, starring Lana Turner.
This film provides examples of:
- And the Adventure Continues: A young married couple check in to the hotel at the end, indicating that more people wlll come and have adventures at the Grand Hotel.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Shortly after the Baron dies, the major-domo of the hotel (Jean Hersholt) finds out that his wife has delivered a baby boy.
- Bittersweet Ending / Downer Ending: The Baron is dead, and Grusinskaya's going to be alone. Kringelein is still going to die. But Preysing at least will face justice, and Flaemmchen and Kringelein will grab some happiness while they can.
- Black Sheep: The Baron describes himself as this. Apparently he's been cut off by his family.
- Book Ends: Opens and closes with the inaccurate observations of Dr. Otternschlag.
- Continuity Nod: Pay close attention at the end and you will hear one of the desk clerks calling out rooms that have become vacant—the rooms that are being vacated by the movie's main characters.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Preysing notices Flaemmchen's legs while dictating a letter.
- Ensemble Cast: Each character gets to carry a storyline, and no single character takes much more screen time than the others.
- Extremely Short Timespan: Takes place over about 48 hours, or two days and nights at the hotel.
- Gentleman Thief: "Baron" Felix von Geigern, although in this case he's apparently been forced to become a hotel thief due to being deeply in debt to bad people.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The Baron and Kringelein agree that the best life is "a short life and a gay one".
- Impoverished Patrician: The Baron is the Black Sheep of his family, and flat broke as a result.
- Info Dump: A series of telephone conversations at the beginning sketch out the stories of several characters.
- Ironic Echo: The "nothing ever happens" line, said by Dr. Otternschlag for the second time after a great deal has happened.
- Jerk Ass: Preysing, he's a perverted tyrant and a cheat.
- Mean Boss: Preysing is this, as established by Kringelein, who was a low-level accountant at Preysing's company. Kringelein lets Preysing have it in an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech after Preysing is rude to him at the hotel bar.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The only one to use a German accent was Wallace Beery, who plays the main villain.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Subverted and lampshaded (see Ironic Echo).
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kringelein, who no longer has anything to lose, gives this to his scumbag boss, Preysing.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Kringelein's response when a desperate Preysing tries to buy him off.
- Sexy Secretary: Flaemmchen, who models in her spare time.
- The Von Trope Family: Baron von Geigern, who has fallen on hard times.
- Weimar Republic
- White-Dwarf Starlet: Grusinskaya's ballet tour is drawing very poor audiences. After she blows off a performance, she notices that no one missed her.
- Your Days Are Numbered: Otto Kringelein has a terminal illness, so he spends all his money to live the end of his life in luxury.