Follow TV Tropes


Film / Grand Hotel

Go To

"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, brothers John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford and Wallace Beery. It tells the intertwining stories of the various guests who check into Berlin's famous Grand Hotel (based on the Real Life Adlon Hotel):

  • 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.note  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 '40s as Weekend at the Waldorf, starring Lana Turner. A musical adaptation went to Broadway in the late 80s and early 90s, later adapted by the Takarazuka Revue. Vicky Blum later wrote a sequel to the book, Hotel Berlin, which was also adapted into a film, Hotel Berlin.

Not to be confused with Gran Hotel which shares the same English-language title, or The Grand Budapest Hotel, which doesn't.

Tropes found in the film:

  • And the Adventure Continues: A young married couple check in to the hotel at the end, indicating that more people will come and have adventures at the Grand Hotel.
  • Balcony Escape: The Baron enters Grusinskaya's room by climbing from balcony to balcony.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Shortly after the Baron dies, the majordomo of the hotel (Jean Hersholt) finds out that his wife has delivered a baby boy.
  • Bittersweet 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. And Flaemmchen believes that with all Kringelein's money they can find a great doctor who can cure him.
  • 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. (160, 164, 166, 170 and 176.)
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Preysing is a perverted tyrant and a cheat.
  • The Last Dance: Kringelein, terminally ill, blowing all his money on having a great time at the Grand Hotel.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Baron Felix Amadeus Benvenuto von Geigern, by his own admission, is a cheerful, charming man who has been awfully lucky all his life, getting into tough spots and out of them. Until his luck ran out. The meaning of his names, in order: "happy/lucky/successful," "love of God/love God," and "welcome."
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The Baron gets killed because he tries to rescue Flaemmchen from being raped by her Bad Boss. Of course, he was only there because he wanted to steal Preysing's wallet, but still.
  • 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).
  • Pet the Dog: Grusinskaya, initially implied to be The Prima Donna, has a moment of gratuitous niceness when she offers to help a frail old woman entering an elevator.
  • "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.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!:
    • The Baron pulls this to get a room for Kringelein, threatening to disturb Baron Rothschild.
    • The police officer squashes Zinnowitz's complaint about Preysing's arrest (that it could ruin Preysing's life, just because he defended himself from a hotel thief) by asserting that "the deceased was a Baron" (implying that it meant he couldn't possibly be a thief. Which he was, regardless of the events following his attempt to burgle Preysing).
  • Sexy Secretary: Flaemmchen, who models in her spare time.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: When the Baron, hiding in Grusinskaya's room in an attempt to steal her pearls, overhears her "in despair," his response is to disclose his presence and confess his feelings for her so she'll have something to hold onto.
  • The Von Trope Family: Baron von Geigern, child of nobility, who has fallen on hard times.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted with the Baron's dog, Adolphus. He is brought down to the lobby, and one of the staff takes charge of him. Like the Baron himself, he's quickly removed from the hotel (almost swept out by a janitor's broom), but the audience can presume he'll be fine.
  • 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. This seems to be both caused by and contributing to her depression; after she meets the Baron and is happy again, her next performance gets rave reviews.
  • 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.

Tropes found in the musical:

  • Ambiguously Bi: Otto Kringelein. He sings "The sleek young men/The slender girls/They please my eyes," in "At the Grand Hotel." He's quite affectionate to the Baron - a highlight from the Takarazuka production: the way Miya Rurika's Kringelein gently, almost tenderly, dabs the Baron (Tamaki Ryou)'s forehead with his handkerchief -, pays very little attention to the Sexy Secretary Flaemmchen, and at the end of "We'll Take a Glass Together" he leaps into the latter's arms (and being held aloft off the ground). While this can be chalked down to the Baron being "kind to [him] as no one ever was," it has not stopped the shippers.
  • Cross-Cast Role: The Takarazuka productions have Raffaela played by otokoyaku, actresses who usually play male roles.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The Baron gets shot accidentally while struggling for Preysing's gun, instead of clobbered with a telephone.
  • Dying Dream: The Baron's Death Song, "Roses at the Station" involves him seeing his life flash before his eyes, and getting to the Berlin main train station to go to Vienna with Elizaveta, but unable to see her. (Most productions put Elizaveta in the same scene, frantically looking for the Baron).
  • Missed Him by That Much: The Encores production has Elizaveta and the Baron miss each other by mere centimeters on the staircase. Of course, it's his Dying Dream, but still.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: In the Encores production of The Musical, the Baron holds a bouquet of red roses for most of "Roses at the Station." Near the end, he drops the flowers, revealing the gunshot wound on his crisp white shirt.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The Baron, in the middle of burgling Preysing, rushes to save Flaemmchen from being assaulted. He gets killed for it in an accidental struggle for the gun. Lampshaded by Doctor Otternschlag: "No creature on this planet is more miserable than an impoverished nobleman who can't help being noble."
  • Sanity Slippage Song: James Snyder (Encores production) plays "Roses at the Station" this way. "I'm here, Elizaveta, at the station/Here with you, dear, at the station," and "Where are you? I can't see you," therefore become Madness Mantras.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: The Takarazuka Revue production of The Musical has the young and adult Baron sharing the stage for "Roses at the Station."
  • Together in Death: The stage show implies Elizaveta kills herself after finding out about the Baron's death.