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 80's and early 90's.
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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 on to.
- The Von Trope Family: Baron von Geigern, child of nobility, who has fallen on hard times.
- 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.