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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Grand Hotel (review)

Motel 6 It Ain’t

“People come, people go,” moans bored Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) at the beginning of Grand Hotel, “and nothing ever happens.”

You’d think that Otternschlag, as house doctor of Berlin’s fabulous and glamorous Grand Hotel, would get a chance to peek behind some doors. He’s obviously looking behind the wrong ones, because the hotel is a veritable hotbed of romance and intrigue.

Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), a meek little dormouse of a man, is dying, and in blowing his life savings he loses his fears and starts to like life on the edge. Mr. Preysing (Wallace Beery) is desperately trying to forge a merger between his textile company and another before his goes under. His stenographer, Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) — a tough but vulnerable broad who wants to be in the movies — takes up some witty flirting with the Baron (John Barrymore) before he falls madly in love with Grusingkaya (Greta Garbo), a Russia ballet dancer who longs for her homeland and Grand Duke Sergei. (The Baron, by the way, meets Grusingkaya when he’s trying steal a string of pearls from her hotel room — he’s a gentleman thief, of course.)

It’s all very silly, the ultimate in Depression-era escapism: a piece of Hollywood magic that’s impossibly romantic filled with people who are impossibly elegant, bantering and wisecracking constantly. Its fascinating and diverse characters and a rather dark ending, however, give Grand Hotel more heft than any of its hellish spawn such as The Love Boat or Fantasy Island.

Oscars Outstanding Production 1931/32
unforgettable movie moment:
Grusingkaya’s sighs of “I vant to be alone.”

previous Best Picture:
1930/31: Cimarron
next Best Picture:
1932/33: Cavalcade

go> the complete list of Oscar-winning Best Pictures

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Grand Hotel (1932) | directed by Edmund Goulding
US/Can release: Apr 12 1932

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated U (contains mild violence and scenes of smoking)

viewed at home on a small screen

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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