Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bloggers come, bloggers go, nothing's ever posted

No, I'm not quitting the blogging game; I'm just recommending Grand Hotel tonight at 8:00 PM ET on TCM

Grand Hotel is one of the earliest of the all-star movies, with MGM using a bunch of its stars against the backdrop of Berlin's "Grand Hotel"; each star with his or her own story. Greta Garbo, who got top billing, is the dancer who would rather just take a break from work. Her story collides with that of John Barrymore, playing a "Baron" who is in fact a scammer trying to get not at Garbo, but at her jewels -- he needs the money. In the hallways of the hotel the Baron meets "Flaemmchen" (Joan Crawford), a secretary to a renowned industrialist (Wallace Beery). The Baron falls in love with her, but she's not so certain she's in love with him. The problem is that she also has to deal with the unwanted advances of her boss. Flaemmchen isn't the only one of Beery's employees at the Grand Hotel, either. Unbeknownst to him, one of his clerks (Lionel Barrymore) has taken an unexcused absence because he wants to enjoy life for a bit, believing that he's terminally ill. Oblivious to all this is the hotel's doctor (Lewis Stone), who famously quips, "People come, people go; nothing ever happens".

And yet, quite a bit happens. Despite the fact that there are a lot of stories going on, it's not too difficult to keep them all straight: Grand Hotel interweaves its stories like Dinner At Eight and unlike those anthology movies which present one story at a time. To be honest, some of the stories aren't as good as others. I personally am not the biggest fan of either Greta Garbo or John Barrymore, so care less about their stories. But all the stories do more or less work together, and are helped by good acting.

That and the production values. The hotel in Grand Hotel is as grand as is implied by the title, with large and opulent art deco sets. Even when the story isn't so interesting, Grand Hotel is a beautiful movie to look at. It's probably the combination of all this that helped Grand Hotel win the Best Picture Oscar. (Being up against relatively weak competition wouldn't have hurt, either.) Grand Hotel has unsurprisingly made it to DVD, and is well worth watching.

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