Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Joan Crawford Week: Grand Hotel

Welcome ladies and gents to Day 1 of Joan Crawford Week. Today we look at the adaptation of screenplay of the same name to film by playwright/screenplay writer William A. Drake (The Trespasser, Paramount on Parade, Riptide, The Flame Within, Dark Victory and The Old Maid) and working alongside with actor/writer/director Edmund Goulding (Reaching for the Moon, Night Angel, A Night at the Opera, Dark Victory, The Old Maid and The Razor's Edge) This film's influence stems to this day with the famous line "I want to be alone", uttered by Greta Garbo and in American Film Institute placed at number 30 of the 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.

This is Grand Hotel.

Fame overwhelms the mind, don't it?

The Grand Hotel hails from Berlin and houses a curious collection of people from every walk of life. The standards view is people come and go, and nothing ever truly happens. With a crippled veteran of World War I, Doctor Otternschlag (Lewis Stone of The Lost World, Queen Christina, Love Finds Andy Hardy, Scarmouche and The Prisoner of Zenda) being the hotel's lone permanent resident, much goes on in the hotel he calls home.

A member of the Kaiserreich a one Baron Felix von Geigern (John Barrymore of Here Comes the Bride, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Sea Beast, Moby Dick, Dinner at Eight and The Great Profile) a squander of his fortune keeps himself afloat by being a card player and indulging in the odd spot of jewel theft befriends mild-mannered accountant Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore of Captains Courageous, You Can't Take It With You, It's a Wonderful Life, Key Largo and Lone Star) who recently discovered he is dying and will spend his remaining days on this Earth in the lap of luxury. Let go from his job he is excited for a bit of action and entertainment.

Sir, stop farting on my scotch and soda!

Meanwhile his former employer, Industrialist General Director Preysing (Wallace Beery of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, Another Man's Wife, Dynamite Smith, The Champ and Viva Villa!) is dictating to his secretary Flaemchen (Joan Crawford of Mildred Pierce, Goodbye, My Fancy, Torch Song, Sudden Fear, This Woman Is Dangerous, Johnny Guitar and The Caretakers) who exhibits a certain naivete' explaining to Preysing how she aspires to be an actress and displays a few photo magazine shots that frankly had a bit of cheesecake quality towards them, slowly hinting that she will give more than typing if he assists her in her budding career. Last but certainly not least is the Russian ballerina whose career seems out of sorts, Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo of The Temptress, Flesh and the Devil, The Divine Woman, The Kiss, Mata Hari, As You Desire Me and The Painted Veil) manages to catch the Baron's eye for her stunning beauty and fine quality jewels.

Snatching the goods, the Baron finally sees an opportunity to get ahead when he sees Grusinskaya enter the room, speaking to herself about suicide with medication in hand. The Baron comes out of the shadows of where he was hiding and simply speaks with her bringing a little happiness to her face. The next day the Baron filled with remorse returns Grusinskaya's precious jewels to her in the hopes she may forgive him in his moment of weakness. Rather than summon the authorities she invites him to journey with her to Vienna. See? I would have just gotten the cops called on me and charges pressed. Go figure. With tempers flaring between Kringlein and his former boss Preysing it can only in tears, violence and quite possibly a murder.

A quick couple of facts on the film. While made in 1932, the budget for the movie was 700,000 clams. Wallace Beery would storm out of rehearsals and only return "When Joan Crawford learns to act." Both Joan and Greta were reluctant to star as their characters. Ms. Crawford felt she would be censored immensely for her provocative character and Ms. Garbo felt she would be lost in the crowd of so many stars.  

Did Jake forget I am the star of this week?  The hack!