Monday, July 10, 2017


(Post 10 of 20)

Icon to Icon: John Barrymore and Greta Garbo
in Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel is the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture for 1932 and I do find it a bit curious that it didn't make the 1001 book. It certainly is important historically in that it may have been the first feature film to plop so many stars into an all-star extravaganza and features an elaborately recreated hotel and able direction from Edmund Goulding. The all-star cast may be the main reason to see this today. It features three iconic Hollywood Stars (Greta Garbo, John Barrymore and Joan Crawford), two recent Academy Award Winners (Lionel Barrymore-A Free Soul 1931, Wallace Beery-The Champ, 1932), and two supporting stalwarts (Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt). And who fares the worst in this all-star cast? I would have to say Greta Garbo. I can see the Garbo mystique in other pictures, but her ballerina is just too over the top here. She does get to utter her famous "I want to be alone" line. Joan Crawford comes off much better as the vivacious stenographer. But who comes off the best is...
And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to...Lionel Barrymore. Not sure you would even consider this a supporting role since Barrymore's Mr. Kringeleine is really the heart of the film. Kringeleine is a working stiff who finds out he doesn't have long to live and wants to spend some time living a little before his time is up. Barrymore is funny, but often poignant in his portrayal as well. The scene where he tells off his arrogant boss Wallace Beery is one of the highlights of the film.It's interesting that Barrymore often played sympathetic characters like this. Key Largo and You Can't Take It With You are other examples.  Of course, many modern day viewers only remember him as his role as the very definition of evil as Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life.

Lionel Barrymore cuts a rug with Joan Crawford
in Grand Hotel

Lionel Barrymore cuts down everything in his path
in It's a Wonderful Life

And the Jean Hersholt Humanitarain award goes to...Jean Hersholt
Hersholt plays the guy who runs the desk at the Grand Hotel and it made me think that they give out an Oscar every year in his name and I thought I'd look up why...and  the answer is that Jean helped form the Motion Picture Relief fund in the late 30's to assist with medical care for those in the industry. The award was first given in 1956 after his death. I like that the award is still given out in his name even though most have probably forgotten who he was.

Jean Hersholt reminds you to sign
the Grand Hotel register and 
to do good works in your life.


  1. I really like this movie. It holds a very interesting place in Oscar history--it's the only film to ever win Best Picture that was nominated for no other Oscars.

    I think it gets a bad rap, but I really like the way the stories fold into each other. It's easy to imagine it being incredibly influential on directors like Robert Altman.

  2. Yes. I would have thought Goulding should have been at least been nominated for director.