Last night we watched Grand Hotel, 1932’s Academy Award-winning Best Picture. Not that this was difficult to acheive, but this movie was leaps and bounds above our last viewing of Cimarron. The acting improved; there was a substantial plot; there was some significant actor-viewer connection.
The Grand Hotel is a famous hotel in Germany where “Nothing ever happens.” The first scenes are within a telephone booth at the hotel. Several of the main characters are introduced during their phone conversations with a variety of unknown people on the other line. The chauffeur is waiting for his wife to give birth while he cannot leave work. Old Kringelein is living out his last days, hoping for a last hurrah at this famously decadent hotel. Preysing is waiting for news about his major business merger. The Baron is making thieving plans to pay off gambling debts. After the initial chaos of introductions, the characters are followed somewhat separately and intertwined again as the story goes on. The two main women are introduced and unconsciously weave love triangles, adding all the emotions that women interested in love tend to add.
I got to see the acting of Greta Garbo for the first time. I was not impressed. The very famous Swedish actress played a very moody Russian ballerina, who falls in love with the Baron after he attempts to steal her pearls. She may have nailed the part of the eccentric Russian dancer, but she was certainly over-the-top to get there. During the scene in which she and the Baron are falling in love, I had a hard time believing either one of them. I thought it was yet another of the Baron’s scams. Later, he professes his love, letting the viewer know that he wasn’t kidding.
Joan Crawford played the other starring female role, a streetwise stenographer who doesn’t believe in love. I thought she was incredible. Her ability to use facial expressions instead of verbal lines was incredible. Unfortunately, I felt like her acting was so above and beyond the efforts of her co-stars, she stood out unnaturally. I don’t believe she appears in any of our future Academy Award winners, but I would be happy to see another film in which she stars.
I won’t ruin the end for you because this is definitely a film worth watching. But I will tell you that, despite the high society and attempt to live solitarily, there is much excitement to be had in the hotel where “Nothing ever happens.”