Random Warner Bros. – Grand Hotel

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator calls for room service after landing on 1932’s Grand Hotel, the oldest movie in the set.

Here’s what happens: A look into various folks’ lives as they stay at the opulent grand hotel in Berlin. There’s an aging ballerina who fears her best days are behind her, a conniving baron seeking money by any means, a pompous general hoping to close a big business deal, a dying man wanting one last taste of the good life, and a lovely young stenographer with ambition of being an actress.

Why it’s famous: Then-groundbreaking film techniques, including the bird’s-eye-view shots of the busy hotel front desk. Also, Greta Garbo delivers her famous line “I want to be alone” with maximum malaise.

Get your film degree: In the early ‘30s, the studio system demanded that each movie be built around a single movie star. With Grand Hotel, writer William Drake and director Edmund Goulding broke the mold by putting a whole bunch of big stars in one movie and let them play off each other, more or less inventing what we know of today as an ensemble film.

Movie geekishness: While Greta Garbo is more or less the headliner, I was really blown away by Joan Crawford’s performance. These days, Crawford is more famous for her messed-up personal life rather than her acting, but in Grand Hotel she’s charming, witty and all-around radiant. She was my favorite part of the movie.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Your screenwriting 101 teacher will tell you that you should never, ever, ever write an ensemble film, and instead to maintain focus on a single main character. Some strange alchemy is at work in Grand Hotel, however, making it the rare ensemble film that works.

Next week: Does this bird belong to you?


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.



About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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