I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grand Hotel, 1932

Not Rated

This film was the 5th to win Best Picture in Oscar history. The Grand Hotel, which according to the movie, is the nicest and most expensive hotel in Germany, is a supporting character itself in this film. In its own art-deco style, the hotel houses its unique guests and keeps their secrets, giving us a glimpse in the lives of five characters whose lives intertwine over the course of two days. The hotel’s on-call doctor states at the end of the film to a guest, “The Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come. People go...nothing ever happens.” How little did he know…

Greta Garbo plays Grusinskaya, a washed up ballerina who desperately misses the days of larger audiences and being desired. She utters her famous line “I want to be alone” in this movie. I had never seen her in a film before, but seeing her act in this reminded me that I want to see her in “Camille” (which is the movie Daddy Warbucks takes Annie to see in one of my favorite children’s movies). She is so dramatic- a defining attribute of actresses on the big screen during that time period.

Joan Crawford plays Flaemmchen, who is a stenographer (which is only one way she makes a living, ahem) floating from one job to the next to earn enough money to settle somewhere in what she dreams as the good life.

John Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s grandfather) plays the dashing but broke Baron von Gaigern who is the “bad” guy you love. He falls for Miss Drama and she for him in a somewhat cliché scene of them holding each other professing something about beauty, desire, dependability, etc.

Lionel Barrymore (Drew’s great uncle and John’s brother) plays the terminally-ill Mr. Kringelein and perhaps my favorite character. I totally didn’t recognize that he was the same man who played Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. He also starred in “Lady Be Good”, a musical I had the pleasure of dancing in 16 years ago, so now I’m intrigued to see that movie too (next year). He knows he’s nearing the end of his life, so he decides to live out the remainder of his short time in style and opulence. He is a sweetheart so I was pleased with the resolution of his storyline.

I’m surprised this movie hasn’t been re-done. It strikes me as the type of movie that can be easily remade in any decade and be just as entertaining. Storylines with characters whose lives intertwine and/or change because of their meetings intrigue me.

This film is unique because it is the ONLY one in Oscar history that won the honor of Best Picture and was failed to be nominated in any other category. “Grand Hotel” was up against “Arrowsmith”, “The Champ”, “Bad Girl”, “Five Star Final”, “One Hour with You”, “Shanghai Express”, and “The Smiling Lieutenant”. I haven’t heard of or seen any of those films so I can’t rightly compare, but I thought this movie was pretty entertaining for an old black & whitey. Also, just an unrelated tidbit from this year’s award ceremony: this was the first and only time two actors won/tied for the Best Actor award. Interesting, huh?

The hotel doctor had another line in the film that got me thinking. He said to another guest, “What do you do in the Grand Hotel? Eat. Sleep. Loaf around. Flirt a little. Dance a little. A hundred doors leading to one hall, and no one knows anything about the person next to them. And when you leave, someone occupies your room, lies in your bed, and that's the end.” I think it is such an interesting way to look at hotels. When it’s said like that, it sounds impersonal and almost like an invasion of privacy. But that’s actually what we’re doing as hotel guests… honing in on the hotel’s personal space. So many different types of people with different jobs, agendas, preferences, and secrets with one thing in common: our choice of where to lay our head at night.


I found this shot online and thought it was fascinating for a couple of reasons. One, it all makes sense for me after seeing their lighting set-up. Many times throughout the movie, I thought ‘Wow, it looks like they just have a spotlight on them’ (versus some more natural-looking room lighting). Second, I would venture a guess that producers, directors, and assistants don’t dress like that anymore on the movie sets…

Here are two other shots of the stars, Lionel & Joan and John & Greta.



We’re a lot closer to each other than you think. Yes, proximity in a hotel is one thing, but also in regards to the human desires, drives, and emotions.

Don’t get so absorbed in how you make a living that you forget how to live. Each character in this film learned this lesson (some the hard way).

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a good idea for a movie, and I can also see how it would be very "classy" as in "classic." That first picture is a good one!