Best Picture Review: Grand Hotel (1932)

Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel

Next up in the all-time Best Picture viewings was 1932’s Grand Hotel, a movie that took me two tries to successfully watch.  The first time we started watching on Saturday night, I fell fast asleep on the couch and missed the last hour.  So, tonight, Lauren and I sat down see it in its entirety.  We weren’t disappointed!

Grand Hotel was the first of our Best Pictures I’ve seen that was both good and entertaining.  (I said earlier All Quiet on the Western Front was good, but good in a haunting sort of way, not entertaining!)  The acting was good, the storyline had very few holes, and most importantly, there were no random groups of children that broke out into song.

The story takes place at a very grand hotel, Grand Hotel, in Berlin.  A lonely doctor who resides at the hospital opens the movie by telling us that people come and people go, but nothing really ever happens at he Grand Hotel.  Or does it?

We’re introduced to our main characters right away, each on the phone with someone, telling them why they’re at the hotel, yet it’s still very confusing how these characters tie together.  Much like the other winning movies so far, it again took me a while to figure out what the story was going to be about.  I think today’s movies let us in on the plot within the first fifteen minutes.  These old movies really dance around the plot for a long time and seem to work on character development before anything actually happens.

There’s the penniless baron, trying to rob everyone.  There’s the man on his deathbed who’s cashed in his savings to have one last hurrah.  There’s a dancer who falls in love with the baron after he robs her.  There’s a burly businessman and a stenographer he hires.  No one knows each other when they check into the hotel, but soon their stories all intertwine and by the end of the movie, it’s all one big story.  This popular formula of combining stories together to form one became known as the Grand Hotel Formula!

Again, if you didn’t check out Grand Hotel in the first 76 years, stop reading now!  The movie ends with the baron in love with the dancer, the dancer in love with the baron, the stenographer in love with the baron, and the man on his death bed with a bit of a man crush on the baron.  And then the baron has to ruin it all by robbing the stern businessman, who in turn murders him.

So, old doc, you were wrong!  Things do happen at that hotel!

It took me quite a while to get into the movie, but by the time it was over, I decided it was a pretty damn good movie.  Like Broadway Melody in 1929, they hired a couple lookers to play the lead female roles.  They, and all the other main characters, died long before I was born.  I also discovered the grandfather and great uncle of Drew Barrymore were two of the main characters.

So far, this was the best of the Best Picture winners.  Unfortunately, 1933’s winner, Cavalcade, is not available from Netflix, so next up on our list is It Happened One Night.

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