AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Grand Hotel
Director: Edmund Goulding (Dir)
Release Date:   11 Sep 1932
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 12 Apr 1932
Production Date:   mid-Dec 1931--18 Feb 1932
Duration (in mins):   115
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Greta Garbo (Grusinskaya, the dancer)  
    John Barrymore (The Baron [Felix Benvenuto Frihern Von Gaigern])  
    Joan Crawford (Flaemmchen, the stenographer)  
    Wallace Beery (General Director Preysing)  
    Lionel Barrymore (Otto Kringelein)  
    Lewis Stone (Doctor Otternschlag)  
    Jean Hersholt (Senf, the porter)  
    Robert McWade (Meierheim)  
    Purnell B. Pratt (Zinnowitz)  
    Ferdinand Gottschalk (Pimenov)  
    Rafaela Ottiano (Suzette)  
    Morgan Wallace (Chauffeur)  
    Tully Marshall (Gerstenkorn)  
    Frank Conroy (Rohna)  
    Murray Kinnell (Schweimann)  
    Edwin Maxwell (Dr. Waitz)  
    Greta Meyer (Housekeeper)  
    Rolfe Sedan (Man in bar)  
    Sarah Padden (Chambermaid)  
    Charles Trowbridge (Concierge)  
    Mary Carlisle (Mrs. Hoffman, honeymooner)  

Summary: Dr. Otternschlag, a resident at the Grand Hotel, Berlin's most expensive hotel, observes that life at the hotel is "always the same. People come--people go, nothing ever happens." Guests check in, share parts of their lives with one another and then leave. One such guest is Grusinskaya, a beautiful Russian ballet dancer who knows that her popularity is waning and complains that everything in her life has become "threadbare." Grusinskaya's stay at the hotel becomes greatly affected by her acquaintance with Baron Felix Benvenuto Frihern Von Gaigern, a charming hotel thief who plans to steal her pearls. Another guest, ailing bookkeeper Otto Kringelein, has been told that he has only a short time to live and is intent on spending his last days in the grandest style possible. Kringelein's intentions, however, are thwarted by the presence of his inimical boss, textile magnate General Director Preysing, who is in Berlin to make an important business deal. When the baron meets Flaemmchen, Preysing's stenographer, they flirt and make make plans to attend the hotel dance together. The baron then goes to his room, where he waits for Grusinskaya to depart for the theater. The baron enters Grusinskaya's room through her balcony and quickly finds the pearls, but is forced to hide when he hears someone at the door. Grusinskaya, who has returned from the theater after refusing to perform, calls Pimenov, the ballet master, and learns that her presence was missed by no one. Left alone, the depressed Grusinskaya is about to kill herself when the baron emerges and tells her that he is a great admirer of her talent and professes his love for her. After they make plans to leave for Vienna and start their lives over, they spend the night making love. The following day, Preysing negotiates a dishonest business deal and goes to the hotel's Yellow Room for a drink. There, he tries to steal Flaemmchen away from her conversation with the lonely Kringelein, which results in a bitter argument between Kringelein and Preysing. Later, when Flaemmchen realizes that she has been spurned by the baron, she accepts Preysing's offer to travel with him. The baron, meanwhile, tries to quit the hotel robbery racket, but is forced to continue stealing in order to pay his debt. Kringelein offers the baron money, but he refuses it and instead organizes a card game with Kringelein and some other men in the hope that he can win enough money to settle his debt. The baron soon loses all of his money, while the drunken Kringelein wins easily. When Kringelein collapses from over-excitement, the baron steals his wallet, but then returns it when he sees how upset it has made the bookkeeper. Later that night, while Grusinskaya places a call to the baron in his room, Preysing catches him trying to steal his wallet and kills him with a telephone receiver. Horrified at the sight of the murdered baron, Flaemmchen runs to Kringelein for help, and he, despite Preysing's pleadings, calls the police and turns Preysing in. The baron's body is removed the next morning and Preysing is arrested. After Flaemmchen accepts Kringelein's invitation to travel and live with him, they depart for Paris, certain that they will find another Grand Hotel there. Meanwhile, Grusinskaya's maid shields the departing dancer from the news of the baron's death and assures her that he will meet her at the train station. Grusinskaya, ignorant of the truth and certain of her happy future with the baron, is whisked through the lobby of the hotel to her car. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.  
Director: Edmund Goulding (Dir)
Producer: Paul Bern (Supv)
Writer: William A. Drake (Adpt)
Photography: William Daniels (Photog)
  A. L. Lane (2d cam)
  Charles W. Riley (Asst cam)
  Albert Scheving (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
Film Editor: Blanche Sewell (Film ed)
Costumes: Adrian (Gowns)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  Karl Zint (Sd)
  Anstruther MacDonald (Sd eng)
Make Up: Cecil Holland (Makeup)
Production Misc: Benjamin Thau (Casting dir)
  Milton Brown (Still photog)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Menschen im Hotel by Vicki Baum (Berlin, 1929) and her play of the same name (Berlin, Feb 1930) as adapted in English under the title Grand Hotel by William A. Drake (New York, 13 Nov 1930).
Authors: Vicki Baum
  William A. Drake

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp. 5/5/1932 dd/mm/yyyy LP3013 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Attempted suicide
  Ballerinas
  Gold diggers
  Hotels
  Murder
  Stenographers
  Thieves
 
Subjects (Minor): Berlin (Germany)
  Business ethics
  Cards
  Chauffeurs
  Death and dying
  Drunkenness
  Employer-employee relations
  Gambling
  Industrialists
  Physicians
  Romance

Note: According to a Mar 1932 NYT article, author and playwright Vicki Baum based Menschen im Hotel both on a true story about a scandal at a hotel involving a stenographer and an industrial magnate, and on her own experiences working as a chambermaid at two well-known Berlin hotels. The first American stage version of Baum's Menschen im Hotel , entitled Grand Hotel , starred Eugenie Leontovich as Grusinskaya and Sigfried Rumann as Preysing. According to the Var review of the film, M-G-M financed the stage production of Grand Hotel and in return acquired the film rights to the play for $35,000. Although HR production charts and a NYT news item credited Hans Kraly with preparing the script "with the assistance and supervision of Vicki Baum," his contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       HR pre-production news items announced Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante, George E. Stone and Buster Keaton as the male leads. According to modern sources, Keaton was slated to play "Otto Kringelein." Although HR production charts list actors Otto Matieson, Kathryn Crawford and Ruth Selwyn in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. HR pre-production news items also noted that Greta Garbo initially refused to play the part of the dancer. Modern sources list actors John Davidson ( Hotel manager ) and Sam McDaniel ( Bartender ) in the cast. A HR pre-release news item notes that guests and visitors were barred from the set during the filming of John Barrymore's death scene. M-G-M publicity material indicates that Garbo rehearsed her romantic scenes under red floodlights to provide her with inspiration, and that two hundred pairs of woolen socks were worn out daily during the filming of the busy lobby scenes. The socks were worn on the outside of the actors' shoes to prevent noise.
       Following the New York opening of Grand Hotel , New York Herald drama critic George Nathan called the film "dull to the point of complete ennervation," and accused Lionel Barrymore of "[looking upon] Hollywood as a mere golden sewer from which to fish up some easy, if aesthetically tainted, manna." Nathan also said that Garbo was "one of the drollest acting frauds ever press-agented into Hollywood histrionic eminence." Garbo's famous line, "I want to be alone," is spoken in the fourth reel of the film. For reasons unknown, the NYT review neglected to include starring actor Lewis Stone's name in the cast list. Both the MPH and NYT reviews allude to a "gruesome" scene in the picture, which both reviewers agreed should be cut before the film's release. The exact content of the scene in unknown.
       Grand Hotel received the 1932 Academy Award for Best Picture. It was also voted as the best directed, best written and best acted picture of the year by the HR poll of national film critics, and was voted best picture by both the HR and FD poll. According to an unidentified source in the AMPAS files, art director Cedric Gibbons was assisted by Edwin B. Willis and Alexander Toluboff. Modern sources indicate that the film was produced and distributed at a cost of $700,000, and was initially perceived as a John Gilbert vehicle. A biography of the Barrymore family notes that M-G-M production head Thalberg decided against Gilbert following the failure of his first three sound pictures. The Barrymore biography also notes that Wallace Beery, "protective of his lovable-brute image," initially rejected his "Preysing" assignment, but eventually accepted the role when Thalberg assured him that his character would be the only main character in the film with a German accent. In a filmography in the biographical film for Edgar G. Ulmer at the AMPAS Library, he is listed as production designer for this film and as the director of German and French versions. As no information has been located concerning any foreign-language versions of this film, it is possible that the versions in questioned were dubbed versions.
       The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains an AMPP memo, dated 27 Nov 1931, in which Lamar Trotti, an AMPP official, wrote that the synopsis contained only one scene that offered "much occasion for worry." Trotti called the scene in which the dancer "flings herself into a bath, comes out stark naked and is seen from the Baron from behind curtains...wholly unnecessary." In Jan 1932, Jason S. Joy, another AMPP official, told Thalberg that there were two scenes that required "the most delicate handling" possible: the scene in which "The Baron" remains in "Grusinskaya's" room all night, and "the scene in Preysing's room when Flaemmchen visits him." Joy also objected to scenes involving "drinking, dancing women" and references to childbirth. When M-G-M submitted the film for reissue certification in 1936, the PCA suggested a number of eliminations, including "dialogue concerning reference to the mating practices of dogs"; "Grusinskaya" exiting a room dressed in white; references to "Flaemmchen's" figure; "Preysing" snoring; and the entire scene of "Preysing hitting Baron on the head and knocking him down and killing him."
       Grand Hotel was spoofed in the 1934 Reliance film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (see below), in which Jack Benny impersonates John Barrymore and Nancy Carroll imitates Greta Garbo in a mock radio parody of the film. The film was also spoofed in a 1933 Vitaphone two-reel musical burlesque entitled Nothing Ever Happens , directed by Roy Mack. The title of that film was taken from the closing line of this film, spoken by Lewis Stone: "Grand Hotel, always the same. People come--people go, nothing ever happens." The delivery of Garbo's line, "I want to be alone," was spoofed in the 1932 M-G-M film Blondie of the Follies by Marion Davies, while Jimmy Durante imitated John Barrymore in the same film. A 1945 M-G-M remake of Grand Hotel , entitled Weekend at the Waldorf , was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starred Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson and Edward Arnold. A 1959 German version of Grand Hotel , entitled Menschen im Hotel , was directed by Gottfried Reinhardt and starred O. W. Fischer and Michele Morgan. On 12 Nov 1989, the Broadway musical Grand Hotel , opened at the Martin Beck Theater in New York. The musical, which was adapted and choreographed by Tommy Tune, starred Liliane Montevecchi and Karen Akers. Hotel Berlin , a 1945 Warner Bros. film, was based on Vicki Baum's novel of the same name and concerned characters in a hotel during the decline of Nazi Germany. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   17 Apr 32   p. 10.
Film Daily   26 May 32   p. 7.
HF   31 Dec 31   p. 12.
HF   21 Jan 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Aug 31   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Sep 31   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Dec 31   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 31   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Feb 32   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Feb 32   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Mar 32   p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter   14 Mar 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 32   p. 6.
International Photographer   1 Jun 32   p. 32.
Motion Picture Herald   16 Apr 32   p. 32.
New York Times   26-Feb-30   
New York Times   27-Mar-32   
New York Times   13 Apr 32   p. 13.
New York Times   6-Sep-32   
Variety   19 Apr 32   p. 14.

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