Three ‘Grand Hotel’ films

grand hotel premiereIn the  1930s and in the 40s hotels became popular sets for the playing out of  the human drama on film.  Hotels were where strangers of consequence crossed paths, where incognito was the cocktail de la jour and where spies and art connosieurs alike were on the hunt for the original. Grand Hotel Scene Three films of the era that immediately come to mind have remained classics to this day and continue to inspire.  The most famous of these ‘ Grand Hotel’ made in 1932 starred Greta Garbo , John Barrymore and Joan Crawford with a cast of supporting characters that read like a who’s who of Hollywood at the time.  Garbo plays a ballet dancer whose career is waning. Her character falls in love with a poverty stricken Baron ( John Barrymore ) who , unbeknownst to her, has just stolen her jewels.  Crawford,meanwhile plays a struggling actress working as a stenographer to save enough for a trip to Hollywood and a screen test. grandhotel CrawfordHer boss ( Wallace Beery ) a wealthy industrialist in the hotel to close a business deal.A former employee of the industrialist, a company accountant, played by Lionel Barrymore, is staying in the hotel because he is terminally ill and wants to live out his last days in luxury.  Turns out he actually won a large amount of money on the same day his tests came back positive.  These characters come together and play out their lives in the kind of  stylish hotel that few could afford in those days.  Garbo & BarrymoreThe glamourous backdrop makes the lives of the characters seem even more desperate.  Another film ‘Idiot’s Delight’ less well known but equally as good starred Norma Shearer who was also a very big star and very competetive with both Crawford and Garbo.  Married to Irving Thalberg she had quite some clout. Starring opposite Clark Gable in this film, the same year he played Rhett Butler in ‘Gone With The Wind’, she certainly prooved she could hold her own.  Playing a duchess to Gable’s ‘Harry Van of Les Blondes’ a troupe of dancing girls, she is holed up in a five star hotel in the Swiss Alps awaiting a visa which her lover has promised to get for her. Gable and Shearer 'I.D'. Idiot's DelightThe lover just happens to be a munitions dealer and is on the run himself.  The problem is that Harry (Gable) recognises her as a trapeze artist he once had an affair with back in Omaha and this causes complications.  Without going into too much deliberation it is the hotel itself which is the real star.  The Alps can be seen through a giant window in one of the elegant lounges.  It is here where the final scene is played out against a bombing blitz which has devastating consequences and empties the hotel of all it’s occupants except for Harry and his duchess.  The third film which deals again with transient characters on the run , in hiding, or wheeling and dealing, was not terribly popular in Hollywood and was not so well publicised in it’s day.  This is because the film is about the German view of the war and deals with the dilemmas suffered by German civilians during a time when their country also suffered the degradations of war. Made in 1945 as the war was in it’s sat stages Peter_Lorre_in_Hotel_Berlin this film deals with spies,resistance fighters, informers and Nazis.  There is a drunken doctor played by Peter Lorre and a tramp played by Faye Emerson who will do anything or anyone for a pair of shoes. HotelBerlinPage The leads played by Helmet Dantine and Andrea King are both taking shelter at ‘The Hotel Berlin’.  He is involved with the German underground movement and she plays a famous actress’ Lisa Dorn’ trying to flee the country.  There is definitely something intriguing about unconventional characters stuck in classy hotels playing out their scenarios for a wider audience.  A winning formula indeed.  Perhaps we all need to escape to a luxury hotel from time to time even if we don’t need to just to get away from the ordinary.  For those who can afford it there is honour amongst  theives … tramps …. drunken doctors… duchesses in disguise …

© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 6/4/2014

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