The Movie Essentials: Grand Hotel

The Essentials

In 2001, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) began a weekly show called The Essentials. This show features movies that they are quick to point out do not represent “the best” movies, rather that each one has had an “unmistakable impact in some way.”

The Essentials were then compiled into two books. Each movie is covered in 3-5 pages that include their vital statistics, a synopsis, photos, and what makes them Essential. I am working my way through those books. The descriptions are full of really interesting information that makes me want to watch all of them! I’m not sure I will accomplish that goal, but so far, John and I have watched All Quiet on the Western Front, and now Grand Hotel from 1932.

Grand Hotel 1932

Movie Essentials Grand Hotel 1932

Grand Hotel is based on a play of the same name, both screenplay and script written by William A. Drake. The play was derived from the book, Menschen im Hotel by Vicki Baum, published in 1929. The movie (spoiler alert) begins and ends with the line “People coming, going. Nothing ever happens.” The fact is that quite a lot happens, but I think what is implied here is that the events are of great significance to a few, but have no impact on the whole, so in the end… everything remains the same.

Five guests of the hotel are unknown to one another at the start and each one presents with a particular problem of their own. Throughout the course of the movie they all become entangled in various ways, both helping and adding to their original problems. Of the five, two get the proverbial happy ending and the rest are doomed.

Why is This an Essential?

Three things make this movie an Essential. First, it is considered the first all-star movie. Five major stars, Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore, played the five main characters. Prior to this, movies were made with perhaps one big star surrounded by lesser known actors in the other roles. It also had the line, “I want to be alone”, that would forever be associated with Greta Garbo. Finally, this was the only movie to date to win the Oscar for best picture without receiving a nomination in any other category.

Would I Recommend It?

Yes, I would recommend this movie. It was really interesting to see the five stories of the five main characters develop and become woven together. They are truly tragic characters for whom I wished a happy ending. Enjoy! 💜


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