Featuring a veritable who’s-who of MGM royalty during the studio’s heyday, including an ascendant Greta Garbo, Barrymores John and Lionel, Wallace Beery, and a sultry, seductive Joan Crawford in an early featured role, Grand Hotel is a clear precursor for the kitchen-sink, domestically-focused dramas of Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson, and was a mid-career triumph for wunderkind MGM producer Irving Thalberg. Grand Hotel follows several narrative strands that routinely intermingle, including the machinations of a rich baron (Beery) as he tries to close a deal, the last days of a despondent accountant (Lionel Barrymore), and the exploits of a jewel thief (John Barrymore). Garbo and Crawford, however, are the most tragic and affecting figures as, respectively, the fallen-from-grace Russian ballerina Grusinskaya and the aspiring actress Flaemmchen. Filled with unforgettable lines from a labyrinthine screenplay adapted from the 1929 novel by Vicki Baum, Grand Hotel is a melancholic yet “dazzling parade of star iconography.”—Dave Kehr, The Chicago Reader. 35mm print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.
Appears in: Bette & Joan
Other Films by Edmund Goulding
Dark Victory is a highly emotional, unforgiving piece of classical cinema about the choices one might make when learning of imminent death. Bette Davis stars in one of her most sensitive and magnetic roles, for which she was again nominated for an Academy Award—a regular occurrence by 1939. As Judith (a role originated on Broadway …