Year Released: 1932
Directed by: Edmund Goulding
Starring: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone
(Not Rated, 112 min.)
Academy Awards (1932) Best Picture
"Grand Hotel…always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens." Dr.Otternschlag
We are in the Dog Days of summer, in the film world as well. Why not liven things up with this timeless classic featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest names from the 1930’s? Not one, but two Barrymores, and each of them in fine form.
It was a bit of a risk for MGM to feature such a star-studded cast, many of them known to have “artistic temperaments,” so much so that during the filming Director Edmund Goulding earned the nickname Lion Tamer. In fact, he was very careful not to have the two female leads in any scenes together to avoid any attempts at scene stealing. Joan Crawford was already somewhat piqued at Greta Garbo’s top billing, and the latter’s refusal to speak to her on set only turned down the temperature on an already frigid relationship.
Set in Berlin’s posh Art Deco Grand Hotel in the early thirties, the film contains all the glamour and glitz the Depression Era audience longed for. The acting is over the top by today’s standards; full of sighs, melodramatic posturing, sultry looks and noble profiles, but this excursion to a bygone era is certainly worth the trip.
Greta Garbo plays a Russian prima ballerina, beautiful, vain, and pathetically insecure. She “wants to be alone,” but Baron Felix von Gaigern (John Barrymore), the suave jewel thief hiding in her room with her just pilfered pearls in his pocket, will not let her. To him, she is the real pearl, so he steps from behind the curtains to save her from herself.
A very young Joan Crawford with penciled brows and blond hair is a beautiful hired stenographer, although she is riddled with a tongue twister German name, Flaemmchen. She falls for the baron, fends off the lecherous textile magnate (Wallace Beery) who hires her to take dictation, and befriends the dying bookkeeper Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), living it up in his final days.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film is that it was made in 1932, right in the middle of the four-year period known as the Pre Code Era, before the United States Motion Picture Production Code was strictly enforced. (This code was replaced in 1968 with the MPAA film rating system.) The three main provisions of the Code were:
No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
Law natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
The sympathetic jewel thief, the stenographer who ultimately decides not to limit her services to dictation, and our dying bookkeeper awash in champagne and baccarat all ride recklessly outside these provisions. But they are also quite charming.
John Barrymore, perhaps better known today as Drew’s grandfather, was not unlike the sweet baron he plays here – a charmer, ladies’ man, and often short of cash. “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?” he once queried. Joan Crawford, our pert stenographer is only reluctantly willing to go away with her loathsome boss, and in the end, her heart is just as golden as her ambitions. And what a delight to see Lionel Barrymore on his own two feet making a pitch for the little guy rather than the evil curmudgeon, wheel chair bound Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, as most of us usually remember him.
Take a trip back in time to this grand place, where the champagne flows, love ignites at first sight, and triumph and tragedy wait patiently in the silent hallways.
Unlike the ironic quote by the unobservant Dr. Otternschlag, quite a bit happens at the Grand Hotel. Between the cat burglaring, the love trysts, the attempted suicide and the real murder, the denizens of the Grand Hotel have their hands full. They may find time for champagne and baccarat, but they never seem to slow down enough for a decent meal. Well, Chef Markus Walder of Berlin can settle that easily enough.
Here is his elegant yet simple inspiration, Sole Tartar with White Chocolate and Smoked Salmon. In fact, if you *click below, he has an entire chocolate menu, from first course to dessert. “The result is pure decadence,” and just the thing to wash down with a little of the bubbly.
*You have to do a little more clicking after you arrive at the Luxury Experience.com homepage. Click on restaurants, then, Germany, and scroll down to the Schokoladen Restaurant --it means "chocolate" in German.
Sole with White Chocolate and Smoked Salmon
1.7 ounces Sole filet
2 teaspoons White chocolate
1/3 teaspoon Dill
1 Lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon Saffron
1 teaspoon) Cream
1 teaspoon Fish sauce
Salt and pepper
Cut the sole filets in thin cubes and marinate in the lemon juice for 2-hours. Cut the dill, and add it to the sole. Pour the juice out from the sole, and then mix the sole with the warm white chocolate. Arrange it nicely on the plate with the smoked salmon.
For the sauce: Mix the cream and fish sauce and saffron together, season to taste with salt and pepper. Finish with dill on the top of the plate.
Recipe Source: Luxury Experience.com