Time: 112 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Won Academy Award for Best Picture.
BOTTOM LINE: As one of the first multi-star vehicles, this classic drama takes us into the heart of a 4-star hotel, where life is glamorous and death swept under the rug. We're introduced to a motley cast of characters an elegant thief (J. Barrymore), unhappy ballerina (Garbo), dying accountant (L. Barrymore), beautiful stenographer (Crawford) and corrupt businessman (Beery) whose lives, over the course of a few days, intersect in ways both glorious and tragic. The ballerina finds love with the thief, regaining her joy in performing. The accountant, who's living out his final days in style, falls for the steno girl, though she's quite out of his league. The girl is torn between all three men. She's attracted to the thief, friends with the accountant and employed by the businessman. All of them are looking for happiness. They expected their lives would somehow be changed by the experience of staying at the Grand Hotel. They are right, but not in ways any of them could have predicted.
It's an intricately woven story with stand-out performances from all involved. One that exposes the dark desires we humans normally hide behind closed doors. Garbo, both Barrymores, and Beery may not be household names anymore, but they should be. It's their collective talent that makes you care about these people, giving this simple story power, depth and heart. Even Crawford makes her mark on this film in one of her first starring roles. Unlike many films of this time, GRAND HOTEL has great class and visual style, making you truly feel the glamour of life in this famous hotel. The interweaving of the stories gives the film a much greater complexity and energy than one expects from a tale told in only one location with mostly dialogue to move the story along. This film showcases what cinematic presence is all about.