Vintage Icons • Movies

“Grand Hotel”

11 September, 2013

–          Year of production: 1932

–          Director: Edmund Goulding

–          Actors: Greta Garbo (Madame Grusinskaya), John Barrymore (The Baron), Joan Crawford (Flaemmchen), Wallace Beery (Preysing), Lionen Barrymore (Kringelein),Photography: William Daniels.

Edmund Goulding, William H Daniels, Wallace Beery and Joan Crawford-

This film depicts life inBerlin’s most expensive hotel, and the coming and going of its guests and employees. It’s an adaptation of the novel “Menschen im Hotel” written by the playwright Vicky Baumm. The writer based the story on real events that occurred in a hotel where she worked between a shorthand writer and an industrial magnate. She used her own experiences as a chambermaid in two renowned hotels inBerlinto write her novel.

“The people come and go. Nothing ever happens” this is one of the quotes from the film that best describes it. A baron, an old war wounded doctor, a humble worker on the point of death, an aggressive industrialist, a very beautiful Russian ballerina, a rather liberal secretary and other endless characters are mixed together to create and tell various tales. The clients register at the hotel, share their lives and then leave.


Their lives merge in a way that reminds us of many current films and series. At first, when we start watching it, it seems that we find ourselves before one of those comedies that depicts an optimistic and light-hearted way of life. However, we immediately realize that what is before us is actually a drama. It is a film that speaks to us of honesty, generosity, friendship, ambition, pride, respect, and falling in and out of love.

I am not going to tell you the film’s plot, as it is one that is complicated to tell and better to see. The staging is impressive: the hotel lobby, the staircases, the corridors and the rooms. All of the decorations are extraordinary. The scenes in which Greta Garbo crosses the hotel lobby like an authentic diva, followed by a group of bellboys loaded with flowers, are exquisite.

The stories are cross-linked, a formula that was greatly used after and that has been given the name of “Grand Hotel formula”.

My personal favourites are Joan Crawford and Lionel Barrymore. In her role as secretary, Joan Crawford is splendid, elegant, mischievous and coquettish. Lionel Barrymore plays the role of a tender, honest and reliable old man. For me, Greta Garbo is too distant and cold, although extremely beautiful and very elegant, she does not manage to captivate the spectator.



The film received an Oscar for Best Film in 1932 and again in 2007 by the National FilmPreservation (I previously explained what this award is here).

Curiosities and Anecdotes:

  • The film includes endless anecdotes, curiosities and legendary parts, such as the fight between Garbo and Crawford, not sure whether real or produced at the time to promote the film before its release. This type of thing continues to be done and also to give good results at ticket selling time.  The question remains to why the two divas never appear together, some say that it was so that one did not take the spotlight away from the other.
  • It is the only film with an Oscar for Best Film that did not manage to receive any other nominations.
  • Wallace Beery turned down the role offered to him at first, only to later accept it on the condition that he would be the only actor with a German accent.
  • Greta Garbo requested that the set be decorated with red lights, so as to give the rehearsals a more romantic atmosphere.
  • Greta Garbo’s line “I want to be alone” is at number 30 of the 100 best American Film quotations according to the AFI (American Film Institute), and it was used by Groucho Marx in “A Night at the Opera”. Also HerculesPoirot in “Murder on the Orient Express” said that: “Some of us, in the words of the divine Greta Garbo, want to be alone”.
  • In the scenes of the hotel foyer where there were so many people moving about, it was ordered of all the actors and extras that they wear socks over their shoes so as not to make so much noise. Two hundred pairs of woollen socks were used everyday.
  • The tickets to the premiere cost $1.50, an enormous amount for cinema entry at the time.


  • In the change of shots in one of the scenes with Garbo on the telephone, the telephone appears in the opposite hand.
  •  Sweat marks are visible on Garbo’s dress in one of the most passionate scenes in the film.
  • The steering wheels of all the cars are on the right. InGermanythey drove (and still drive) on the right, in which case the steering wheels should all be on the left.
  • The wall shakes when a drunken Mr. Kringeley knocks on the door of his room.


I leave you a trailer for the film that was made later on as, according to the, the original has been lost.

The film’s trailer (according to, the 1932 original is lost):

A classic film that takes second place on our list of iconic films.


Wikipedia, 24 veces por segundo blog, y los ojos de cain


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