Grand Hotel is a 1932 drama film starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, and Joan Crawford. The story was adapted from the 1929 novel ‘Menschen im Hotel by Vicki Baum.’
The story unfolds within the confines of the Grand Hotel, Berlin’s most prestigious hotel between the wars. There are five main characters in the story: the impeccable-mannered Baron (John Barrymore), the temperamental dancer Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), the stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), the corporate tyrant Preysing (Wallace Beery), and the sickly Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore). It is the interaction between the characters that drive the narrative forward. The Baron, despite his air of sophistication, is bankrupt. His debts have forced him to enter into a compact with some gangsters to steal jewelry, but he cannot complete the deal. The sad, lonely Grusinskaya, whose unhappiness threatens her career, falls in love with him. The Baron’s love and support allow her to rediscover herself and reclaim her talent. Flaemmchen, a stenographer who works for Preysing, is attracted to the Baron. Likewise, she wants money, and in order to get it, she prostitutes herself to Preysing, whose financial future is tied to the success of a merger. Finally, Kringelein is an inoffensive individual who believes he has a terminal illness and has withdrawn his entire savings from the bank to give himself a grand sendoff. Kringelein is treated with kindness by the Baron and introduced to Flaemmchen, which will prove advantageous for both of them.
Grand Hotel is about characters and their interactions, recognizing that almost everyone has a secret and find out what those secrets are. By today’s standards, it’s a somewhat dry experience, but watching so many legendary actors nearby compensates for the stilted plot development. Grand Hotel has proven influential in the years since its original release. Greta Garbo’s famous line “I want to be alone” placed 30th in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes. In 2007, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Here are some scenes and on-set photos from the movie ‘Grand Hotel (1932).