blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Grand Hotel (1932, Edmund Goulding)

Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, and Lionel Barrymore star in GRAND HOTEL, directed by Edmund Goulding for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Grand Hotel opens with an expository sequence–director Goulding cuts between each of the film’s major players as they talk in the hotel’s telephone booths. It’s a brief, fantastic sequence, thanks to Goulding’s direction and William H. Daniels’s photography, but most importantly, Blanche Sewell’s editing. The editing of this sequence brings the viewer into the hotel, which never gets an establishing shot.

Goulding follows up that exposition with a scene in the lobby to get the present action started. There are two basic plot lines in Hotel, Greta Garbo as an unhappy ballet star and Wallace Beery as a industrial magnet down on his luck. Beery brings in a secretary (Joan Crawford) who meets a nice gentleman (John Barrymore) who is actually a hotel thief targeting Garbo. John Barrymore befriends Lionel Barrymore–their relationship in the film is consistently wonderful, anything with Lionel Barrymore (particularly he and Crawford), but the brothers Barrymore show off their talent quite a bit in their scenes together.

There’s romance, there’s tragedy, there’s humor. Lionel Barrymore and Crawford are the viewer’s way into the film–the problems of Garbo are entirely otherworldly while Beery’s such a creep no one would want to identify with him–and it turns out John Barrymore isn’t so foreign either.

Great acting, a fast script and simply wonderful filmmaking from Goulding, Daniels and Sewell. There’s a freshness and imagination not just to Goulding’s composition, but how he moves the camera around the actors.

Grand Hotel is a masterful, magnificent film.



Directed by Edmund Goulding; screenplay by William Absalom Drake, based on a novel by Vicki Baum; director of photography, William H. Daniels; edited by Blanche Sewell; music by Charles Maxwell; produced by Irving Thalberg; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Greta Garbo (Grusinskaya), John Barrymore (The Baron), Joan Crawford (Flaemmchen), Wallace Beery (General Director Preysing), Lionel Barrymore (Otto Kringelein), Jean Hersholt (the porter) and Lewis Stone (Doctor Otternschlag).




3 responses to “Grand Hotel (1932, Edmund Goulding)”

  1. There’s a lot to admire about this film. The sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the casting is superb. I like your description of the Barrymores’ onscreen relationship as consistently wonderful. It certainly is.

  2. Thanks so much for participating in the blogathon. I’ve only just got around to reading the entries now. “Grand Hotel” is definitely a masterpiece. The fine art of movie making. One of my favorites.

    Seeing as my Barrymore blogathon has come to a close, I’ve decided to host another blogathon, and I would like to invite you to participate. The link is below with more details

  3. Hey, hope you’re going well. I just thought I would drop by to let you know that I’ve just announced my Second Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon. At the moment I’m currently going through last years roster of participants to let them know it’s on again this year. Anyway I would love to invite you to participate. The link is below with more details.

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