MGM boasted “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven,” and they brought out many of their big guns for this one. You get Greta Garbo (saying her famous line “I vant to be alone!” three times), Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford, and two Barrymores, John and Lionel, for the price of one. It has several intertwining stories, setting the example for later all-star stories. It all happens in the Grand Hotel in Berlin over the course of a day. It won Best Picture for 1932. I have to say I was a little disappointed seeing it again after many years. It mostly has to so with the character of Otto Kringelein, played by Lionel Barrymore. He is a working-class guy dying of cancer, and has decided to blow his last cash on a few days in the swanky surroundings. But he is alternately whiny, obsequious, petulant, demanding, entitled, and star-struck, vacillating wildly through the gamut of unattractive emotions. I found it hard to like him as much as I was supposed to. The only person I came to like was, oddly, Joan Crawford as a gold-digger trying to find a rich husband. At least she was honest. Wallace Beery is good, as always. People forget, but he was a huge star in the ‘30s, as big as any of the other marquee names.
Worth seeing, but a little underwhelming. Say, what does “whelming” mean? You can be overwhelmed or underwhelmed, but is anyone just whelmed? Oh, wait, just looked it up in Wiki. It is from Middle English, and it means to capsize.