1932 "grand hotel" shall be one of the most essential popular classic movies of 1930s ever with its starry cast of john barrymore, greta garbo and joan crawford. it's also where garbo utters her legendary "i want to be alone!" along with an admiring barrymore as her consoling escort. it's probably a landmarked feature which epitomizes the star personas of barrymore, crawford and garbo thru parodical romanticization of their screen images under a multi-scaled story of synchronicity. "it's grand hotel, people come, people go, nothing ever happens" the commentary line shall be the metaphor of life, imbued with a sense of literary lyricisim that might be considered cliched nowaday but a ground-breaking triumph in the early period of sound flicks of 1930s.
it's not an easy task to put the story into a concrete term thru words due to its simultaneous plot developements, even they're still in a conventional sort of linear stretch. basically it whirls around the six inhibitants of grand hotel in berlin: the snobbish capitalist, a desperate dying factory worker, a cynical doctor whose face has been marked by the wretched war, a prima donna ballerina who loses her artistic drive, a geogeous but petite stenographer who's willing to sell herself for better money, and of course a gentleman-alike hotel thief in a ergent need of big cashes. the thief (john barrymore) flirts with the beautiful stenographer(crawford) in an unexpected encounter, enchanted by her lively vivacious demeanors. but later when he bumps into the room of the prima donna(garbo) to steal her pearly necklace, he's completely spellbound by her enthreal poise like a fairy goddess into flesh, he's hers. so the thief annuls his mission but determined to seek a way to gather the sum to pay the debt and his travelling expenses with this striking ballerina. somehow fate hasn't favored him, he's beaten to death by the conning capitalist who has harbored a grudge against him. so the woman he loves is leaving the hotel in a carriage without him, and the woman he's once enchanted is heartbroken by it, eloping with the dying elder man for paris in oblivion of his death. the capitalist is served by law, and the doctor mournfully signs "people come, people go, nothing ever happens"
greta garbo is an odd presence to cuckor's "grand hotel" as she shifts her ancient tragic queen persona into this very modern piece of work: she weeps, she frowns, she utters the sorrowful emptiness of life as if everything is a prop of dreams but still she cannot be gratified by the limited caricature of fantasies, longingly grasping something larger than life like most of her screen characters are. what's the thing which could be larger than life? L. O. V. E. that's the archetype of garbo romantic anxiety in her movies with clarence brown like mata hari and anna karenia. when she dives into buttom, miracle happens, her romantic anxiety turns a thief into a gallant knight who suddenly summons the metto to rescue her. audience buys into that becuz it is greta garbo, only things faraway and larger than life fit her. only she could inspires the utmost noble spirit of men. BUT she might histrionically overdo it when she says "i want to be alone!" (is that a joke the scriptor plays on her?)
previously the entrance of joan crawford forms quite a opposite contrast to garbo in her verbal love scene with john barrymore. crawford the stenographer, the earthy surviver with the angst to live, to prosper in the leanest condition of great depression, even she has to eat one meal a day. she smiles gayly, she sneers playfully to the gentlemanly stranger who seems to take a spontaneous interest in her. she flames like a ball of fire to tantalize men, fun and laughes in dance after dance. her sex appeal is a stock at her disaposal for wealth and self-improvement. wouldn't those qualities also be her trademark in crawford's mgm movies like "chained" and "possessed"...she's the dame who grins even when she has nothing from the man she appreciates but a brief flirtation while garbo oozes sadness even when she has everything and a miraculous love interest. strangely greta garbo has no scene together with joan crawford just like the whispers of fancy cannot meet to perish by the grim reality. either these two women have a cat fight over the same man they covet or one's bitter over another as the sour loser. greta garbo also has no scene with wallace beery, lionel barrymore and lewis stone. garbo's section with john barrymore alone seems to be part dissected from the rest unpleasant part of life as a one small garbo episode within a big movie. john barrymore acts the stance of the audience to travel thru dreams to reality, then backward again. that's the evidence of the director's talent to melt different sub-gendres into one grand watchable movie as it does have some unharmonious compositions.
yearning over greta gabo is like craving for the shiny stars above the sky, when you have her, the star falls upon your palm to glitter, to fascinate you into an insatiable state of ecstacy. appreciating joan crawford is like smelling the scents of a wild red rose over the bushes with thorns and un-tidy grasses, you gaze it and observe its rapturous blossom on its own, then you're aroused to pluck it to put into your pocket even it takes efforts. these two are different sorts of cinematic romanticism which has graced me over for years even it's doomed by its existentialist oblivion as life moves on, nothing ever happens.