Greta Garbo's first English role in Grand Hotel......

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by elegant20, Aug 28, 2009.

  1. elegant20

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    Messages:
    2,721
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    USA
    But would it have been considered a Joan Crawford vehicle instead since Garbo was only in it for only 25 minutes? Just wondering since Garbo did receive top billing while Joan was billed second, among others like Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, etc.
     
  2. Penis Aficionado

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    Messages:
    2,135
    Likes Received:
    18
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Texas
    Garbo's first English role was in "Anna Christie" (1930). The first line she spoke in English was "Gimme a whiskey, gingerale on the side -- and don't be stingy, baby."

    As for the billing in "Grand Hotel" (1932), Garbo was already a major star, going back to silent films from the mid-'20s. Whereas "Grand Hotel" was the film that made Crawford a star.

    For what it's worth, it's one of my favorite films, and while Crawford was great, I think Garbo's performance might be the greatest job of acting ever achieved by a human. If you want to understand depression, all you have to do is watch Greta Garbo's face in this movie.
     
  3. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    Messages:
    10,576
    Likes Received:
    25
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Warwick, NY, USA
    Bravo! I'm thrilled to not be the only Golden Era movie fan here.

    I have to say, I think all the performances in Grand Hotel are just wonderful. It's a truly special movie and richly deserves its Oscar.
     
  4. TragicWhiteKnight

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    260
    Albums:
    3
    Likes Received:
    19
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    London &amp; Manchester, with lots of commuting betwee
    If you're being picky 'The Torrent' was the first "English" Garbo film, as her first made in Hollywood, so it's the first time the intertitles didn't need to be translated [/pedantry]
     
  5. elegant20

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    Messages:
    2,721
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    USA
    Oh, thank you! I just didn't watch many Garbo movies. And I know, shame on me.
     
  6. nudeyorker

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Messages:
    42,918
    Likes Received:
    37
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    NYC/Honolulu
    The interesting thing about Grand Hotel is that Greta Garbo worked from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm and Joan Crawford worked from 5:00 pm until 2:00am. Garbo had it in her contract that she received top billing.
     
  7. B_Stronzo

    B_Stronzo New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    4,730
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Plimoth Plantation
    There's a wonderful story about Grand Hotel. Joan was at her loveliest and idolized Garbo. They had no scenes together which Joan always lamented. She resepected Garbo as the reigning queen of Hollywood.

    However one morning just before shooting Garbo stopped Crawford as she came out of her trailer. She held her face just under her chin. Said Garbo, "simply enchanging... and those eyes...". Joan never forgot it.

    Grand Hotel (in my opinion) was Crawford's vehicle. She was at her loveliest from 1931 -1933 when she'd have been in her late twenties.

    I'm currently working on Crawford's (née Lucille Fay LeSueur) genealogy for a new biography. In my view (and in her prime) Crawford was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. As she aged she became a caricature of herself.

    Joan

    George Hurrell said "she had no bad angles. The camera was in love with her"
     
    #7 B_Stronzo, Aug 28, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2009
  8. jayfromnyc

    jayfromnyc New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Messages:
    107
    Albums:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    nyc
    There was something kinda hot about Garbo
     
  9. D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2007
    Messages:
    1,539
    Likes Received:
    1
    I always find it worthwhile to check out what critic Pauline Kael had to say about any given film (she really is the crème de la crème of movie critics).


    Here's her thoughts on Grand Hotel:


    From her first line, "I have never been so tired in my life," Greta Garbo sets the movie in vibration with her extraordinary sensual presence. ("Mademoiselle Hamlet," Alice B. Toklas called her.) Garbo plays a première danseuse whose career is fading -a weary, disillusioned woman briefly reconciled to life by a passion for a shady nobleman: John Barrymore. Garbo was only 26 when she played this role (Barrymore was 50), but the fatigue, the despair, seem genuine. There is every reason to reject "Grand Hotel" as an elaborate chunk of artifice; there are no redeeming qualities in Vicki Baum's excruciating concepts of character and fate, and anyone who goes to see this movie expecting an intelligent script, or even "good acting," should have his head examined. Most of the players give impossibly bad performances -they chew up the camera. But if you want to see what screen glamour used to be, and what, originally, "stars" were, this is perhaps the best example of all time. "Grand Hotel" is still entertaining because of the same factor that made it a huge hit in its day (it even won the Academy Award as Best Picture): the force of the personalities involved in the omnibus story. As a secretary working in the hotel, there is a startlingly sexy minx named Joan Crawford, who bears only a slight resemblance to the later zombie of that name; at about 26 also, she still connected with other actors, and her scenes with Lionel Barrymore (in one of his rare likable performances: he's a dying man spending his life savings on a last fling) show a real rapport. The fifth star is Wallace Beery, as a brutal, crooked tycoon; he overacts mightily and charmlessly. Also in the cast are Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt, Rafaela Ottiano, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Frank Conroy, Tully Marshall, Purnell Pratt, Morgan Wallace, Robert McWade, and Edwin Maxwell. Striding through it all is a living legend of the screen: Garbo, in her chinchilla polo coat, with her drawn face and wrinkled forehead and her anguished "I want to be alone." (Her clothes seem to get in her way, and there's a ridiculous little bobby pin that keeps her hair firmly in place during her big love scenes with Barrymore.) Directed by Edmund Goulding; cinematography by William Daniels; art direction by Cedric Gibbons; gowns by Adrian. (A 1945 remake was called WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF.) MGM.
     
    #9 D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse, Oct 27, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2009
  10. Bbucko

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,413
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    58
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Sunny SoFla
    Louise Brooks, in an essay not published in her lifetime, wrote a brilliant sketch of Crawford and her acting in the early-30s:

     
  11. CUBE

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2005
    Messages:
    7,331
    Albums:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1,175
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    The OC
    Loving this thread. Would you guys say...if you had to see one Garbo picture...would this be the one for you?
     
  12. nudeyorker

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Messages:
    42,918
    Likes Received:
    37
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    NYC/Honolulu
    Well I like all of them, even the ones that did not get rave revues, but if I had to pick one.... Anna Karenina, no wait Camille, no wait Grand Hotel, hold on...Queen Christina, ummmm...Mata Hari, Oh... Camille, Oh wait Ninotchka, But I also loved Two Faced Woman! Did I mention Susan Lenox and As You Desire Me?
     
  13. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    Messages:
    10,576
    Likes Received:
    25
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Warwick, NY, USA
    Her best silent picture is, I think, A Woman of Affairs though many others would choose Love or Flesh and the Devil.

    My favorite talkie role for her is Queen Christina though she is absolutely the quintessential Mata Hari, the best Anna Karenina, and nobody has ever remade Camille for her performance alone.

    Garbo never really had chemistry with any of her leading men except John Gilbert. She was always too distant, alone in her thoughts. Gilbert stars with her in Queen Christina but that's only part of the reason it works so well. She's just lush and lovely here. This is one of my favorite scenes in all of moviedom. It's the famous bedroom scene from Queen Christina and probably the most sensuous thing ever filmed in Hollywood during the Production Code era. The censors had enormous problems with the scene because it's so obvious that Her Majesty had just been having sex yet they couldn't pinpoint exactly what part of the code it violated... so the scene stayed in:biggrin1:. The final scene in the film is equally famous because it has one of the best close-ups ever shot and that's entirely because Garbo just transmits every emotion with the so little movement that she's practically a blank slate. No other actress could have shot that scene.
     
  14. texas41-38

    texas41-38 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Messages:
    801
    Likes Received:
    4
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Dallas-Ft, Worth
     
  15. nattynatt

    nattynatt Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    London

    I couldn't agree more. Joan Crawford, in the early 30s, before her look became too exaggerated (for me, anyway), was breathtaking.
     
  16. Bbucko

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,413
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    58
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Sunny SoFla
    I haven't reviewed Garbo's oeuvre in about 20 years, and at that time i was heavily prejudiced in favor of some set opinions I'd made based on some critical things I'd read. The conventional wisdom was that her myth made it close to impossible to objectively evaluate her as an actress. Her pictures are constructed as vehicles where every image reiterates her unearthly beauty and inscrutable allure. That's how I've always viewed them, and as such was more concerned with the artifice than any substance.

    But I was always more impressed with her silent work than her talking pictures; maybe it's just my elitism talking (I prefer obscurity and early efforts over more polished products, usually). Her acting seems much less encumbered by the legend and much more intuitive, if never especially natural (though she was hailed as a great natural actress at the time).

    I need to review everything I can find on YouTube. Something tells me that I might just have some surprises in store.
     
  17. Empathizer

    Verified Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2009
    Messages:
    545
    Albums:
    2
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    NYC
    Verified:
    Photo
    I have heard from numerous people that Louise Brooks's image of Joan Crawford as "a zombie" later in life, in conjunction with her commentary about the film, Grand Hotel, is one of the images upon which Stephen King drew most heavily when writing the infamous "Room 217" (in the Kubrick film, Room 237) scene of the Zombie Lady in the Bathtub in The Shining.

    As a tremendous fan of pulp and noir, King supposedly had Zombie Joan in mind every tme he had a Glamorous Lady from the City or a Famous Actress of Great Beauty die and become forever trapped in an edifice in his novels/films/teleplays/short stories. The reason they always try to grasp at strangers' lapels and pull them through the looking-glass into the Other World? I'm pretty sure it's King's way of joking that they "vant to be anything but alone"...
     
  18. Bbucko

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,413
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    58
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Sunny SoFla
    Louise Brooks' Lulu In Hollywood and this Brooks bio should be required reading for anyone who enjoys classic Hollywood product (not just the movies, the entire star-making machine that was old Hollywood). She is insightful, completely devoid of romanticist nostalgia (loathed what she always called "those shitty Hollywood 'first' stories"), sharply critical (occasionally fallibly incorrect or just plain polemical with certain pet theories) and was a brilliant if often cranky witness and chronicler of the era and its personalities.

    A case in point is her essay Gish and Garbo, where she claims that the real secret to Garbo's allure (from LB Mayer's perspective) was that she made "free love" (ie: sex not tethered to marriage vows) sympathetic through her on-screen suffering. As a side benefit, the studios were able to dump the more prudish female stars (like the vastly well-paid Lillian Gish) who refused to accept, or were incapable of accepting Garbo-type roles. As a result, Hollywood was left with a stable of aging male stars (whose high salaries were never disputed) and a bevy of inexpensive ingenues who came and went in a never-ending array, while established female stars were "eased out with full approval, in the perfection of their beauty, art and popularity...Hollywood producers were left with their babes and a backwash of old-men stars, watching the lights go out in one picture house after another across the country."

    As in all polemics, the author overstates her case and is faulty in many of her suppositions, but there are kernels of truth in what she wrote back in 1958. When Garbo made Flesh And The Devil with Gilbert, she was paid a small fraction of what he was, though she was arguably the bigger draw; it was only after a protracted salary dispute that her pay was commensurate with her success: by the time she made Love, she was earning $7500 per week. Compared to the $1,000,000 contract Gloria Swanson turned down at Paramount to join UA, that was still chicken feed but at least it was in line with Gilbert's salary.
     
  19. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    Messages:
    10,576
    Likes Received:
    25
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Warwick, NY, USA
    I think Garbo's acting in her silent films is a notch more natural than in her talkies. In the silents she wasn't compromised by her accent. She could play, "Helen Jones from Schenectady," without batting an eye. Once she was talking though, she could only do the exotic roles. MGM worried a great deal about bringing Garbo into talkies because they, and the other studios, had some big stars whose voices didn't suit their appearance at all (like John Gilbert!) despite rigorous speech training on the part of the studios.

    Anna Christie was a toe in the water for MGM and for Garbo too. Each worried about their, "Garbo Talks!" campaign wondering if they shouldn't be releasing the film more cautiously but MGM had a lot of money in Garbo and in Marie Dressler. Dressler stole the film from Garbo and became the highest paid, and most popular, actress in Hollywood for the following few years despite being over age 60 and overweight (take THAT Hollywood!). For Garbo though, talkies were a double-edged sword. Audiences loved her accent yet expected her from then on to only take roles which enhanced the Garbo mystique. Garbo got the roles, going on to play various European femme fatales at a time when anything European held great cultural sway over the relatively naive American audiences. That lasted until 1939 (Hollywood's most golden year where it fairly rained what we consider the greatest films) which, with world war on the horizon, Americans largely didn't want to be reminded of anything European while escaping from the woes of the world in a movie theater. By the end of the war the European mystique was blown away by disillusionment and the ascendancy of America. Roles in which Garbo could have been viable dwindled significantly and perhaps very wisely, Garbo retired permanently with her fame and mystery completely intact.
     
    #19 jason_els, Oct 29, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
Draft saved Draft deleted