Tuesday, September 11, 2007

GRAND HOTEL--YOU'RE INVITED!

grandhotelposter

Below is a fascinating find, freshly posted by the nicely named SergioOliver (from Spain no less). It's a ten minute--documentary, I guess you'd call it--about the Hollywood Premiere of the 1932 MGM version of "Grand Hotel" featuring most of the stars on the lot at the time.


Yesterday, in speaking about Robert Wise's career, I made reference to the fact that Hollywood in the thirties was a factory town--and that atmostphere is very nicely captured in this filmed record of a night out during that time period. Yes, movies still have premiere's (often in the same place as this one--Hollywood Blvd.) and yes, fans still crowd the event and stars still blather a few platitudes for the camera's on the way in...but there's something different about the way things are handled here. For one thing, the company--MGM--really is the star here. (Note how many mentions of how wonderful MGM is come tumbling forth from every conceivable mouth.) But there is also a calmness to the proceedings--a lack of hype, I suppose-- that bespeaks a prosperous, well organized and very proud company town (as opposed to the have/have not, chaotic and deeply ashamed business that has replaced it). This is a portrait of a system that works, and the beneficiaries of that system willingly acknowledge their gratitude. Of course, if they didn't they probably would have gone on suspension--but you get my drift.


Why was this film made? It doesn't appear to be a proper newsreel--it's too long and uneventful really. It offers some fine period night shots of Hollywood Blvd and a couple of odd moments where "the crowd surges out of control" (looks a little phony to me). Mostly it's just a recording of the stars showing up and "signing in"--wonder who has that guest book now? Could this have been for one of those MGM sales conventions (where they would entertain the exhibitors once a year with hooch and loose women? Anyone read that great Vanity Fair article a couple of years ago about the rape cover-up at one of those shindigs?) Some fun things along the way to look for: Clark Gable, without moustache and not yet a big enough star to speak; he stands mute watching Norma Shearer blather on. Also Marlene Dietrich rushes by with her husband Rudolph Sieber--the one she kept hidden away in the Valley while she practiced global promiscuity with the elite. And Louis B. Mayer talks quite a bit--I don't know that I've ever actually heard the man before. Directors who appear are the dashing Edmund Goulding (who directed GH) and the silent master Fred Niblo.



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