Among the many stars who attended the Hollywood premiere of Grand Hotel
at Grauman's Chinese Theatre were Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Crawford's husband at the time), producer Paul Bern and his wife Jean Harlow, MGM Production Head Irving Thalberg and his wife Norma Shearer, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, Robert Montgomery, and L.B. Mayer. Greta Garbo, in keeping with her elusive image, did not attend.
At the Hollywood premiere of Grand Hotel
the studio recreated the circular front desk as featured in the film outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre and had each star sign the guest book as they arrived.
Greta Garbo was the only star excused from attending group rehearsals. She preferred to rehearse at home on her own, and her stature at the studio allowed her wish to be granted.
According to Mark A. Vieira's 2005 book Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy
, Garbo liked to have certain music played in order to get her in a particular mood to do scenes. She supposedly had a technician on hand to play music such as the Peer Gynt Suite
and Tristan und Isolde
for tense scenes. For sad scenes she is said to have liked the Swedish folk song "O Vermland" or "The Last Spring" by Grieg, and for love scenes she liked the waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier
by Richard Straus.
The author of the original novel on which Grand Hotel
was based, Vicki Baum, told Modern Screen
magazine how happy she was with Greta Garbo's performance as Grusinskaya. "Here Greta Garbo has achieved something which few people expected of her. She has fitted herself into a play and into a cast and has rendered a great performance exactly at that point where the role was contrary to her own being. The twittering, laughing, hopping about in the tarlatan of a ballet skirt is certainly not what Greta would have sought out as her role. But she has accomplished it...Unforgettable! Thank you, Greta Garbo!"
The producer of Grand Hotel
, Paul Bern, was married to MGM's sultry blonde superstar Jean Harlow when he was working on the film. In one of Hollywood's most notorious scandals, Bern committed suicide shortly before the film was released under mysterious circumstances.
Lewis Stone, who plays the battle-scarred Dr. Otternschlag went on to be one of the most familiar faces in American cinema as the iconic Judge Hardy in MGM's highly popular Andy Hardy series a few years later.
According to John Barrymore biographer Hollis Alpert, when asked by a lighting director how he wanted to be photographed for Grand Hotel
, Barrymore replied, "I'm a fifty-year-old man, and I want you to make me look like [child star] Jackie Cooper's grandson."
One day when filming a scene on the set, Garbo, who famously didn't like for any outsiders to be present while she was working, ousted a strange man from the set. Amused, her co-star John Barrymore let her know that she had just thrown out his old boss, the famed distinguished newspaperman Arthur Brisbane.
According to MGM publicity materials, 200 pairs of woolen socks were worn out daily during filming because the actors in the hotel lobby scenes mimicking the hustle and bustle of guests had to wear the socks on the outside of their shoes in order to prevent excess noise.
Memorable Quotes from GRAND HOTEL
"Grand Hotel. People coming, going. Nothing ever happens." -- Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone)
"Doctor, I'm ill."
"I know. I know. When a man's collar is an inch too big for him, I know he's ill."
--Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) and Dr. Otternschlag
"Oh, you're a little stenographess."
"Yes, I'm a little stenographess."
"That's fascinating. I don't suppose you'd take some dictation from me sometime, would you?"
--Baron von Gaigern (John Barrymore) and Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford)
"I think, Suzette, I've never been so tired in my life." -- Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), to her maid Suzette (Rafaela Ottiano)
"I want to be alone." -- Grusinskaya
"I always said I'd leave off when the time came. And who would trouble about Grusinskaya who dances no more? What will she do? Grow orchids? Keep white peacocks? Die. That's what it comes to at last: die." -- Grusinskaya
"I'm a prodigal son, the black sheep of a white flock. I shall die on the gallows...I haven't a bit of character. None at all...You know, when I was a little boy I was taught to ride and be a gentleman. Then at school, to pray and lie. And then in the war, to kill and hide. That's all." -- Baron von Gaigern, to Grusinskaya
"What do you do in the Grand Hotel? Eat, sleep, loaf around, flirt a little, dance a little. A hundred doors leading to one hall. No one knows anything about the person next to them. And when you leave, someone occupies your room, lies in your bed, that's the end."
--Dr. Otternschlag, to Kringelein
"You can't discharge me! I'm my own master for the first time in my life. You can't discharge me, I'm sick! I'm going to die, you understand? I'm going to die and nobody can do anything to me anymore. Nothing can happen to me anymore. Before I can be discharged, I'll be dead! Ha! Ha!" -- Kringelein, to his boss Mr. Preysing (Wallace Beery)
"For the first time in my life, I've tasted life." -- Kringelein
"Life is wonderful, but very dangerous. If you have the courage to live it, it's marvelous." -- Kringelein
"Believe me, if a man doesn't know death, he doesn't know life." -- Kringelein
Compiled by Andrea Passafiume