Dinner at Eight


1h 53m 1934
Dinner at Eight

Brief Synopsis

A high-society dinner party masks a hotbed of scandal and intrigue.

Photos & Videos

Dinner at Eight - Coca-Cola Ad
Dinner at Eight - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Dinner at Eight - Jean Harlow Publicity Stills

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 12, 1934
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Aug 1933; Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans and Denver premiere: 28 Dec 1933
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Dinner at Eight by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber (New York, 22 Oct 1932), as produced by Sam H. Harris.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 53m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

One week before her next society dinner, Millicent Jordan receives word that Lord and Lady Ferncliffe, whom she and her husband Oliver, a New York shipping magnate, had met in England the previous year, have accepted her invitation. Overjoyed by this social coup, Millicent is oblivious to Oliver's lack of enthusiasm about the dinner and her daughter Paula's preoccupation about the impending return of her fiancé, Ernest DeGraff, from Europe. While Millicent fusses about finding an "extra man" for her single female guest, former stage star Carlotta Vance, Oliver faces distressing news about his shipping business, which has been struck hard by the Depression. After Carlotta, a former lover of Oliver who resides in Europe, confesses to Oliver in his office that she is nearly broke and is interested in selling her stock in the Jordan Shipping Line, Oliver is visited by Dan Packard, a rough-talking, nouveau-riche mining magnate. Oliver confides in Dan about his financial struggles and asks him to take over some of his stocks until his business improves. With blustering hesitation, Dan agrees only to consider Oliver's proposition, then goes home to brag to his brassy, gold digger wife Kitty that the Jordan Line is a valuable asset that he is going to devour through crooked stock purchases. Unknown to Dan, however, Oliver has convinced Millicent to invite the Packards to her dinner, and the ill-mannered but socially ambitious Kitty eagerly has accepted. Although he at first refuses to go, Dan, who believes that he will soon be appointed to a Cabinet post, changes his mind about the dinner when he finds out that the Ferncliffes, the richest couple in England, are also invited. Also unknown to Dan, one of Millicent's other guests, Dr. Wayne Talbot, has been having an affair with Kitty while pretending to be tending to her feigned illnesses. On the eve of her dinner, Millicent, still short an extra man, telephones Larry Renault, a washed-up silent movie star, and extends him a last-minute invitation, completely unaware that Paula is having a clandestine love affair with him. At Paula's urging, Larry, a three-time divorcé and hardened alcoholic, accepts the invitation, but advises the much younger Paula to forget about him and return to Ernest. After Paula stubbornly refuses to take Larry's admonitions seriously, she is seen leaving his room by Carlotta, who is residing at the same hotel. Later that evening, Larry is visited by his agent, Max Kane, who tells him that the stage play he was planning to star in has lost its orginal producer. Max breaks the news to Larry that the play's new producer, Jo Stengel, wants another actor in the lead but is willing to consider him in a bit part. Although crushed, Larry agrees to think about the offer, then desperately sends a bellboy to pawn a few of his possessions and buy a fresh bottle of alcohol. The next day, Talbot is discovered by his wife Lucy in a compromising telephone call with Kitty and confesses that, in spite of his love for her, he is addicted to women and needs help to overcome his weakness. Talbot then is rushed to see Oliver, who has come to the doctor's office with severe chest pains. Although Talbot tries to hide his prognosis of terminal thrombosis of the heart, Oliver wisely deduces the seriousness of his illness. When he returns home, the weakened Oliver tries to explain to Millicent his need for rest, but she is too hysterical to hear because, among other minor disasters, the Ferncliffes have cancelled and are on their way to Florida. Although anxious to tell Millicent about Larry, Paula, too, is turned away by her upset mother and faces the prospect of facing Ernest alone. At the Packards, meanwhile, Kitty reveals to Dan in a fit of anger that she is having an affair. When threatened with divorce, however, Kitty tells her husband that, if he wants his Cabinet appointment instead of a career-stopping revelation from her about his crooked dealings, he must back down from his takeover of Oliver's line and treat her with more respect. Just before he is to leave for the dinner, Larry is visited by Max and Stengel and drunkenly berates Stengel for insulting him with his paltry offer. After a frustrated Max denounces him for ruining his last career chance and the hotel management asks him to leave, Larry quietly turns on his gas fireplace and commits suicide. At the ill-fated dinner, Carlotta confides in private with Paula, who is just about to break her engagement with Ernest, about Larry's demise and counsels the young woman to stay with her fiancé. At the same time, Millicent learns from Talbot about Oliver's illness. Finally awakened to her selfishness, Millicent announces to Oliver that she is ready to make sacrifices for the family and be a more attentive wife. Then, as the beleagured guests are about to go in to dinner, Dan, with prodding from Kitty, tells Oliver that he has put a stop to the "secret" takeover of the Jordan shipping line.

Photo Collections

Dinner at Eight - Coca-Cola Ad
Here is a magazine ad for Coca-Cola utilizing the cast of MGM's Dinner at Eight (1933) and a special color photo taken for the occasion.
Dinner at Eight - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's all-star comedy Dinner at Eight (1934), directed by George Cukor.
Dinner at Eight - Jean Harlow Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity photos of Jean Harlow, taken to publicize MGM's all-star picture, Dinner at Eight (1934).

Videos

Movie Clip

Dinner At Eight (1933) - You Look Marvelous New York shipping magnate Oliver Jordan (Lionel Barrymore), keeping up a good front as the Great Depression threatens his business, receives his unexpected old friend, actress Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), visiting from England, with money troubles of her own, early in MGM's all-star Dinner At Eight, 1933.
Dinner At Eight (1933) - I Want The Moon Kane (Lee Tracy), the agent for the collapsing matinee idol Renault (John Barrymore), is by stages breaking the news that his Broadway play has a new producer, and it's not his play anymore, in MGM's all-star hit Dinner At Eight, 1933.
Dinner At Eight (1933) - Open, Australian Mutton Imposing opening from MGM and producer David Selznick for his first picture for the studio, also introducing the Jordans: Oliver, Millicent and Paula (Lionel Barrymore, Bilie Burke, Madge Evans), in Dinner At Eight, 1933, from the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber.
Dinner At Eight (1933) - The Most Heavenly Profile Hostess Millicent (Billie Burke), with sardonic friend Hattie (Louise Closser Hale, with an inside joke), frets over how she'll replace a guest, landing on washed-up actor Renault (John Barrymore), who is by chance consorting with her daughter (Madge Evans), early in MGM's Dinner At Eight, 1933.
Dinner At Eight (1933) - I Was Reading A Book From the final scene, Kitty (Jean Harlow) mingling as the hosts (Billie Burke, Lionel Barrymore) arrive, tangling with husband Dan (Wallace Beery) then causing Carlotta (Marie Dressler) to do the famous double-take, in George Cukor's Dinner At Eight, 1933.
Dinner At Eight (1933) - I'm An Introvert Jean Harlow (as "Kitty") from her lengthy first scene, receiving go-getter husband Dan (Wallace Beery), who doesn't share her social ambitions, in George Cukor's Dinner At Eight, 1933.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 12, 1934
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Aug 1933; Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans and Denver premiere: 28 Dec 1933
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Dinner at Eight by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber (New York, 22 Oct 1932), as produced by Sam H. Harris.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 53m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Articles

The Essentials - Dinner at Eight


SYNOPSIS

Status conscious Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke) is throwing a dinner party for an elite group of guests including self-made tycoon Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his brassy wife Kitty (Jean Harlow), her husband's ex-lover Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), and a desperate fading movie star (John Barrymore) who is secretly carrying on an affair with their young daughter (Madge Evans), who just happens to be engaged to another man. Meanwhile Millicent's husband (Lionel Barrymore) is suffering serious health problems while his business teeters on the brink of collapse. At this unforgettable dinner party, anything can happen.

Director: George Cukor
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Frances Marion, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Donald Ogden Stewart (additional dialogue) Based on the play Dinner at Eight by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber
Cinematography: William Daniels
Editing: Ben Lewis
Music: Dr. William Axt
Sound: Douglas Shearer, Charles Wallace
Costume Designer: Adrian
Cast: Marie Dressler (Carlotta Vance), John Barrymore (Larry Renault), Wallace Beery (Dan Packard), Jean Harlow (Kitty Packard), Lionel Barrymore (Oliver Jordan), Lee Tracy (Max Kane), Edmund Lowe (Dr. Wayne Talbot), Billie Burke (Millicent Jordan), Madge Evans (Paula Jordan), Jean Hersholt (Jo Stengal), Karen Morley (Lucy Talbot), Louise Closser Hale (Hattie Loomis), Phillips Holmes (Ernest DeGraff), May Robson (Mrs. Wendel), Grant Mitchell (Ed Loomis), Phoebe Foster (Miss Alden), Elizabeth Patterson (Miss Copeland), Hilda Vaughn (Tina), Harry Beresford (Fosdick), Edwin Maxwell (Mr. Fitch), John Davidson (Mr. Hatfield), Edward Woods (Eddie), Anna Duncan (Dora), Herman Bing (The Waiter), George Baxter (Gustave)
B&W -113 m.

Why DINNER AT EIGHT is Essential

Biting and poignant at the same time, Dinner at Eight is one of the great screen comedies of manners. Thought it's often hilarious, there is always more going on beneath the surface in the interactions of these brilliantly realized characters. It's an elegant mixture of both high and low comedy that delves into the problems of the wealthy when they are faced with the loss of money, power and status.

Dinner at Eight was the first film that both producer David O. Selznick and director George Cukor made for MGM. Selznick especially had something to prove. On the heels of MGM's great success under Irving Thalberg, Grand Hotel (1932), Selznick wanted to show that he was capable of competing with Thalberg and creating a blockbuster of his own. The roaring success of the film established Selznick as a power to be reckoned with at his new studio.

Dinner at Eight has one of the finest ensemble casts of any motion picture in history. Some of MGM's biggest stars including Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Madge Evans and Billie Burke do some of their finest work here and remind contemporary audiences of why these actors were great stars.

Marie Dressler, a huge, if unlikely, star in her day, was cast strongly against type as an upper crust former great beauty and woman of considerable means. Despite the risky casting, Dressler's talent is so great that she pulls it off with great aplomb. Her performance is one of the best things in Dinner at Eight, and serves as a reminder to the remarkable talents of this beloved star.

Actress Billie Burke's famous onscreen persona as a flighty flibbertigibbet can be traced back to this film. Dinner at Eight represented Burke's first role as a mature woman, and she was so effective as the high-strung hostess Millicent Jordan that that type of role has become synonymous with her name ever since.

Dinner at Eight was not the glamorous Jean Harlow's first film, but it was the movie that proved not only did she have what it took to be a major movie star, but also that she could act and hold her own in the midst of established professionals like John Barrymore. Her comic turn as Wallace Beery's vulgar social climbing wife nearly steals the picture and established her as the star she deserved to be.

by Andrea Passafiume
The Essentials - Dinner At Eight

The Essentials - Dinner at Eight

SYNOPSIS Status conscious Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke) is throwing a dinner party for an elite group of guests including self-made tycoon Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his brassy wife Kitty (Jean Harlow), her husband's ex-lover Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), and a desperate fading movie star (John Barrymore) who is secretly carrying on an affair with their young daughter (Madge Evans), who just happens to be engaged to another man. Meanwhile Millicent's husband (Lionel Barrymore) is suffering serious health problems while his business teeters on the brink of collapse. At this unforgettable dinner party, anything can happen. Director: George Cukor Producer: David O. Selznick Screenplay: Frances Marion, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Donald Ogden Stewart (additional dialogue) Based on the play Dinner at Eight by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber Cinematography: William Daniels Editing: Ben Lewis Music: Dr. William Axt Sound: Douglas Shearer, Charles Wallace Costume Designer: Adrian Cast: Marie Dressler (Carlotta Vance), John Barrymore (Larry Renault), Wallace Beery (Dan Packard), Jean Harlow (Kitty Packard), Lionel Barrymore (Oliver Jordan), Lee Tracy (Max Kane), Edmund Lowe (Dr. Wayne Talbot), Billie Burke (Millicent Jordan), Madge Evans (Paula Jordan), Jean Hersholt (Jo Stengal), Karen Morley (Lucy Talbot), Louise Closser Hale (Hattie Loomis), Phillips Holmes (Ernest DeGraff), May Robson (Mrs. Wendel), Grant Mitchell (Ed Loomis), Phoebe Foster (Miss Alden), Elizabeth Patterson (Miss Copeland), Hilda Vaughn (Tina), Harry Beresford (Fosdick), Edwin Maxwell (Mr. Fitch), John Davidson (Mr. Hatfield), Edward Woods (Eddie), Anna Duncan (Dora), Herman Bing (The Waiter), George Baxter (Gustave) B&W -113 m. Why DINNER AT EIGHT is Essential Biting and poignant at the same time, Dinner at Eight is one of the great screen comedies of manners. Thought it's often hilarious, there is always more going on beneath the surface in the interactions of these brilliantly realized characters. It's an elegant mixture of both high and low comedy that delves into the problems of the wealthy when they are faced with the loss of money, power and status. Dinner at Eight was the first film that both producer David O. Selznick and director George Cukor made for MGM. Selznick especially had something to prove. On the heels of MGM's great success under Irving Thalberg, Grand Hotel (1932), Selznick wanted to show that he was capable of competing with Thalberg and creating a blockbuster of his own. The roaring success of the film established Selznick as a power to be reckoned with at his new studio. Dinner at Eight has one of the finest ensemble casts of any motion picture in history. Some of MGM's biggest stars including Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Madge Evans and Billie Burke do some of their finest work here and remind contemporary audiences of why these actors were great stars. Marie Dressler, a huge, if unlikely, star in her day, was cast strongly against type as an upper crust former great beauty and woman of considerable means. Despite the risky casting, Dressler's talent is so great that she pulls it off with great aplomb. Her performance is one of the best things in Dinner at Eight, and serves as a reminder to the remarkable talents of this beloved star. Actress Billie Burke's famous onscreen persona as a flighty flibbertigibbet can be traced back to this film. Dinner at Eight represented Burke's first role as a mature woman, and she was so effective as the high-strung hostess Millicent Jordan that that type of role has become synonymous with her name ever since. Dinner at Eight was not the glamorous Jean Harlow's first film, but it was the movie that proved not only did she have what it took to be a major movie star, but also that she could act and hold her own in the midst of established professionals like John Barrymore. Her comic turn as Wallace Beery's vulgar social climbing wife nearly steals the picture and established her as the star she deserved to be. by Andrea Passafiume

Pop Culture 101 - Dinner at Eight


The play Dinner at Eight has had three productions on Broadway. The first one premiered October 22, 1932 at the Music Box Theater and ran for 232 performances. The second production premiered September 27, 1966 at the Alvin Theater and ran for 127 performances. The third production premiered December 19, 2003 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and ran for 45 performances.

The stunning white satin gown that Jean Harlow wears to the dinner party in Dinner at Eight was such a fashion hit that the style of dress became known as the "Jean Harlow Dress".

Dinner at Eight was also filmed as a television movie in 1989. It starred Marsha Mason, John Mahoney, Charles Durning, Ellen Greene, Harry Hamlin, Julia Sweeney, and Lauren Bacall as Carlotta Vance.

by Andrea Passafiume

Pop Culture 101 - Dinner at Eight

The play Dinner at Eight has had three productions on Broadway. The first one premiered October 22, 1932 at the Music Box Theater and ran for 232 performances. The second production premiered September 27, 1966 at the Alvin Theater and ran for 127 performances. The third production premiered December 19, 2003 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and ran for 45 performances. The stunning white satin gown that Jean Harlow wears to the dinner party in Dinner at Eight was such a fashion hit that the style of dress became known as the "Jean Harlow Dress". Dinner at Eight was also filmed as a television movie in 1989. It starred Marsha Mason, John Mahoney, Charles Durning, Ellen Greene, Harry Hamlin, Julia Sweeney, and Lauren Bacall as Carlotta Vance. by Andrea Passafiume

Trivia - Dinner at Eight - Trivia & Fun Facts About DINNER AT EIGHT


According to her March 13, 1940 obituary in the New York Times, American stage actress Maxine Elliott was the original inspiration for the character of Carlotta Vance in the play Dinner at Eight.

There are no exterior shots in Dinner at Eight.

When Marie Dressler took on the role of Carlotta Vance, she was recuperating from serious cancer surgery. The cancer eventually took her life in 1934, soon after the release of Dinner at Eight.

Joan Crawford was among the actresses considered for the part of Paula Jordan.

Clark Gable was among the actors considered for the part of Dr. Wayne Talbot.

Carlotta Vance's dog was originally named Mussolini, but MGM balked at the last minute and had its name changed to Tarzan. In the film, you can clearly see Marie Dressler's lips say "Mussolini" when she refers to the dog, but the name "Tarzan" was dubbed in to cover it.

Dinner at Eight premiered at the Astor Theatre in New York on August 23, 1933.

According to George Cukor, John Barrymore based his performance in Dinner at Eight on a combination of his father-in-law Maurice Costello, his brother-in-law Lowell Sherman and himself.

Famous Quotes from DINNER AT EIGHT

"If there's one thing I know, it's men. I ought to. It's been my life's work."
- Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance)

"Politics? Ha! You couldn't get into politics. You couldn't get in anywhere. You couldn't even get in the men's room at the Astor!"
- Jean Harlow (as Kitty Packard), to Wallace Beery's Dan Packard.

"And then I had a restful, nice luncheon... with four lawyers. On the 88th floor of the Watson's building. You know, the sky club. A cloud floated right into my soup plate."
- Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance)

"I'll have my double chins in privacy."
- Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance)

"I've told you a million times not to talk to me when I'm doing my lashes!"
-Jean Harlow (as Kitty Packard)

"That's the unfortunate thing about death. It's so terribly final."
- Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance)

"I was reading a book the other day."
"Reading a book?"
"Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?"
"Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about."
- Jean Harlow (as Kitty Packard) and Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance)

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

Trivia - Dinner at Eight - Trivia & Fun Facts About DINNER AT EIGHT

According to her March 13, 1940 obituary in the New York Times, American stage actress Maxine Elliott was the original inspiration for the character of Carlotta Vance in the play Dinner at Eight. There are no exterior shots in Dinner at Eight. When Marie Dressler took on the role of Carlotta Vance, she was recuperating from serious cancer surgery. The cancer eventually took her life in 1934, soon after the release of Dinner at Eight. Joan Crawford was among the actresses considered for the part of Paula Jordan. Clark Gable was among the actors considered for the part of Dr. Wayne Talbot. Carlotta Vance's dog was originally named Mussolini, but MGM balked at the last minute and had its name changed to Tarzan. In the film, you can clearly see Marie Dressler's lips say "Mussolini" when she refers to the dog, but the name "Tarzan" was dubbed in to cover it. Dinner at Eight premiered at the Astor Theatre in New York on August 23, 1933. According to George Cukor, John Barrymore based his performance in Dinner at Eight on a combination of his father-in-law Maurice Costello, his brother-in-law Lowell Sherman and himself. Famous Quotes from DINNER AT EIGHT "If there's one thing I know, it's men. I ought to. It's been my life's work." - Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance) "Politics? Ha! You couldn't get into politics. You couldn't get in anywhere. You couldn't even get in the men's room at the Astor!" - Jean Harlow (as Kitty Packard), to Wallace Beery's Dan Packard. "And then I had a restful, nice luncheon... with four lawyers. On the 88th floor of the Watson's building. You know, the sky club. A cloud floated right into my soup plate." - Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance) "I'll have my double chins in privacy." - Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance) "I've told you a million times not to talk to me when I'm doing my lashes!" -Jean Harlow (as Kitty Packard) "That's the unfortunate thing about death. It's so terribly final." - Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance) "I was reading a book the other day." "Reading a book?" "Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?" "Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about." - Jean Harlow (as Kitty Packard) and Marie Dressler (as Carlotta Vance) Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

The Big Idea - Dinner at Eight


Dinner at Eight began as a Broadway play written by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. The play opened at the Music Box Theater on October 22, 1932 and was a smash hit.

The rights to the play were sold first to Joseph Schenck, the president of United Artists. Schenck, however, eventually lost interest in the project and the rights went back up for grabs. MGM, which had just enjoyed a huge success with Grand Hotel (1932), quickly stepped in. Dinner at Eight, MGM decided, would be their next big project with David O. Selznick producing.

David O. Selznick had just left RKO and moved to MGM, the most prestigious studio in Hollywood. Dinner at Eight would be his first assignment for MGM. Irving Thalberg, MGM's top producer, had butted heads with the notoriously difficult Louis B. Mayer, leaving their relationship somewhat shaky. On top of that, Thalberg had recently been experiencing health problems, including a heart attack in 1932, which made MGM head Mayer nervous about Thalberg's ability to take on future projects for the studio. While Thalberg was recuperating in Europe, Mayer worked hard to persuade Selznick, who also happened to be his son-in-law (he was married to Mayer's daughter Irene), to come work at MGM where he could set up his own new production unit. Mayer announced to the MGM employees that Selznick would be coming in to share-not take over--producing duties with Irving Thalberg. Meanwhile, everyone worried about how Thalberg would respond to the news once he returned from Europe. To everyone's relief, Thalberg seemed to genuinely welcome Selznick into the MGM family. Screenwriter Frances Marion remarks in her 1972 autobiography Off With Their Heads! that Thalberg had always liked and respected Selznick. The only conflict that existed, she says, was strictly between Thalberg and Mayer.

When Selznick was assigned Dinner at Eight as his inaugural production at MGM, he was determined to prove he could make just as big a hit with it as Irving Thalberg had made with the Oscar®-winning Grand Hotel. He knew that the right director would make all the difference. George Cukor had been a colleague back at RKO with whom Selznick had worked successfully on several pictures. Cukor, he thought, would be perfect to direct Dinner at Eight. Through a shrewd deal, Selznick arranged for RKO to lend Cukor to MGM for the film. In exchange, MGM arranged to loan actor Lionel Barrymore to RKO to star in one picture (One Man's Journey [1933]). All eyes would be watching Selznick to see what he could do at MGM-a lot was riding on the success or failure of Dinner at Eight.

Cukor and Selznick wanted MGM's top screenwriters to tackle the assignment of adapting the play to the big screen, so they enlisted the talents of legendary scribe Frances Marion and Herman Mankiewicz. "It was not an easy job because we had to juggle an enormous cast," says Frances Marion in her autobiography, "but Herman (Mankiewicz) had a razor-sharp mind and we worked together in harmony, aided by George Cukor, who was to direct the picture." The two writers pounded out the screenplay in a mere four weeks. A third writer, Donald Ogden Stewart, was later brought in to write some additional dialogue.

Like the star-studded Grand Hotel, MGM wanted only their top actors for the roles in Dinner at Eight. Some of the Dinner at Eight cast including John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore and Jean Hersholt came directly from the cast of Grand Hotel. For the role of Carlotta Vance, a wealthy and flamboyant former actress and great beauty, no one at MGM immediately thought of Marie Dressler. Despite being one of MGM's most popular stars, Dressler was far from a great beauty and was known mostly for playing low comedy. The role of Carlotta was at the opposite end of her usual screen persona. Nevertheless, Dressler was eager to stretch as an actress and wanted the part. "When I learned that Marie Dressler was to play Carlotta Vance," said George Cukor in a later interview, "I said to myself: she is not quite my idea for the part, not the way it was played on the stage by Constance Collier...But, very shrewdly, Louis B. Mayer contended that Dressler was the biggest thing in pictures, although she looked like a cook and had never played that type of part."

For the role of Wallace Beery's flashy vulgar wife, Kitty, George Cukor wanted bombshell newcomer Jean Harlow. Louis B. Mayer, however, did not believe that Harlow had the acting chops. Cukor, who famously had a way of bringing out the best in actresses' performances, believed she could do it. "I'd seen (Jean Harlow) in The Public Enemy (1931) and Hell's Angels (1930), where she was so bad and self-conscious it was comic," recalled Cukor in a 1970 interview. "Then I saw Red Dust (1932)-and there she was, suddenly marvelous in comedy. A tough girl and yet very feminine, like Mae West. They both wisecrack, but they have something vulnerable, and it makes them attractive." Sold on her potential in Red Dust, Cukor fought to cast Harlow in the career-making part and won.

With a first rate cast in place, Cukor also decided to use several of the same below the line talents on Dinner at Eight that had worked on Grand Hotel including costume designer Adrian, cinematographer William Daniels, and set designer Cedric Gibbons. Cukor, Selznick and all of MGM were determined to make the film a success.

by Andrea Passafiume

The Big Idea - Dinner at Eight

Dinner at Eight began as a Broadway play written by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. The play opened at the Music Box Theater on October 22, 1932 and was a smash hit. The rights to the play were sold first to Joseph Schenck, the president of United Artists. Schenck, however, eventually lost interest in the project and the rights went back up for grabs. MGM, which had just enjoyed a huge success with Grand Hotel (1932), quickly stepped in. Dinner at Eight, MGM decided, would be their next big project with David O. Selznick producing. David O. Selznick had just left RKO and moved to MGM, the most prestigious studio in Hollywood. Dinner at Eight would be his first assignment for MGM. Irving Thalberg, MGM's top producer, had butted heads with the notoriously difficult Louis B. Mayer, leaving their relationship somewhat shaky. On top of that, Thalberg had recently been experiencing health problems, including a heart attack in 1932, which made MGM head Mayer nervous about Thalberg's ability to take on future projects for the studio. While Thalberg was recuperating in Europe, Mayer worked hard to persuade Selznick, who also happened to be his son-in-law (he was married to Mayer's daughter Irene), to come work at MGM where he could set up his own new production unit. Mayer announced to the MGM employees that Selznick would be coming in to share-not take over--producing duties with Irving Thalberg. Meanwhile, everyone worried about how Thalberg would respond to the news once he returned from Europe. To everyone's relief, Thalberg seemed to genuinely welcome Selznick into the MGM family. Screenwriter Frances Marion remarks in her 1972 autobiography Off With Their Heads! that Thalberg had always liked and respected Selznick. The only conflict that existed, she says, was strictly between Thalberg and Mayer. When Selznick was assigned Dinner at Eight as his inaugural production at MGM, he was determined to prove he could make just as big a hit with it as Irving Thalberg had made with the Oscar®-winning Grand Hotel. He knew that the right director would make all the difference. George Cukor had been a colleague back at RKO with whom Selznick had worked successfully on several pictures. Cukor, he thought, would be perfect to direct Dinner at Eight. Through a shrewd deal, Selznick arranged for RKO to lend Cukor to MGM for the film. In exchange, MGM arranged to loan actor Lionel Barrymore to RKO to star in one picture (One Man's Journey [1933]). All eyes would be watching Selznick to see what he could do at MGM-a lot was riding on the success or failure of Dinner at Eight. Cukor and Selznick wanted MGM's top screenwriters to tackle the assignment of adapting the play to the big screen, so they enlisted the talents of legendary scribe Frances Marion and Herman Mankiewicz. "It was not an easy job because we had to juggle an enormous cast," says Frances Marion in her autobiography, "but Herman (Mankiewicz) had a razor-sharp mind and we worked together in harmony, aided by George Cukor, who was to direct the picture." The two writers pounded out the screenplay in a mere four weeks. A third writer, Donald Ogden Stewart, was later brought in to write some additional dialogue. Like the star-studded Grand Hotel, MGM wanted only their top actors for the roles in Dinner at Eight. Some of the Dinner at Eight cast including John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore and Jean Hersholt came directly from the cast of Grand Hotel. For the role of Carlotta Vance, a wealthy and flamboyant former actress and great beauty, no one at MGM immediately thought of Marie Dressler. Despite being one of MGM's most popular stars, Dressler was far from a great beauty and was known mostly for playing low comedy. The role of Carlotta was at the opposite end of her usual screen persona. Nevertheless, Dressler was eager to stretch as an actress and wanted the part. "When I learned that Marie Dressler was to play Carlotta Vance," said George Cukor in a later interview, "I said to myself: she is not quite my idea for the part, not the way it was played on the stage by Constance Collier...But, very shrewdly, Louis B. Mayer contended that Dressler was the biggest thing in pictures, although she looked like a cook and had never played that type of part." For the role of Wallace Beery's flashy vulgar wife, Kitty, George Cukor wanted bombshell newcomer Jean Harlow. Louis B. Mayer, however, did not believe that Harlow had the acting chops. Cukor, who famously had a way of bringing out the best in actresses' performances, believed she could do it. "I'd seen (Jean Harlow) in The Public Enemy (1931) and Hell's Angels (1930), where she was so bad and self-conscious it was comic," recalled Cukor in a 1970 interview. "Then I saw Red Dust (1932)-and there she was, suddenly marvelous in comedy. A tough girl and yet very feminine, like Mae West. They both wisecrack, but they have something vulnerable, and it makes them attractive." Sold on her potential in Red Dust, Cukor fought to cast Harlow in the career-making part and won. With a first rate cast in place, Cukor also decided to use several of the same below the line talents on Dinner at Eight that had worked on Grand Hotel including costume designer Adrian, cinematographer William Daniels, and set designer Cedric Gibbons. Cukor, Selznick and all of MGM were determined to make the film a success. by Andrea Passafiume

Behind the Camera - Dinner at Eight


With an assigned budget of $420,000, Dinner at Eight began shooting at MGM on March 16, 1933. Despite the complications of a large ensemble cast to juggle, the filming went smoothly with no unforeseen problems arising. According to Jean Harlow, the picture was shot as close to chronological order as possible "so we could all feel the dramatic power of the climactic scenes."

Though Marie Dressler hadn't fit George Cukor's idea of former beauty Carlotta Vance when she was first cast, she made the part her own with utter believability. "She acquired a peculiar distinction, a magnificence," said Cukor in a later interview. "She was a law unto herself. She'd mug and carry on-which she did in this picture-but she knew how to make an entrance with great aplomb, great effect." Co-star Jean Harlow was in awe of Dressler's talents and praised the veteran actress for her generosity. "Being in the same cast with Marie was a break for me," said Harlow. "She's one trouper I'd never try to steal a scene from. It'd be like trying to carry Italy against Mussolini."

Marie Dressler was also impressed with Jean Harlow. "It was whispered behind more than one hand that Jean Harlow, Metro's much-advertised platinum menace, was picked for parts that called for more allure than art," said Dressler in her 1934 autobiography My Own Story. "And in Dinner at Eight, she had to throw a bomb in the works by proving that she is a first-rate actress! Her performance as the wife of the hard-boiled, self-made politician played by Wallace Beery belongs in that limited category of things which may with reason be called rare. The plain truth is, she all but ran off with the show!"

It was high praise indeed for Jean Harlow coming from Dressler, and Dressler's warmth helped put the actress at ease. Harlow was understandably insecure about holding her own against such immense acting talent, and it was important to her to do a good job with her part. Harlow was an actress who got along with everyone-with one exception: Wallace Beery. She had worked with Beery before in The Secret Six (1931) and the two had developed a dislike for each other that carried over into Dinner at Eight. Beery thought that Harlow wasn't experienced enough as an actress and treated her rudely. Harlow found Beery gruff and boorish. Since the two were playing a husband and wife that can't stand each other, the real-life feelings worked to the comic benefit of the characters.

John Barrymore, who bravely took on the role of a fading matinee idol, relished the challenge of a strong character part. "Although (Barrymore) was playing a second-rate actor," said George Cukor in a 1970 interview, "he had no vanity as such. He even put things in to make himself hammier, more ignorant." Barrymore got involved in his part, making suggestions along the way to play up his character such as having him misquote famous writers and botch his own suicide. Cukor was pleased that an actor of such prominence was confident and committed enough that he would be willing to sacrifice vanity for the greater success of the film.

Dinner at Eight was shot in a remarkable 27 days. "That was a wonderful record," said Cukor. "I owed it all to these marvelous performers; with them behind me, everything seemed possible." Later, Cukor considered his rapid directorial pace on Dinner at Eight as something more like a curse. "It's haunted me my entire career," he said. People ever since, he believed, expected him to deliver all his pictures in that short amount of time.

MGM's faith in Dinner at Eight paid off. Upon its release, it was a huge success with critics and audiences alike. Despite not receiving any Academy Award® nominations, the film endured and is now considered one of MGM's finest films from the '30s.

by Andrea Passafiume

Behind the Camera - Dinner at Eight

With an assigned budget of $420,000, Dinner at Eight began shooting at MGM on March 16, 1933. Despite the complications of a large ensemble cast to juggle, the filming went smoothly with no unforeseen problems arising. According to Jean Harlow, the picture was shot as close to chronological order as possible "so we could all feel the dramatic power of the climactic scenes." Though Marie Dressler hadn't fit George Cukor's idea of former beauty Carlotta Vance when she was first cast, she made the part her own with utter believability. "She acquired a peculiar distinction, a magnificence," said Cukor in a later interview. "She was a law unto herself. She'd mug and carry on-which she did in this picture-but she knew how to make an entrance with great aplomb, great effect." Co-star Jean Harlow was in awe of Dressler's talents and praised the veteran actress for her generosity. "Being in the same cast with Marie was a break for me," said Harlow. "She's one trouper I'd never try to steal a scene from. It'd be like trying to carry Italy against Mussolini." Marie Dressler was also impressed with Jean Harlow. "It was whispered behind more than one hand that Jean Harlow, Metro's much-advertised platinum menace, was picked for parts that called for more allure than art," said Dressler in her 1934 autobiography My Own Story. "And in Dinner at Eight, she had to throw a bomb in the works by proving that she is a first-rate actress! Her performance as the wife of the hard-boiled, self-made politician played by Wallace Beery belongs in that limited category of things which may with reason be called rare. The plain truth is, she all but ran off with the show!" It was high praise indeed for Jean Harlow coming from Dressler, and Dressler's warmth helped put the actress at ease. Harlow was understandably insecure about holding her own against such immense acting talent, and it was important to her to do a good job with her part. Harlow was an actress who got along with everyone-with one exception: Wallace Beery. She had worked with Beery before in The Secret Six (1931) and the two had developed a dislike for each other that carried over into Dinner at Eight. Beery thought that Harlow wasn't experienced enough as an actress and treated her rudely. Harlow found Beery gruff and boorish. Since the two were playing a husband and wife that can't stand each other, the real-life feelings worked to the comic benefit of the characters. John Barrymore, who bravely took on the role of a fading matinee idol, relished the challenge of a strong character part. "Although (Barrymore) was playing a second-rate actor," said George Cukor in a 1970 interview, "he had no vanity as such. He even put things in to make himself hammier, more ignorant." Barrymore got involved in his part, making suggestions along the way to play up his character such as having him misquote famous writers and botch his own suicide. Cukor was pleased that an actor of such prominence was confident and committed enough that he would be willing to sacrifice vanity for the greater success of the film. Dinner at Eight was shot in a remarkable 27 days. "That was a wonderful record," said Cukor. "I owed it all to these marvelous performers; with them behind me, everything seemed possible." Later, Cukor considered his rapid directorial pace on Dinner at Eight as something more like a curse. "It's haunted me my entire career," he said. People ever since, he believed, expected him to deliver all his pictures in that short amount of time. MGM's faith in Dinner at Eight paid off. Upon its release, it was a huge success with critics and audiences alike. Despite not receiving any Academy Award® nominations, the film endured and is now considered one of MGM's finest films from the '30s. by Andrea Passafiume

Dinner At Eight - Dinner at Eight


Producer David O. Selznick made his bow at MGM with this star-studded 1933 comedy, crafting a hit that would give him a powerful position at Hollywood's most powerful studio. He hadn't wanted to work there at all. Selznick was making great strides as head of RKO Studios and was sensitive about charges of nepotism at MGM since he was married to studio head Louis B. Mayer's daughter. But when MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg had to take a leave because of poor health, Selznick reluctantly gave in to his father-in-law's entreaties.

He inherited Dinner at Eight (1933) from Thalberg, who had already secured screen rights to the Broadway hit about a high-society dinner that falls to pieces. For Selznick, this was the chance to outdo Thalberg's previous hit with the screen's first all-star picture, Grand Hotel (1932). Of course, he had to fight for some of his stars, not to mention the perfect director for the piece. He had no trouble getting Marie Dressler to play a fading stage star. She was the top box office draw of the day, and her good friend Frances Marion was writing the script. Nor was there much argument about casting Lionel Barrymore, Mayer's favorite actor.

Where Selznick hit his first brick wall was in hiring George Cukor to direct. Selznick had helped build his career at RKO and knew the stage veteran had the perfect touch for the witty, sophisticated material. He just had to get the gay director past Mayer's ardent homophobia. Fortunately, the studio head's convictions rarely went further than the box office. Just as Mayer was happy to cover up for gay stars with strong fan followings, when Dinner at Eight became a hit, it marked the start of a long association between Cukor and the studio.

Mayer also objected to casting two of the film's biggest stars—John Barrymore and Jean Harlow. He was worried about Barrymore's drinking and erratic behavior, but Cukor assured him that they had developed a good working relationship on A Bill of Divorcement (1932). On the set of Dinner at Eight Barrymore was cooperative and helpful. Far from resisting comparisons between himself and his character, a fading matinee idol succumbing to alcoholism, he suggested playing up the similarities. At his instigation, Marion and co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz added references to his profile and his three wives. On the set, he even improvised imitations of faded actors he'd run into in New York.

When Selznick proposed Harlow to play Wallace Beery's brassy, wisecracking wife, Mayer thought she wasn't a good enough actress to hold her own against the all-star cast. Cukor came to the rescue again. He had recently seen Harlow's comic performance in Red Dust (1932), which convinced him she would be perfect for the role. Harlow always credited him with helping her find herself as a comedienne. Cukor said that all it took was harnessing her greatest comic gift, the ability to deliver lines as though she didn't quite know what they meant.

Dinner at Eight made Harlow a bigger star than ever. Her all-white bedroom, designed by Hobe Erwin and Fred Hope, helped popularize the Art Deco style of the '30s, while her white satin evening dress became a fashion rage, referred to as the "Jean Harlow dress."
Best of all, however, was the laugh she and Marie Dressler got at the film's closing. The original play had ended on a somber note, but Selznick wanted to go out with a bang. He turned to playwright Donald Ogden Stewart for help, resulting in Harlow's stunning revelation that she's been reading a book. "It's a screwy sort of book," she says, "all about the future. This man thinks that someday machines will take the place of every known profession." Dressler looks her up and down, then warbles, "My dear, that's something you need never worry about."

Director: George Cukor
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Herman J. Mankiewicz, Frances Marion, Donald Ogden Stewart, Edna Ferber (play), George S. Kaufman (play)
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Art Direction: Hobe Erwin, Fredric Hope
Music: William Axt
Cast: Marie Dressler (Carlotta Vance), John Barrymore (Larry Renault), Wallace Beery (Dan Packard), Jean Harlow (Kitty Packard), Lionel Barrymore (Oliver Jordan), Lee Tracy (Max Kane).
BW-112m. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Frank Miller

Dinner At Eight - Dinner at Eight

Producer David O. Selznick made his bow at MGM with this star-studded 1933 comedy, crafting a hit that would give him a powerful position at Hollywood's most powerful studio. He hadn't wanted to work there at all. Selznick was making great strides as head of RKO Studios and was sensitive about charges of nepotism at MGM since he was married to studio head Louis B. Mayer's daughter. But when MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg had to take a leave because of poor health, Selznick reluctantly gave in to his father-in-law's entreaties. He inherited Dinner at Eight (1933) from Thalberg, who had already secured screen rights to the Broadway hit about a high-society dinner that falls to pieces. For Selznick, this was the chance to outdo Thalberg's previous hit with the screen's first all-star picture, Grand Hotel (1932). Of course, he had to fight for some of his stars, not to mention the perfect director for the piece. He had no trouble getting Marie Dressler to play a fading stage star. She was the top box office draw of the day, and her good friend Frances Marion was writing the script. Nor was there much argument about casting Lionel Barrymore, Mayer's favorite actor. Where Selznick hit his first brick wall was in hiring George Cukor to direct. Selznick had helped build his career at RKO and knew the stage veteran had the perfect touch for the witty, sophisticated material. He just had to get the gay director past Mayer's ardent homophobia. Fortunately, the studio head's convictions rarely went further than the box office. Just as Mayer was happy to cover up for gay stars with strong fan followings, when Dinner at Eight became a hit, it marked the start of a long association between Cukor and the studio. Mayer also objected to casting two of the film's biggest stars—John Barrymore and Jean Harlow. He was worried about Barrymore's drinking and erratic behavior, but Cukor assured him that they had developed a good working relationship on A Bill of Divorcement (1932). On the set of Dinner at Eight Barrymore was cooperative and helpful. Far from resisting comparisons between himself and his character, a fading matinee idol succumbing to alcoholism, he suggested playing up the similarities. At his instigation, Marion and co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz added references to his profile and his three wives. On the set, he even improvised imitations of faded actors he'd run into in New York. When Selznick proposed Harlow to play Wallace Beery's brassy, wisecracking wife, Mayer thought she wasn't a good enough actress to hold her own against the all-star cast. Cukor came to the rescue again. He had recently seen Harlow's comic performance in Red Dust (1932), which convinced him she would be perfect for the role. Harlow always credited him with helping her find herself as a comedienne. Cukor said that all it took was harnessing her greatest comic gift, the ability to deliver lines as though she didn't quite know what they meant. Dinner at Eight made Harlow a bigger star than ever. Her all-white bedroom, designed by Hobe Erwin and Fred Hope, helped popularize the Art Deco style of the '30s, while her white satin evening dress became a fashion rage, referred to as the "Jean Harlow dress." Best of all, however, was the laugh she and Marie Dressler got at the film's closing. The original play had ended on a somber note, but Selznick wanted to go out with a bang. He turned to playwright Donald Ogden Stewart for help, resulting in Harlow's stunning revelation that she's been reading a book. "It's a screwy sort of book," she says, "all about the future. This man thinks that someday machines will take the place of every known profession." Dressler looks her up and down, then warbles, "My dear, that's something you need never worry about." Director: George Cukor Producer: David O. Selznick Screenplay: Herman J. Mankiewicz, Frances Marion, Donald Ogden Stewart, Edna Ferber (play), George S. Kaufman (play) Cinematography: William H. Daniels Art Direction: Hobe Erwin, Fredric Hope Music: William Axt Cast: Marie Dressler (Carlotta Vance), John Barrymore (Larry Renault), Wallace Beery (Dan Packard), Jean Harlow (Kitty Packard), Lionel Barrymore (Oliver Jordan), Lee Tracy (Max Kane). BW-112m. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video. by Frank Miller

The Critics' Corner - Dinner at Eight


AWARDS AND HONORS

In 2000 the American Film Institute named Dinner at Eight number 85 on its list of the top 100 Comedy Movies of all time in American cinema.

Dinner at Eight was named one of the 10 best films of 1933 by both the New York Times and Film Daily.

THE CRITIC'S CORNER - DINNER AT EIGHT (1933)

"The story grips from beginning to end with never relaxing tension, its somber moments relieved by lighter touches into a fascinating mosaic for nearly two hours...Acting honors probably will go to Miss Dressler and Miss Harlow, the latter taking hold of her fat role and making it stand out, even in this distinguished company."
- Variety

"It lives up to every expectation. It is one of those rare pictures which keeps you in your seat until the final fade-out, for nobody wants to miss one of the scintillating lines."
- The New York Times

"As a frame for juxtapositional drama of the type that came into fashion with Grand Hotel [1932], a fashionable dinner party is ideal. As a frame for one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's all-star casts, the play by Edna Ferber and George Kaufman which was produced in Manhattan last winter was even better. The actors in Dinner at Eight selected by MGM's new producer David Selznick, make the cast of MGM's Grand Hotel, produced by Irving Thalberg, look like a road company, make the picture-less biting but more comprehensive than the play-superb entertainment. Under Director George Cukor, John Barrymore (Larry Renault), Lionel Barrymore (Oliver Jordan), Marie Dressler (Carlotta Vance), Jean Harlow (Kitty Packard), Wallace Beery (Dan Packard), Lee Tracy (Renault's agent), Billie Burke (Millicent Jordan), Edmund Lowe (Dr. Talbot) and Karen Morley (Mrs. Talbot), supported by such $1,000-a-week celebrities as Phillips Holmes, Jean Hersholt, Madge Evans, Grant Mitchell and the late Louise Closser Hale, perform brilliantly and avoid each others' toes."
- Time Magazine

"...a great picture-you can't afford to miss it...among all these great performers it is little Jean Harlow who stands out...Harlow is magnificent."
- New York Daily Mirror

"Jean Harlow, with her bee-stung pucker and her tinny voice, at her comic best. George Cukor directed this witty, much improved version of the Edna Ferber-George S. Kaufman play..."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

"The acting, camerawork, and sets are faultless. This is one of Cukor's strongest and most memorable films."
- Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films

"...one of the best Hollywood films of the early thirties, notable for the ingenious construction and deft exposition of its multi-stranded story, the brilliance of its dialogue and characterizations, with virtuoso performances by some of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's top stars, and the skill of Cukor's direction."
- The Oxford Companion to Film

"A great serious-at-the-core comedy, masterfully directed by George Cukor and performed by a once-in-a-lifetime ensemble...despite the presence of great male stars, Burke, Harlow, and especially Dressler steal the film - their performances are comic gems."
- Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic

"Artificial but compelling pattern play from a Broadway success."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"The laughs are mainly at the expense of the nouveau riche couple, a comedy of manners in which Harlow reveals her natural gift for humour and Beery confirms his status as the definitive boor. But the film also reflects the vagaries of the 1930s social scene, and John Barrymore virtually plays himself as the all-time lush. Perfect viewing for a wet Saturday afternoon."
- TimeOut Film Guide

"...Many of Cukor's most revered movies have a problem or two that often go unmentioned, perhaps because that would spoil the fun...In Dinner at Eight, it's the strain toward drama that doesn't pay off. Dinner at Eight offers economic ruin, ill health, and suicide amidst the champagne-spritzed repartee, but the drama stands apart because it is not of the equivalent excellence of the movie's social comedy...It doesn't diminish the joy of watching Dinner at Eight to suggest that its many parts don't always mesh. It is ultimately a triumph of type casting the crème de la crème....MGM had stars, and knew how to use them. "
- Matthew Kennedy, Bright Lights Film Journal

"The proscenium arch that marks the difference between theater and film doesn't get obliterated in George Cukor's Dinner at Eight, where most scenes take place in static medium shots that follow actors around as they gobble through reams of dialogue. Multiple narratives are thrown together like a cinematic mix tape involving guests preparing for a high-class soiree thrown by Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke). It's immediately apparent which of these stories Cukor is interested in. The others fall flat, and he merely ploughs through them indiscriminately. If the viewer regards each subplot as short films unto themselves, adding up to a potent final scene that strings them taut, the experience will prove more engaging. Dinner at Eight is a treasure hunt for great scenes, or banal scenes with occasionally great moments."
- Jeremiah Kipp, Slant Magazine

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

The Critics' Corner - Dinner at Eight

AWARDS AND HONORS In 2000 the American Film Institute named Dinner at Eight number 85 on its list of the top 100 Comedy Movies of all time in American cinema. Dinner at Eight was named one of the 10 best films of 1933 by both the New York Times and Film Daily. THE CRITIC'S CORNER - DINNER AT EIGHT (1933) "The story grips from beginning to end with never relaxing tension, its somber moments relieved by lighter touches into a fascinating mosaic for nearly two hours...Acting honors probably will go to Miss Dressler and Miss Harlow, the latter taking hold of her fat role and making it stand out, even in this distinguished company." - Variety "It lives up to every expectation. It is one of those rare pictures which keeps you in your seat until the final fade-out, for nobody wants to miss one of the scintillating lines." - The New York Times "As a frame for juxtapositional drama of the type that came into fashion with Grand Hotel [1932], a fashionable dinner party is ideal. As a frame for one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's all-star casts, the play by Edna Ferber and George Kaufman which was produced in Manhattan last winter was even better. The actors in Dinner at Eight selected by MGM's new producer David Selznick, make the cast of MGM's Grand Hotel, produced by Irving Thalberg, look like a road company, make the picture-less biting but more comprehensive than the play-superb entertainment. Under Director George Cukor, John Barrymore (Larry Renault), Lionel Barrymore (Oliver Jordan), Marie Dressler (Carlotta Vance), Jean Harlow (Kitty Packard), Wallace Beery (Dan Packard), Lee Tracy (Renault's agent), Billie Burke (Millicent Jordan), Edmund Lowe (Dr. Talbot) and Karen Morley (Mrs. Talbot), supported by such $1,000-a-week celebrities as Phillips Holmes, Jean Hersholt, Madge Evans, Grant Mitchell and the late Louise Closser Hale, perform brilliantly and avoid each others' toes." - Time Magazine "...a great picture-you can't afford to miss it...among all these great performers it is little Jean Harlow who stands out...Harlow is magnificent." - New York Daily Mirror "Jean Harlow, with her bee-stung pucker and her tinny voice, at her comic best. George Cukor directed this witty, much improved version of the Edna Ferber-George S. Kaufman play..." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies "The acting, camerawork, and sets are faultless. This is one of Cukor's strongest and most memorable films." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films "...one of the best Hollywood films of the early thirties, notable for the ingenious construction and deft exposition of its multi-stranded story, the brilliance of its dialogue and characterizations, with virtuoso performances by some of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's top stars, and the skill of Cukor's direction." - The Oxford Companion to Film "A great serious-at-the-core comedy, masterfully directed by George Cukor and performed by a once-in-a-lifetime ensemble...despite the presence of great male stars, Burke, Harlow, and especially Dressler steal the film - their performances are comic gems." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic "Artificial but compelling pattern play from a Broadway success." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide "The laughs are mainly at the expense of the nouveau riche couple, a comedy of manners in which Harlow reveals her natural gift for humour and Beery confirms his status as the definitive boor. But the film also reflects the vagaries of the 1930s social scene, and John Barrymore virtually plays himself as the all-time lush. Perfect viewing for a wet Saturday afternoon." - TimeOut Film Guide "...Many of Cukor's most revered movies have a problem or two that often go unmentioned, perhaps because that would spoil the fun...In Dinner at Eight, it's the strain toward drama that doesn't pay off. Dinner at Eight offers economic ruin, ill health, and suicide amidst the champagne-spritzed repartee, but the drama stands apart because it is not of the equivalent excellence of the movie's social comedy...It doesn't diminish the joy of watching Dinner at Eight to suggest that its many parts don't always mesh. It is ultimately a triumph of type casting the crème de la crème....MGM had stars, and knew how to use them. " - Matthew Kennedy, Bright Lights Film Journal "The proscenium arch that marks the difference between theater and film doesn't get obliterated in George Cukor's Dinner at Eight, where most scenes take place in static medium shots that follow actors around as they gobble through reams of dialogue. Multiple narratives are thrown together like a cinematic mix tape involving guests preparing for a high-class soiree thrown by Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke). It's immediately apparent which of these stories Cukor is interested in. The others fall flat, and he merely ploughs through them indiscriminately. If the viewer regards each subplot as short films unto themselves, adding up to a potent final scene that strings them taut, the experience will prove more engaging. Dinner at Eight is a treasure hunt for great scenes, or banal scenes with occasionally great moments." - Jeremiah Kipp, Slant Magazine Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

Dinner at 8 on Broadway


DINNER AT EIGHT, the new Broadway play which opened in December at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, peers into the lives of a group of high society New Yorkers during the 1930's. As a social-climbing Park Avenue hostess hurriedly organizes a dinner party in honor of visiting English nobility, DINNER AT EIGHT goes skipping around the city to reveal the background of each of the invited guests and the business intrigues and clandestine romantic entanglements that link them all together.

The cast for DINNER AT EIGHT is Joanne Camp, Rhys Coiro, Kevin Conway, John Dossett, Christine Ebersole, Julian Gamble, Enid Graham, Joe Grifasi, Byron Jennings, Simon Jutras, Joseph Kamal, Karl Kenzler, Mark La Mura, Anne Lange, Philip LeStrange, Mark Lotito, Charlotte Maier, Peter Maloney, Deborah Mayo, Ann McDonough, James Rebhorn, Brian Reddy, Marian Seldes, Sloane Shelton, Emily Skinner, Samantha Soule and David Wohl, and has sets by John Lee Beatty, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by David Weiner, sound by Aural Fixation and original music by Robert Waldman.

DINNER AT EIGHT performs Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm, with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 3pm. Special holiday performances have been added on Dec. 23 (Mon) at 8pm and Dec. 27 (Fri) at 2pm; on Dec. 29 (Sun) there are two performances at 2pm and 7:30pm. (There are no performances on Dec. 24 and 25.) Beginning with the New Year's Eve performance on Dec. 31st, all Tuesday performances will all be at 7 PM. Tickets, priced at $70 and $55, are available, at the Lincoln Center Theater Box Office (150 West 65 Street) or by calling TELE-CHARGE at (212) 239-6200.

Dinner at 8 on Broadway

DINNER AT EIGHT, the new Broadway play which opened in December at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, peers into the lives of a group of high society New Yorkers during the 1930's. As a social-climbing Park Avenue hostess hurriedly organizes a dinner party in honor of visiting English nobility, DINNER AT EIGHT goes skipping around the city to reveal the background of each of the invited guests and the business intrigues and clandestine romantic entanglements that link them all together. The cast for DINNER AT EIGHT is Joanne Camp, Rhys Coiro, Kevin Conway, John Dossett, Christine Ebersole, Julian Gamble, Enid Graham, Joe Grifasi, Byron Jennings, Simon Jutras, Joseph Kamal, Karl Kenzler, Mark La Mura, Anne Lange, Philip LeStrange, Mark Lotito, Charlotte Maier, Peter Maloney, Deborah Mayo, Ann McDonough, James Rebhorn, Brian Reddy, Marian Seldes, Sloane Shelton, Emily Skinner, Samantha Soule and David Wohl, and has sets by John Lee Beatty, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by David Weiner, sound by Aural Fixation and original music by Robert Waldman. DINNER AT EIGHT performs Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm, with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 3pm. Special holiday performances have been added on Dec. 23 (Mon) at 8pm and Dec. 27 (Fri) at 2pm; on Dec. 29 (Sun) there are two performances at 2pm and 7:30pm. (There are no performances on Dec. 24 and 25.) Beginning with the New Year's Eve performance on Dec. 31st, all Tuesday performances will all be at 7 PM. Tickets, priced at $70 and $55, are available, at the Lincoln Center Theater Box Office (150 West 65 Street) or by calling TELE-CHARGE at (212) 239-6200.

Quotes

If there's one thing I know, it's men. I ought to. It's been my life's work.
- Carlotta Vance
I was reading a book the other day.
- Kitty
Reading a book??
- Carlotta
Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
- Kitty
Oh, my dear. That's something you need never worry about.
- Carlotta
Politics? Ha! You couldn't get into politics. You couldn't get in anywhere. You couldn't even get in the mens' room at the Astor!
- Kitty Packard
And then I had a restful, nice luncheon...with 4 lawyers. On the 88th floor of the Watson's building. You know, the sky club. A cloud floated right into my soup plate.
- Carlotta Vance

Trivia

Notes

A February 1933 Film Daily news item stated that Joseph M. Schenck bought the screen rights to George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's play and was planning to produce it as a United Artists release in June 1933. Dinner at Eight was the first film that producer David Selznick made at M-G-M. Having worked successfully with George Cukor at his previous studio, RKO, Selznick arranged for the director, who was still under contract at RKO, to be exchanged for Lionel Barrymore. Film Daily notes that actor Lee Tracy was filming another M-G-M picture, The Nuisance, at the same time he was making this film.
       Reviewers commented on the raciness of the concluding line in the film, in which "Carlotta Vance," the character portrayed by Marie Dressler, responds to "Kitty's" passing remark that machinery is taking the place of every profession by saying, "Oh my dear, that's something you never need to worry about." The character of Carlotta was inspired by the popular stage and silent film actress Maxine Elliott, according to Elliott's March 13, 1940 New York Times obituary. In 1934, Dinner at Eight was voted one of the year's ten best by Film Daily's annual poll of critics.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1933

Released in United States 1933