The lavish premiere of MGM’s GRAND HOTEL at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in April 1932 is preserved in a precious 9 minute long piece of film history. The quality of the 80 year old newsreel of the event is wonderfully good and can be seen as an extra on the DVD of the film, and on Youttube.

From a German play by Vicki Baum, GRAND HOTEL came to Hollywood via a Broadway adaptation in 1930. The Broadway cast included ALBERT DEKKER (as the Baron), SIG RUMAN ( as Preysing), SAM JAFFE ( as Kringelein) and RAFAELLA OTTIANO as the maid).
Only Rafaella joined the film cast.

GRAND HOTEL was ground breaking as it was the first all star movie, with the two Barrymores,Garbo, Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford,Lewis Stone.
It was the legendary IRVING THALBERG who brought it all together and gave MGM the Best Picture Oscar of 1932. Strangely, the film had no other Oscar nominations.


At the end of the opening scene, world weary hotel doctor Lewis Stone has the classic line, “Grand Hotel. People come,people go.Nothing ever happens.”

Garbo, Rafaella Ottiano

Garbo, Rafaella Ottiano

The premiere in Hollywood Boulevard was attended by a host of celebrities. The MGM publicity machine pulled out all the stops. A prop hotel reception desk was set up outside Grauman’s ,with a register all the guests had to sign.

CONRAD NAGEL was Master of Ceremonies and was the first to sign the Register. As the stars stepped out of their limousines in all their finery, the newsreel cameras were turning and NBC radio was in attendance for all the eager listeners at home.
And so the parade begins –
EDWARD G. ROBINSON and his wife
LEW AYRES and his wife LOLA LANE
WALLACE BEERY ( who corrects Conrad when he mispronounces his character’s name, Preysing)
LOUIS B. MAYER ( who said, “I am proud of my associate, Irving Thalberg who was able to make this picture himself”)
EDDIE GOULDING ( the film’s director)
ROBERT MONTGOMERY ( who jokingly said, “I want 2 rooms, 3 baths”)
MARLENE DIETRICH and her husband
JEAN HARLOW and producer PAUL BERN ( whom she would marry 2 months later,only for him to die 2 months after the marriage)
Jean said to Conrad,”I can’t write with gloves.” – but she did sign  the register.


CHESTER MORRIS ( who said, “I’ve just signed for MGM.”)

Thousands of fans struggled to get near their favorites . It really was an amazing scene.

Paul Bern, Jean Harlow

Paul Bern, Jean Harlow

Lew Ayres, Lola Lane

Lew Ayres, Lola Lane

What is amazing is that the ‘register’ signed by all these stars survives today and is part of the Darrell Rooney Harlow collection.
(In 2011 Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira wrote a pictorial history of Jean Harlow’s Hollywood career. Called HARLOW IN HOLLYWOOD:THE BLONDE BOMBSHELL IN THE GLAMOUR CAPITAL 1928-1937,it’s a beautiful book, full of rare photos )

The success of Grand Hotel led MGM to repeat the formula the following year, with DINNER AT EIGHT, even using several of the same stars – John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery,Jean Hersholt, but this time adding Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler to the starry cast.



6 responses »

  1. It’s amazing to see this star-studded premiere – I love this film and could watch it endlessly, I must say. ‘Dinner at Eight’ is excellent too, and both Barrymore brothers are so good in both. Great stuff, Vienna.

  2. I bet a lot more of the premiere was filmed but the 9 minutes is all that survives.
    I saw Dinner at Eight this week, first time in years. My favorites were Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler. Their final scene is surely one of Hollywood’s most memorable,with Marie doing a terrific double take as she gives Jean the once over and tells her she need never worry about machines taking over every profession!
    I’m catching up on quite a few Harlow films and also enjoyed Libeled Lady,with Jean ,Spencer Tracy,Myrna Loy and William Powell.
    Next up is Wife vs Secretary.

    • I love ‘Libeled Lady’ (especially Powell fishing!) – haven’t seen ‘Wife vs Secretary’ as yet but will be interested to hear what you think!

  3. Yes, the fishing scene is hilarious, as Powell pretends he is an angler to impress Myrna Loy’s father who loves fishing.
    Surprising really that MGM should put four of their top stars in the one picture. Two was usually the max. But they all worked perfectly together .

  4. Terrific photos! I’m especially happy to finally learn the whereabouts of the register. One point – you missed off one star guest who features – the now-forgotten Lillyan Tashman, who is “so excited” she can hardly speak, and remarks that she’s just back from eight months away in Europe and New York. We also glimpse Anna Q Nillson, a silent star who is remembered today as one of Norma Desmond’s bridge partners in SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

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