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.”
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
BEN LYON and BEBE DANIELS
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.”)
JOAN CRAWFORD, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS JR.
CLARK GABLE ,NORMA SHEARER,IRVING THALBERG
Thousands of fans struggled to get near their favorites . It really was an amazing scene.
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.