All-Star Movies

ClassyCo

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I'm thinking of those old-fashioned, glittery movies stuffed with stars.

Like, let's say...

 

Crimson

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I hadn't seen GRAND HOTEL in years, but found myself watching it -- well, skimming through a bit since my collection is entirely digital -- last night. My two general observations. The musical score was irksome; it was there, vaguely but incessantly, competing with the dialogue in nearly every scene; generally the reason I skirt away from movies from the first half of the 30s. Also Crawford was the only one of the actors who had fully adapted to sound-era acting by 1932; the others, including Garbo and especially J. Barrymore -- all looked like they were still making a Silent.

I'm not sure how many all-star movies there really are, without dipping into the 'revue' type. MGM had a few, though: LIBELED LADY and of course THE WOMEN.

I favor LIBELED LADY (1936), one of my favorite comedies of the era. "Only" four stars, but some of the best and at their peak.

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ClassyCo

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I hadn't seen GRAND HOTEL in years, but found myself watching it -- well, skimming through a bit since my collection is entirely digital -- last night. My two general observations. The musical score was irksome; it was there, vaguely but incessantly, competing with the dialogue in nearly every scene; generally the reason I skirt away from movies from the first half of the 30s. Also Crawford was the only one of the actors who had fully adapted to sound-era acting by 1932; the others, including Garbo and especially J. Barrymore -- all looked like they were still making a Silent.

I'm not sure how many all-star movies there really are, without dipping into the 'revue' type. MGM had a few, though: LIBELED LADY and of course THE WOMEN.

I favor LIBELED LADY (1936), one of my favorite comedies of the era. "Only" four stars, but some of the best and at their peak.

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I bought a really cheap copy (for like three dollars) of Grand Hotel many, many moons ago at Big Lots. At the time, my only motivation for buying it was because it was old, and therefore I just had to have it. The only people whose names I recognized back then were the two top-billed ladies: Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. I remember watching it, and my initial thought was that it was lengthy and rather talkative, and I was disappointed that the stories (or vignettes, really) didn't connect more than they do. We also have to remember that this original viewing was when I was much younger, and I hadn't grown in my maturity to love classic films like I do now.

Thinking of the movie here in 2020, however, I do have a different view. While I can certainly agree that some of the performances are still trapped in that stagy, silent-era vibe, I can also say that I thoroughly enjoy the movie nonetheless. It is rather long and demands highly on conversation (which I can only attribute to the producers' desire to make the most of the new talking medium), but it takes me back to the days when movie stars we exactly that: movie stars, those unattainable, majestic, seemingly other-worldly beings flicking on this large drop screen in a darkly lit theater. We don't have movies or movie stars like that anymore. We haven't in a really lone time, and I long for those days.

Grand Hotel, in more ways than one, was Hollywood's experimental all-star movie. It was the first, naturally, and it also seems like they're trying to get into to groove of how to exactly do this thing right. It's almost like each of the pairs (Garbo and John Barrymore and Crawford and Wallace Beery, for example) are in their own separate movie which just happens to take place in the same hotel. Garbo is the quintessential Queen, this mysterious, beautiful woman pleading with those around her to be let alone. Crawford's playing right into her stereotype of the period, appearing here as a working-class secretary whose seemingly star-struck at being in this massive hotel. John Barrymore is the gentleman of sorts, masquerading as a thief, who stumbles upon a distraught Garbo, who is considering suicide. Wallace Beery is the over-bearing, loud guy he typically is, and Lionel Barrymore is the bumbling, slightly goofy man who's knocking at death's door.

All this mixes together to make a real potent combination. It completely captivates me, and it holds a special place in my heart and in my collection. Nothing can take its place. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the performances, while occasionally stiff, sum up with the Golden Age of Hollywood had perfected and branded all it's own.


 

ginnyfan

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I prefer Dinner at Eight (1933).

MGM had so many stars that many of their movies had all star casts, even when that was not the initial intention l.

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ClassyCo

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I prefer Dinner at Eight (1933).

MGM had so many stars that many of their movies had all star casts, even when that was not the initial intention l.

upload foto png
It's funny that you make a post about Dinner at Eight, when I was literally just thinking how I needed to say exactly what it is I love about this film. It is easily one of my favorite Pre-Code movies, and for a lot of different reasons. It is had a gallery of top stars, namely Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Billie Burke, Lee Tracy, and Edmund Lowe, all at varying peaks of their respective careers. Although the film has some delicious comedic moments, I can also defend the film has some exquisite melodramatic pieces. So even is the movie's comedy-drama balance that it's almost unfair that modern filmdom looks back on this production as merely a comedy.

My favorite subplot involves Wallace Beery and Jean Harlow as a bickering husband and wife. He's a ruthless, nasty businessman wanting to move up the corporate ladder at any cost, while she's a sharp-tongued, love-starved woman who's carrying on an affair with her doctor. Their pieces together are delicious; I love how the fight, yell, and practically beat the crap out of one another, figuratively speaking. It's interesting because she eventually has a hand up on him, especially when she threatens to expose all his dirty dealings so he will loose any chance at a seat in the Washington senate. This kind of thing could have only happened in Pre-Code Hollywood; had it been made after the Production Code was more strictly enforced in 1934, never would it have been approved for Harlow's character to be condoned for her adultery.

This is the only picture I've seen Marie Dressler in, although she was the biggest box office in the early 1930s. While I find her particularly interesting and perfectly suited for her role her as a has-been stage actress, I have absolutely no desire to watch any of her other films. I've read about her other movies, but none of them intrigue me to want to see more of her elsewhere. John Barrymore, whose career was slowly drying up, is as handsome as ever here, as a movie actor who's "not so hot since the talkies came in". It really offers a slice of art imitating life when this is said about John Barrymore's character, considering his real-life professional career was increasingly irrelevant to Hollywood and the American movie-going public.

I absolutely adore Billie Burke and Lionel Barrymore as a couple here. She's ideal as the semi-snotty, socially driven society wife, while he plays the dying millionaire who has grown continuously unhappy. In some ways, Lionel Barrymore's character here is similar to the role he had in Grand Hotel the previous year, where he also played a dying wealthy man. He was perfectly suited for that type of character, and I thoroughly enjoy how he and Burke play off of one another. The rest of the performances are almost letter-perfect, and I haven't any major complaint about the film at all.

I've always preferred Dinner at Eight over Grand Hotel. While I have a soft spot for both, I like how Dinner at Eight is more American, and how all the stories and characters are connected for a dinner party that we come to assume ─ at some point through the picture ─ we'll probably never really get to see. It's all rolled together for a deliciously dose of old-style dramedy that I find particularly addicting.

 

Emelee

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The Women (1939)

I haven't seen it, but I know it's got an ensemble cast: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, Florence Nash and Virginia Grey.




 
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ginnyfan

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I do love Grand Hotel but I guess I prefer Dinner because it's just so damn funny and sophisticated and perfect in every way. Marie Dressler shines and is a joy to watch ,especially in her scenes with Lionel Barrymore. In many scenes they provide acting lessons on how to go from comedy to drama all in one take. As already stated, Dressler was MGM's No1 female star in the early 30s which is kind of mind boggling. An over 60 year old, plump, basic looking woman ruled at the box office because of her TALENT. Take note of that, woke generation, it was possible and it happened in that 'terrible, sexist, racist classic Hollywood.:NI:

Back to the movie, my other 2 favorites are Jean and Wallace Beery. Their non-stop fighting, bickering and insulting is hilarious and quite real. Billie Burk is her usual self, thriving in chaos and over the top dramatics.

In the end they all get together for more fun and joyful moments, culminating in one of my all time favorite endings!

 
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ClassyCo

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The Women (1939)

I haven't seen it, but I know it's got an ensemble cast: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, Florence Nash and Virginia Grey.




The Women is a delicious showcase for some of MGM's biggest leading ladies, and those that they felt showed some promise. In saying that, this is practically tailored as a Norma Shearer vehicle, the studio's unofficial First Lady, whose popularity was on the wane. She gets top billing, naturally, and her character is the one that everything revolves around. That doesn't mean that this picture isn't star-stuffed, though. You can look at the poster and tell it's going to be one fiery delight full of some glamorous women.

Another star brought into the picture is Joan Crawford, whose career was also in trouble. After years of top-grossing films, her career was hitting the rocks, thanks in no part to the poor quality of her films that seemed like rehashes of her former successes. She was infamously coined "box office poison" in 1938, and she was desperately trying to shake that reputation and find something to bring her back to the forefront. She noticed there was a secondary role left vacant in The Women, and the thought of playing a homewrecker intrigued Crawford. MGM was initially reluctant to her casting on a few accounts; they were weary of her box office power and also felt Crawford's fan-base wouldn't take to her playing against type as a manipulative woman who tears apart a seemingly poster board happy marriage. She insisted, however, and Crawford ultimately got the role. It is usually crowned as one of her finest screen portrayals.

The film version of The Women continued the play's tradition of having an entirely female cast. Not a single male is present anyway in the picture, although the film's tagline was: "It's all about men!" Apparently there was a behind-the-scenes rumor that all the animals used for the movie were also females, although I haven't found anything terribly concrete to justify those claims. Rosalind Russell, fast emerging as one of the industry's finest comediennes, was ushered in to get third billing under Shearer and Crawford, while some other well-respected ladies were given smaller roles. Paulette Goddard, who had almost been cast as Scarlett O'Hara a few months prior, was given a role maybe because of the publicity surrounding her at the time. Two newcomers, Virginia Grey and Joan Fontaine, were given roles as well. They would both become better known for other films later. There was also some room for older actresses, like Marjorie Main and Lucile Watson, to have some memorable supporting roles.

It's been a few years since I've actually sat down and watched The Women. I have so many movies in my collection that sometimes it takes a while for me to circle back around to certain films. Every time I have watched it, though, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a career-defining picture for a few of these ladies, and for some it offered a career-starting performance.

Don't pass up the chance to see it.

 
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