Filmsite Movie Review
Dinner at Eight (1933)
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The Story (continued)

Dinner at Eight (1933)In the next sequence, Mrs. Jordan phoned the Packards to invite them to her dinner party. The mannish maid Tina (Hilda Vaughn) answered and referred the call to Kitty Packard ('blonde bombshell' Jean Harlow). In her all-white art-deco bedroom, the hussy-tart commoner Kitty was propped up in her extravagant bed, wearing a silky white negligee. She was impressed by the receipt of a call from the prestigious Jordans, and ordered Tina: "Holy cat! Hand me that telephone, you nitwit." The low-class Kitty responded positively to an invite to the exclusive and swanky dinner party: "Gee, that sounds swell to me," and accepted without Dan's approval. After the call, she pleasingly thought to herself about the thrilling prospect: "Me eating with Lord and Lady Ferncliffe!" She instructed Tina to not inform the stubborn Mr. Packard until the appropriate time: "That slug never wants to meet any refined people."

The brash, amoral, and sexy platinum (peroxide) blonde Kitty was eating chocolate bonbons that she spit out half-eaten when she found one she didn't like. She was a double-dealing cuckolder engaged in a secret affair with her own physician, serial adulterer Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe), who was regularly summoned for numerous suspicious 'house calls' to treat her various symptoms ("I got a cold and my legs ache all over"). In a nearly-transparent, silk nightgown as she vainly gazed at her mirror's reflection, she applied facial powder and modeled new hats. She name-called Tina with derogatory titles including: "nitwit," "stupid," and "you fool." When her 'common law', mismatched husband-partner Packard hurriedly entered, he criticized Kitty for being bedridden, for her continual laziness, complaints about feigned sickness, and annoying behavioral habits:

  • You in bed again? What's the matter?
  • What's the idea of the hat? Going out?
  • What do you eat all that sweet stuff for?
  • Why don't you get up and do something?
  • Look at me. I was never sick a day in my life, and why? It's because I do things and get out and get to moving.

The uncultured Kitty responded with baby-talk, as he shaved, changed his clothes and prepared to travel to Washington that evening:

Kitty: Dr. Talbot says that you're an extrovert and I'm an introvert.
Dan: A what?
Kitty: An introvert, ya dummy! And that's why I've got to be quiet a good deal and have time to reflect in.
Dan: Reflect in? What have you got to reflect about? I have to think and act at the same time.

Packard was to be consulted by the President about "the affairs of the nation" and was angling for a Cabinet position. He boasted about his enormous energy and drive, and his timely opportunity to seize the Jordan shipping business:

I called on a fellow this morning who can't handle one little business, and I juggle 50 things at once, and he doesn't handle one. Here's the blow-off. He's got the layout that I've been looking for for two years, and the sap lays it right in my lap. Little Dan Packard owns the best shipping line between here and the tropics, and Mr. Oliver Jordan is out on his ear.

The socially-ambitious Kitty realized that the hostile, double-crossing take-over of the Jordan's business, "a dirty deal," would threaten their invitation for dinner. She informed him about their solicitation, and what she was looking forward to wearing: "I'm gonna wear my new silver with the white fox." But Packard refused to attend: "I can't go and eat his dinner." Kitty bickered about his refusal, realizing that he was denying her a rare opportunity to hob-knob with high-class society folk:

Kitty: Presidents in Washington and all those rummies, but you can't go anywheres with me. Once in our life, we get asked to a classy house. And I gotta new dress that will knock their eye out and we're going!
Dan: We're not going!
Kitty: We are so, ya big crook! You pull a dirty deal and it ruins my social chances! And you can't get away with it!
Dan: Aw, go lay an egg. (She stuck out her tongue at him)

She manipulatively resorted to more baby talk and brassy insults, both in one breath, using her sing-songy voice to again express her interest in attending - with one added crucial detail:

Dan-ny. Kitty wants to go see all the great big lords and ladies in the big, booful (beautiful) house! (She snorted at him when he didn't respond) Dan-ny. It's for Lord and Lady Ferncliffe.

Packard immediately changed his mind about attending with the prospect of meeting "the richest man in England...I've been trying to meet him for two years." But then before leaving for DC, he asserted his plan for a deceitful take-over of the Jordan shipping line: "I'll buy up that Jordan stock through dummies. I'll use Baldridge and Whitestone, fellows like that. Keep my name out of it." The ill-mannered and uneducated Kitty perked up with the arrival of Dr. Talbot - she primped in the bathroom and had Tina conspicuously place a book on the bed, given to her by Talbot, titled Aspects of the Adult Mind. The handsome Talbot arrived and asked: "What's wrong with the little lady?" as Tina shut the bedroom doors. Kitty mentioned a few aches but then complained about being ignored and lonely - and presumably horny for sex - and fearing that he had tired of her:

You never come and see me anymore unless I send for you... I'm so lonely for you, Wayne. And you know how I need you. I don't do anything all day except just long for you.

He stipulated that he was busy, inappropriately suggested: "Why don't you try and read?", but then collapsed into her arms when she passionately kissed him. The scene faded to black.

The Day of the Dinner

In the Jordan's kitchen on the day of the dinner, the cook Mrs. Wendel (May Robson) prepared a lion-shaped (MGM?), "divine" aspic salad mold (decorated with a tiny US and UK flag) that "quivered with pride." Millicent was thrilled with the creation: "It's the British lion in honor of Lord Ferncliffe. It will just make the dinner." But then she received a last-minute telegram with "bad news." She was upset that her invited "extra man" Freddy Hope would be unable to attend due to pneumonia, to provide accompaniment for Carlotta. She called his sudden sickness: "thoughtless, selfish," and feared it might be impossible at the last minute to find someone to fit in. Cousin Hattie suggested that she needn't do anything, in an oft-quoted line:

I never could understand why it has to be just even, male and female. They're invited for dinner, not for mating.

But Hattie did helpfully suggest that a possible substitute but be an actor or movie star to accompany Carlotta. The name of "marvelous" Larry Renault (John Barrymore) was mentioned - a washed-up, ex-matinee idol and silent-era actor who was still in town after an interview in the Telegram. He was hoping to perform in a Broadway play:

Hattie: He was in town yesterday. Ed, the movie hound, read me an interview with him in last night's Telegram. He's leaving pictures and going into a play.
Millicent: And he knows Carlotta. We met him at her place in Antibes three years ago. He was simply a sensation. The girls fighting to get into his car. And on the beach. Well, my dear, he wore even less than the girls.
Hattie: Ed says he isn't so hot since the talkies. You can't fool Ed about the pictures. He remembers John Bunny and Francis X. Bushman, Henry B. Walthall.
Millicent: I don't suppose he'd even remember me. I wonder where he's stopping.

Fortuitously, Renault was staying at the Versailles Hotel where Carlotta was residing. Even before inviting him, Millicent thought about seating Renault between Carlotta and the Packard woman. Hattie advised phoning him first and then awaiting the outcome: "Let nature take its course." She admired Renault's profile: "In his photographs, he has the most heavenly profile." [Note: Renault's 'profile' - seen prominently in the first view of him in his hotel room suite, mirrored Barrymore's own nickname: "The Great Profile."] As Millicent phoned to offer a same-day dinner invitation to Renault (wearing a two-piece lounging suit with a white monogram on its left pocket, with his profile prominent), the camera tracked to Renault's right, identifying Millicent's daughter Paula in the same room. She was clandestinely and foolishly having a love-struck affair with the ex-movie star. She encouraged Larry to accept ("It will be such fun. To be at dinner with you in my own house. And darling, they aren't so stuffy, really. They'd be crazy about you").

For a period of six weeks, Larry had been hoping to sign a contract with his agent Max (or "Mac") Kane (Lee Tracy) and the play's producer Baumann for a part on Broadway. Paula was strangely jealous and possessive of his time away from her: "I'll have to sit in the audience and watch you make love to another woman. Well, I hope it flops. That's what I hope." The play called for one major male role, and a second smaller male bit role of a beachcomber. A delivery by bellhop Eddie (Edward Woods) at Larry's hotel door brought a bottle of alcohol. As he liberally drank, Paula urged him to behave and not drink too much: "At Mother's tonight, I want them to see you at your best. Larry, don't." He angrily retorted: "Mind your own business, will you?...I'll do as I please." But then after their brief quarrel, he apologized for being harsh with her, because he was "on edge" about his tenuous career prospects. Paula's oblivious fiancee Ernest DeGraff (Phillips Holmes) was returnng from abroad that evening. She felt sorry for him because she was cheating on him behind his back with a married man:

He's so sweet. I can't understand yet what's happened. Less than a month ago, I thought I was in love with him. And you were one of those million-dollar movie stars.

Inside, Paula knew it was absolutely wrong for her to continue the affair, and predicted what three-time divorcee Larry would caution her about:

Ernest is just the sort of young man I should marry. And you're the sort that girls are always warned against. I don't give a hoot what people say. I know all the things you've done. I know how many times you've been married. I don't care. I'm sick of hiding my love for you. I'm sick of scheming and pretending. Do you think I can go on with Ernest? After all we've been to each other?

The young ingenue was visibly shocked when he advised her to leave him (because of his career struggles) and return to Ernest to be married:

You don't know anything about me. You've known me a month...You're a kid of 19. You're 19 and I'm 47 - I'm almost 40....Everything's been too easy for you. You don't know what it means to be up against it. Keep fighting them every second. To pull yourself up, hand over hand... while they're waiting with a knife to cut the rope. Well, I'm not through yet. I'll show 'em. If they think I'm finished...

But she remained stubbornly reluctant to heed his warning and accept "the real facts" of their relationship. Although he vowed his love for her, he said it wasn't "real love," because of his sordid history as an aging, "burned-out" multiple-divorcee - and a cad-womanizer with female fans "swarmed" around him:

I love you. As much as I can love any woman. But it isn't real love anymore. There have been too many. I've been in love a hundred times. I've had three wives. You want to know about 'em?...

There was Violet. She was a vaudeville hoofer. Rooming houses, dirty kimonos, fried-egg sandwiches. We fought like wildcats. Then I broke into pictures and I left her.

Then I married Edith. She was crazy about my profile. Always kept talking about it. She was society. We were happy for about six months. Then Hollywood dazzled her. Well, you know what happened? Out in her car one night, drunk as the devil - over the cliff....

As for Marcelle, you know about her. She's the top of the heap now. Biggest draw of any woman in pictures. Ambitious. I've never known any woman like her. She'd do anything to get along, and knife me to get there. Always telling me someday she'd be bigger than I was, and now I'm - (pause) -

Well, there they are, the three of them. I won't tell you about the others. They swarmed on me. Every age, kind, and description. What do you want with me?...You're young and fresh, and I'm burned out....You listen to what I'm telling you.

With her mind made up, Paula insisted on remaining with him and wouldn't listen to his blunt assessment. He resisted her when she vowed to reveal their love to her parents and Ernest that evening. Their heated discussion was interrupted by the arrival of Larry's agent. As Paula departed in the hallway, she was noticed by Carlotta, who arrived in the elevator on the 8th floor after walking her three pekingese dogs on a leash (one of whom peed on the hotel carpet).

Larry's agent asked: "How is the great profile today?" He asked if Larry was getting out regularly or working out to get in shape, knowing that Larry was a problematic, confirmed alcoholic. Kane then offered some "disappointing news" - that the original producer of the play, Baumann, had been replaced due to sickness. The new theatrical manager/producer was Joe Stengel (Jean Hersholt), who preferred a different person for the lead role of an "English Explorer" - a British actor named Cecil Bellamy. But Stengel would still consider Larry for the bit part role as the beachcomber. Larry was offended by the thought and was about to kick his agent out, but then listened again as Kane encouraged him to take the minor role for its one "swell scene." Larry was slightly convinced, and urged his agent to speak to Stengel, while he played hard-to-get:

Don't let on you talked to me about this. Just tell him maybe you can get me to play it.

Broke with only 7 cents to his name and on the verge of becoming destitute, Larry asked to borrow $5 from Kane for taxi fare, for his evening's ride to the Jordan dinner party. From a room service waiter, Larry ordered a "good and strong" cup of coffee and a caviar sandwich, but was cautioned that he could not order any more room service with just his signature, but would have to pay cash. Larry called the front desk to dispatch bellboy Eddie on another errand for him - to pawn his cuff-links, solid gold belt buckle, and a silver photo frame wrapped in pieces of newspaper.

The next scene opened with a closeup of Mr. Oliver Jordan's medical file folder in Dr. Talbot's wood-paneled office, after he had called for an urgent appointment. Mrs. Packard called to speak to Talbot on a "private wire" during his office hours - requesting his presence immediately. He was annoyed with her continual hypochondria, and claimed he was too busy to see her: "There's nothing the matter with you." He responded to her insecurities and assured her: "Of course there's no other woman." He changed his tone and the substance of the conversation when he heard his wife Lucy (Karen Morley) enter his office while he was on the phone: "I think you better sleep for an hour and rest, and then take a mild bromide. My office is full of patients now." Lucy had remained steadfast and long-suffering about his dalliances with female patients: "Just the same old thing...unreasonable women patients." She knew he was continually unfaithful and had been a serial adulterer for a long time:

...I know all about it...I'm not going to make a scene. You know I never do, do I? Remember how nicely I behaved about the others? Mrs. Whiting and that Dalrimple girl, and the Ferguson woman, Dolly, and...Now, dear, I knew just when it started. Now she's at the insistent stage. It's all just a great bore, isn't it, darling? Don't think I don't mind. But I can't let it tear me to pieces the way it did the first time. It was just before Wayne was born, remember? I thought the world had come to an end. The noble young physician was just a masher...That's why it's so pathetic. You're two people, really. One's magnificent, and the other's so shoddy.

She was amazed that she had remained loyal to him for so long: "Because I'm still in love with you. Isn't that funny? You'd think I'd have more pride." She proposed that he slowly wean himself away from his promiscuous sex addiction to low-class, "common" but glamorous women:

Lucy: You know what I think? I think you're still a little boy living over on Tenth Avenue, a little bit in awe of the girl from Murray Hill. And that's why, forgive me, these glamorous women in your life have all been a little common, a little bit Tenth Avenue, too.
Wayne: These other women, why - it's like gambling, drinking, or drugs. You just keep on.
Lucy: A habit can be cured if the patient wants to.
Wayne: The patient wants to.
Lucy: Of course, you mustn't stop too suddenly.
Wayne: Lucy, darling, it's you and I. It's always been you and I, and always will be. Now, you must believe that. (They kissed)

The unstable and ill Oliver Jordan arrived to be treated, grasping his chest with heart pangs. Talbot diagnosed a sniff of Nitrate of Ammo, and then suggested an appointment the following afternoon for a more thorough examination. Knowing that Jordan would be entertaining guests for dinner at eight that evening, Talbot downplayed his serious heart condition, and urged him to not become too stressed: "Now, you avoid any excitement and stop worrying about business." After Jordan left, Talbot noted to his nurse assistant that Oliver had terminal heart disease: "Coronary artery. Thrombosis" - with not many days left to live.

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