Filmsite Movie Review
Grand Hotel (1932)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)

Plot Synopsis (continued)

While talking loudly in front of Room #170, dancer Grusinskaya's maid Suzette cautioned the two men to be quiet, since "Mme" was asleep, although she was actually awake - "thinking." She told her maid that she couldn't give a performance that evening in the theater, because of weariness, sleeplessness and depression:

I think, Suzette, I've never been so tired in my life.

She rose, handled her "cold" pearls in a jewel case on her dresser, and complained that everything in her life had become worthless: "Everything is cold and finished. So far away. So threadbare....It's all gone." She hated her pearls because they would bring her "bad luck." She received another box of orchids from an unknown admirer (the Baron). She refused to leave her room and be chauffeured to the Western Theater (it was one hour before the curtain). She told ballet master Pimenov that it was not because of "stagefright," but because she feared that her popularity was waning:

Last night there was no applause...That theater, half empty. Dancing for those few. I was frantic. I finished, I waited, I listened, but the applause did not come. Nothing. Oh! They're past, Pimenov. They're dead. It's finished.

Her distraught stage manager Meierheim (Robert McWade) was mostly worried about contracts and other legal obligations, but Grusinskaya insisted on canceling her engagement. To change her temperamental mind, he falsely claimed there was a long line outside the theater since 6:00 pm, and the theater was "jammed to the roof...packed to the ceiling" with the French ambassador, American millionaires, and Princess Retski in attendance. The ballerina was encouraged and started to prepare herself, as Meierheim admitted in private to Pimenov that the house attendance was "terrible" and that it was the last ballet he would ever produce. He was hoping: "When she gets her paint on, hears the music, she'll be all right. I know these people."

The Baron watched as the fur-coated ballerina walked with her entourage to the elevator (they proceeded outside to her chauffeured car), and heard their conversation mentioning the dancer's pearls. He declined his demanding Chauffeur's (Morgan Wallace) urgent suggestion, now that the ballerina had left for the theater, to sneak into her room and steal her pearls. [Note: Presumably, the Baron owed 5,000 marks in gambling debts to the Chauffeur and others in Amsterdam.] The Baron explained: "I'm waiting my chance." He was not going to use a skeleton key, or chloroform the female floor security clerk (the Chauffeur's idea) during the heist, but instead stealthily enter her room through an outside window. He ordered his Chauffeur to get out, and later meet him on the night train to Amsterdam ("with the pearls").

In Preysing's room, the industrialist dictated a telegram to Flaemmchen to be typed, while he was distracted by her shapely legs:

Both parties have fully agreed that this merger can only result in, uhm, mutual advantages. Mutual advantages. Moreover...

During a distracting break in the dictation, Flaemmchen described her aspirations to be an actress: "I'm busy now looking for a job. Oh, I'd love to be in the movies." He complimented her on her beauty: "You're a very unusual stenographer. You're pretty enough to do other things." She agreed, admitting she was also a model: "I have a rather nice figure, and I pose a lot. Art studies, you know?" She showed him one of her pulp magazine photos - with the implication that she was offering him more than typing, but for a price. However, the dictation continued:

Moreover, the possibility of the successful accommodation for the Cotton Company should throw a great weight into the balance...

When he remarked about her sunburned hands, she said that a male friend had taken her skiing in Switzerland the previous month, and another admirer had taken her to Florence. Although romantically interested in her, Preysing claimed he was older than her and faithful to his wife of 28 years: "Don't misunderstand me, Miss Flaemm. I'm a married man and have grown-up daughters...bigger than you are." Preysing received a telegram ("Deal with Manchester definitely off") - a sign of financial catastrophe. He dismissed the stenographer until the following morning. She requested that he notify her in advance if the assignment wouldn't continue, citing problems with previous employers: "If you find out you won't need me in the morning, I wish you'd please let me know because men like you who come in and out of town are often unreliable."

The Baron walked along an outer balcony and then onto a narrow ledge before climbing into Grusinskaya's room (#170) window. He grabbed the pearls and was about to exit, but was interrupted by the housekeeping room maid. Forced to hide in the closet, he listened as both Suzette and Meierheim entered the room and spoke on the phone to the ballet master Pimenov -- they were distressed by the unexplained disappearance of the temperamental dancer during the show when she refused to dance. Meierheim threatened a lawsuit for "breach of contract" and added: "Where does she think she is, Russia?" Suddenly, the depressed and ill Grusinskaya stood in the doorway, still garbed in her wispy ballet costume (with butterfly sleeves). She uttered the immortal words:

I want to be alone.

[Note: Garbo's most famous line of dialogue ever uttered caused her to be labeled as a reclusive for the rest of her life.]

When Meierheim suggested canceling her Vienna contract, her next scheduled engagement, she again insisted: "I just want to be alone." Her manager decisively ended her contract. Everyone vacated the room as she despaired and talked of suicide. She changed from her ballet outfit into skimpy lingerie and a thin robe. In the dancer's hotel room, the Baron (still hiding in the closet) listened as she phoned Pimenov at the theater and pleaded: "I couldn't go on. I couldn't." She learned that her back-up dancer Duprez was performing in her place. Grusinskaya surmised: "They didn't miss me at all. They didn't even miss me." She evaluated the call (and herself) as "finished."

The film was well-known for the following memorable scene in the lonely and depressed dancer's room, as she considered suicide - in a screen close-up:

I always said I'd leave off when the time came. And who would trouble about a Grusinskaya who dances no more? What would she do? Grow orchids? Keep white peacocks? Die. That's what it comes to at last: to die. I'm not gonna wait.

She was startled by the sudden alarming appearance of the Baron, a "strange man" who emerged from his hiding place after being entrapped there during his jewel heist of her valuable pearls. He stated how he had often sat in her room during her performances as an idolizing fan: "Just to be alone in your room, to breathe the air you breathe." And then he tried to dissuade her from committing suicide after being awe-struck by her beauty:

Baron: There's no need to call for help, madam. Permit me. I couldn't help hearing. I couldn't help knowing what you were about to do just now. I, uh, could have left by the window, unnoticed, but I risked being discovered. May I say something, madam? You're so beautiful. It tore my heart to see you in despair like that. (She sobbed) What on earth have they been doing to you? You've everything to live for. Please don't cry anymore.
Grusinskaya: You must forgive me. I've had a very trying evening. I was so alone, and suddenly you were there. Why do you look at me like that?
Baron: I had no idea you were so beautiful. I'd like to take you in my arms and not let anything happen to you, ever. How tired you are...and alone?

With exquisitely-filmed screen close-ups of their faces and profiles, he was able to ultimately encourage her to live by promising to love her:

Grusinskaya: Who are you?
Baron: Someone who can love you, that's all. Someone who has forgotten everything else but you.
Grusinskaya: You could love me?
Baron: I've never seen anything in my life as beautiful as you are.
Grusinskaya (getting up): You must go now.
Baron: I'm not going. You know I'm not going. Oh, please let me stay.
Grusinskaya: But I want to be alone.
Baron: That isn't true. You don't want to be alone. You were in despair just now. I can't leave you now. You, you musn't cry any more. You must forget. Let me stay just for a little while. Ah, please let me stay.
Grusinskaya: For just a minute, then. (He kissed her hand)

Elsewhere in the hotel late that night, a drunken Kringelein entered the hotel with Dr. Otternschlag assisting him to his room (#176). Kringelein was relishing his extravagant night-out: "The champagne, and those girls and their dancing, those beautiful silver things, and the ice, and the caviar..."

The next morning, a top view of the hotel's switchboard operators revealed that there was no answer from the Baron's room, and that Mme. Grunsinskaya didn't want to be disturbed. [Note: Presumably, off-screen, they spent the night together and had made love.]

General Preysing was engaged in the hotel's conference room discussing a proposed merger with the Saxonia Company. Saxonia's representative Gerstenkorn (Tully Marshall) mentioned the Manchester Cotton Company's firm grip on the entire British textile industry, and wanted to know about Preysing's company's dealings with Manchester. To ensure the merger, Preysing claimed that his company had a lot of "connections" with Manchester, but wouldn't provide further details - especially the news that he had already been denied a deal with Manchester. With Preysing's legal attorney Justice Zinnowitz there, the two sides vehemently argued about who first approached or "took the initiative" with the other side regarding the proposed merger.

In Grusinskaya's room where she sat with the Baron (the morning after), she described her younger days of regimented training with 100 other girls in a ballet school when she first had career ambitions: "I was little, slim, but hard as a diamond. Then I became famous soon." She asked about the Baron's character and name, and he confessed that he was criminally-inclined:

I am Felix Benvenuto Frihern von Geigern. My mother called me Flix....I'm a prodigal son, the black sheep of a white flock. I shall die on the gallows...I haven't a bit of character. None at all...When I was a little boy I was taught to ride and be a gentleman. Then at school, to pray and lie. And then in the war, to kill and hide....Well, now I'm a gambler, running at large like a happy pig, devouring everything of life that pleases me. I really belong in jail...I'm also a criminal and a hotel thief...

About to also confess that he had stolen her pearls, he first vowed his true love: "You must believe one thing. You must believe that I love you. That I've never known love like this until now." When he handed back her purloined jewels, she was shocked and asked about his true intentions to be in her room: "Did you come here just for these? That's horrible." She detestedly tossed them to the floor, but forgave his crime: "You may keep the pearls. I don't want them. I will not denounce you. Hadn't you better go now?" He explained the dire circumstances of indebtedness resulting from his life of gambling, but revealed his change of heart after meeting her:

I wanted money desperately. Can't you understand that? That's why I wanted your pearls. I was threatened. I was desperately in need of a certain big sum of money. Oh, I've been following you. I've admired you. But last night, at last, I managed to come into your room. And now.. I couldn't go through with it. (He dropped to his knees) Don't you understand? Don't you?

She grasped his face between her two hands, murmured his nickname: "Flix," and kissed and passionately embraced him. Suzette's persistent knocking at the door interrupted them. Grusinskaya asked for five minutes more time, and then answered a call from Pimenov. Her entire demeanor was now changed, she had reclaimed her love of life, and she greeted the day with: "Beautiful morning." She agreed to rehearsals before their next stop, and invited the Baron to join her the next day on a train to Vienna. At first, he declined due to his desperate concerns about money, and didn't want to be dependent upon her offer of financial support. He vowed to get the money in 24 hours and then promised to accompany her on the train for her dance tour - she was ecstatic and elated, and twirled around the room:

Grusinskaya: But I have money. I have enough for both of us.
Baron: Oh, no. That would spoil everything. I'll manage somehow. I'll get it. I have a whole day. I'll be on the train.
Grusinskaya: Oh, I shall dance, and you'll be with me. Then we'll go to Tremezzo. I have a villa there. The sun will shine. I'll take a vacation, six weeks, eight weeks. I don't know. We'll be happy and lazy. And then we'll go to South America. And oh, it will be divine. It will be divine. Divine, divine.

After the Baron departed, Pimenov arrived and told the "positively radiant" dancer that Meierheim had cancelled the Vienna engagement. She jubilantly ignored the threat and proposed her idea of a new ballet with "mad music": "You go to the theater. I want a full rehearsal, ballet, full orchestra..."

The next sequence was in the hotel's YELLOW ROOM, a 5 o'clock tea dance with an American Bar and Jazz Band. Kringelein ordered a "Louisiana Flip" drink at the bar, as Dr. Otternschlag next to him asked and then answered his own question:

- What do you do in the Grand Hotel?
- Eat, sleep, loaf around, flirt a little, dance a little. A hundred doors leading to one hall. No one knows anything about the person next to them. And when you leave, someone occupies your room, lies in your bed. That's the end.

In the conference room, the Saxonia Company suddenly postponed the merger deal because they feared "the Preysing Company has fallen on evil days." To get the representatives to change their minds and not break off their negotiations, Preysing first bragged about his company's export to the Balkans of 50,000 marks worth of mop heads each and every year. Then to entice them into accepting and begging for the merger, he dishonestly claimed he had put through a deal with Manchester:

I'm at liberty to announce at this time that the deal between my firm and the Manchester Cotton Company has been successfully negotiated.

After the merger deal was preliminarily signed, Preysing showed his hoarse lawyer Zinnowitz the telegram about the cancelled Manchester deal in England, and admitted that he had bluffed and lied under the desperate circumstances - the first time in 30 years: "If that's what the world wants, bluff, I can be just as big a bluff as anyone." He also wished to temporarily "break loose" from the business with something very relaxing: "I want to drink. I want to maybe go dancing. Oh, I want to do anything." He thought about his pretty stenographer Miss Flaemm, who had excused herself for a 5:00 pm engagement in the Yellow Room, and suggested finding her: "Let's go find her. We'll go get a drink."

Previous Page Next Page