John Barrymore

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The Nine Muses Review


Good
More like a cinematic poem or art installation than a movie, this swirly collection of imagery - some new, some found - loosely traces the nine muses from Greek mythology. And it's for adventurous filmgoers only.

There isn't a narrative, although the film is arranged to recount an epic journey using voice-over readings from authors like Homer, Sophocles, Milton, Shakespeare, Beckett and Nietzsche. There are also title-card quotes, songs and music, including some pieces performed in old film clips (such as Leontyne Price singing Motherless Child). Meanwhile we see a collage of old film clips and crisp new footage shot in snowy Alaska featuring silent men in yellow, blue and black parkas that obscure their faces.

Continue reading: The Nine Muses Review

Grand Hotel Review


Good
"People come and people go, and nothing ever happens at the Grand Hotel." Thus observes Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) of the Berlin hotel that serves as the setting for the Oscar-winning 1932 film. The film, like the hotel, is packed with opulence, and the cast was, at the time, the highest concentration of starpower the screen had ever seen: Greta Garbo as the dancer Grusinskaya whose cold surface is softened by a budding romance with Baron Geigern (John Barrymore); Lionel Barrymore as Otto Kringelein, a critically ill man on an end-of-his-life spree and a former employee of the company owned by the industrialist Preysing (Wallace Beery), whom he dislikes; Joan Crawford as the staff typist who takes up with the sick man; and a supporting cast -- Jean Hersholt, Robert McWade, Ferdinand Gottschalk -- whose fame has dimmed today, but who represented the cream of the crop in a Depression-stricken America.

In 1932, however, the sum was even greater than its parts, and Grand Hotel was such an event that the New York Times review had as much to do with the chaos of the opening-night crowd as with the film itself. Based on the hit Vicki Baum novel, the film introduced the so-called portmanteau genre (Dinner at Eight was the most famed of the follow-ups) in which the lives and stories of a group of diverse people are brought together by circumstances and emerge changed. It also featured Garbo's most repeated line ("I want to be alone"), and its lavish production makes it a touchstone in MGM and Hollywood history.

Continue reading: Grand Hotel Review

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John Barrymore Movies

The Nine Muses Movie Review

The Nine Muses Movie Review

More like a cinematic poem or art installation than a movie, this swirly collection of...

Grand Hotel Movie Review

Grand Hotel Movie Review

"People come and people go, and nothing ever happens at the Grand Hotel." Thus observes...

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