*. Grand Hotel had been sent up as early as 1932 (the year of its release) in Blondie of the Follies, where Marion Davies did Greta Garbo. Vicki Baum’s novel hadn’t really been a comedy though, and the movie, while it had some light moments, was ultimately a bittersweet melodrama if not quite tragic.
*. In 1945 America wasn’t in much of a mood for tragedy, or European interwar ennui, so this update of the story veers toward bedroom farce and screwball bits. We’re also in New York, not Berlin. So the ballet dancer is now a movie star (Ginger Rogers), the Baron is a war correspondent (Walter Pidgeon), the dying man (Van Johnson) has a hope that surgery will be successful (if he can only discover “the will to live”), and the stenographer (Lana Turner) is actually a good girl.
*. That last point is a headscratcher. Joan Crawford was brilliant in Grand Hotel playing a secretary with few scruples. You would think Lana Turner could have just walked into such a part. But instead she’s a peroxide-blonde sweetie, holding out for her sick flyboy. Oh well. Next year she’d have a chance to go full tilt in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
*. I didn’t know the Waldorf Astoria hotel was still there. But I looked it up and it is. Still quite a fancy destination, I guess. There were no rooms available when I checked online so I can’t tell you how much it costs for a night. Apparently they filmed some of this movie on location (mostly just the exteriors) and the hotel had wanted the movie shot in colour to play up its luxury. The studio balked.
*. The book Irene (Rogers) is reading (or at least shown holding) at the party is titled The Whiskey Rebellion. As chance would have it, I’d just finished reading The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hogeland the week I saw this movie. Now Irene can’t be reading Hogeland’s book, which was only published in 2010. So I wonder exactly what book she has. It seems an odd thing for a movie star to be holding at a party. I mean, today you couldn’t imagine a movie star holding a book of any kind at a party. Is it a history she’s reading, or a novel? Now I’m curious.
*. Week-End at the Waldorf was very popular and made a lot of money, so I guess MGM knew what they were doing. This kind of light entertainment doesn’t age well though. It seems a ramshackle affair to me too, at least in terms of plot construction. We’re introduced to the hotel by a narrator’s voiceover, but this character will have no role to play in the rest of the film. There are three major storylines, none of which intersect and none of which is particularly interesting on its own. There’s competent direction by the prolific Robert Leonard. Xavier Cugat plays himself and there are a couple of musical numbers.
*. There’s one cute and knowing scene with Roger and Pigeon where he acts out the part of the Baron in the relationship between Barrymore and Garbo in Grand Hotel and she gets the reference. Aside from that it’s hard to think of anything memorable about this. But then, I don’t think being memorable was the idea. You check in to a movie like this for some star-watching. I’m sure I couldn’t get the heist plots of the different Ocean’s movies straight today either, but they were fun at the time. That’s all that’s going on here too.