Grand Hotel (1932). 112 minutes. Directed by Edmund Goulding. Starring Greta Garbo (as Grusinskaya), John Barrymore (as Baron Felix von Geigern), Joan Crawford (as Flaemmchen), Wallace Beery (as General Director Preysing), Lionel Barrymore (as Otto Kringelein), Lewis Stone (as Dr. Otternschlag), and Jean Hersholt (as Senf).
Grand Hotel is a 1932 American-made film set a few years earlier in Berlin at a time when Germany was inching towards Nazification. The movie depicts pre-Hitler Berlin as a dazzling center of cosmopolitan sophistication and adventure, sweeping us away with the interpersonal intrigue and romance of continental life. In the near future, the urbanity in which Grand Hotel revels (as well as the vulnerability associated with urban hotel life that it conveys) would become lost in the dysphoria that was sweeping through Europe—and yet in 1932 when the film was made, it was still possible to envision a Germany that was enveloped in the dreams and schemes of strangers passing each other softly … Read the rest
Nightmare Alley (1947). 110 minutes. Directed by Edmund Goulding. Starring Tyrone Power (as Stanton Carlisle), Joan Blondell (as Zeena Krumbein), Coleen Gray (as Molly Carlisle), Helen Walker (as Lilith Ritter), Taylor Holmes (as Ezra Grindle), Mike Mazurki (as Bruno), and Ian Keith (as Pete Krumbein).
Nightmare Alley is a wonderful, exceedingly suggestive, and excessively seedy film noir that follows its protagonist, a mesmerist, as he moves from small-time carnival barker to big-time con artist with legions of devotees. Its themes and atmosphere might quickly convince you that it belongs to the world of noir with its shadows, dark streets, con games, and untrustworthy strangers, but its budget might not. From the sprawling, ten-acre carnival set created for it on the 20th Century Fox backlot to other lush outdoor sets, and even the indulgent evening gowns worn by actress Coleen Gray, Nightmare Alley looks luxurious and expensive, unlike a typical film noir. In spite of its high-end look, the movie was … Read the rest
The Razor’s Edge (1946). 145 minutes. Directed by Edmund Goulding. Starring Tyrone Power (as Larry Darrell), Gene Tierney (as Isabel Bradley), Clifton Webb (as Elliott Templeton), Anne Baxter (as Sophie MacDonald), Herbert Marshall (as W. Somerset Maugham), and John Payne (as Gray Maturin).
The Razor’s Edge wants badly to be a profound story of one man’s quest for spiritual enlightenment. Its title comes from a passage in the Katha Upanishad: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” Protagonist Larry Darrell’s path is challenging insofar as it takes him across several continents and lasts many years. I cannot say that the terms with which Larry articulates his personal quest are as sharply focused as the titular image, but then again most of us have probably met people who describe their project of finding themselves using similarly broad strokes. As a result, the movie is an interesting … Read the rest