MGM bought the rights to the story of Grand Hotel for $35,000 and on January 9th 1932 shooting on the film version commenced. Garbo had wanted JOHN GILBERT to play the role of THE BARON but thankfully the part was offered to JOHN along with a 3 picture deal at MGM. So, with the exception of only the review SHOWS OF SHOWS and his possible pre-1914 films, John shares star billing. Star billing notwithstanding, John is onscreen far less than in any previous film. John's aristocrat has now sunk to the level of hotel thievery, so close to RAFFLES and ARSENE LUPIN that the role is more a refinement than variation. Unlike even his silent roles, John acts his real age of 50 which partially explains his naturally modulated performance. Using no exaggerated vocal inflections or physical mannerisms, he is totally convincing as the aristocrat. He carries himself beautifully but naturally. Merely the way he lights a cigarette or picks a speck of tobacco from his tongue testifies to his blue blood. Affection between the Barrymore brothers again marks their joint appearance. This is clear from the way John gazes at Lionel and how he speaks of him to Crawford.
THE BARON FALLS FOR THE DANCER
The grand emotions are for the scenes with Garbo. On seeing their scenes it is apparent that their scenes are genuinely intimate and with Garbo, John strikes the perfect balance. The result is a few sublime moments that in all of film acting, before or since, are peerless. His face turned from the camera, he quietly but with deep emotion underlying his surface calm speaks his heart. "You must believe one thing. You must believe that I love you, that I've never known love like this until now."
Although Garbo and Barrymore had the greatest respect for each other (when John first encountered her on the set before shooting, he kissed her hand and siad, "My wife and I think you the loveliest woman in the world.") there was an embarrassing incident whilst shooting the above scene. Apparently, Garbo raised her hand too high on John's face covering up his most famous left profile. John being aware of what she was doing however, gave her a gentle nudge on the face!!
Above: a million dollar autographed peice of paper someday?
Cover of Souvenir program
The program cost 25 cents in 1932 but now you can expect to pay around $50 if one ever comes your way!