Friday, March 4, 2011

GRAND HOTEL



Watched this Hollywood classic last night on TCM's current series showing all the Oscar Best Picture winners. I'd seen it only once before, decades ago.

I don't know about you, but it's always enlightening to revisit a work of art I dug when I was younger, now that I'm older, to see if it still has an impact on me.

I remember reading Theodore Dreiser's SISTER CARRIE when I was a young man and digging the depth of this novel's insights into what it was like to be young and ambitous. I identified, of course, with the younger characters in the book, including Carrie.

Then I read it decades later and noticed for the first time the "old man" (to me as a young man the first time) was the sympathetic and deepest character in the book. Both times I got a lot out of it. But it's not a book I'm interested in reading again.

I've also had experiences of reading something as a young man that had an enormous impact on me and later on rereading the same thing discovering it now falls flat (that would make an interesting list, if i ever can get myself into making lists again with any regularity or focus).

But to get to GRAND HOTEL. I watched it the first time out of obligation, because I was interested in Greta Garbo and film history. I was struck that first time by the breadth of the casting and the character subplots. I enjoyed it, but also found the old style actors like theater icon John Barrymore, well, old style.

But last night it had a poignant realism I think I missed as a young man. The desperation caused by financial fear that drives so many of the characters, especially the one played by John Barrymore, moved me in ways I'm sure I wasn't the first time.

Yes it's melodramatic and old fashioned in many ways, but it's also incredibly realistic and contemporary in other ways. It was pre-code so the Hollywood cliches of only the virtuous can win etc. was not the case (ala Joan Crawford's very modern character).

It's a classic for good reason, because you can rewatch it and end up digging it even more, which is my definition of a classic.

Check out this scene with Barrymore and Crawford first meeting (Youtube wouldn't let me embed it).

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also read SISTER CARRIE, probably around 15 yrs old.

An example of mature re-readings for me, is the Jack London short story, "To Build a Fire."
When I was 11, I felt so sorry for this guy in Alaska, just going from point A to point B. He dies of course.
Upon re-reading at 30, it is all too clear that he was not the vitim of nature, but of himself.
suzanne :)

March 4, 2011 at 7:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Lally said...

I hear you Suzanne. One of the books I've reread now and then over the years is James Joyce's PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AND A YOUNG MAN. And as a young man I was struck most by the innovative writing that personal connection to some of the Irish aspects of the story. But as an older man what strikes me most is the reality of how YOUNG Joyce was when he wrote it and how amazing it is that he was so prescient and brilliant at such a young age. And the melancholy aspects of the story ring so true after a lifetime of experience that it's almost difficult to comprehend how this incredibly young intelligence from a country considered pretty backward and impoverished at the time could have created the basis for almost all the literature that followed!

March 5, 2011 at 10:53:00 AM EST  
Blogger Lally said...

I hear you Suzanne. One of the books I've reread now and then over the years is James Joyce's PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AND A YOUNG MAN. And as a young man I was struck most by the innovative writing that personal connection to some of the Irish aspects of the story. But as an older man what strikes me most is the reality of how YOUNG Joyce was when he wrote it and how amazing it is that he was so prescient and brilliant at such a young age. And the melancholy aspects of the story ring so true after a lifetime of experience that it's almost difficult to comprehend how this incredibly young intelligence from a country considered pretty backward and impoverished at the time could have created the basis for almost all the literature that followed!

March 5, 2011 at 10:53:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shall read PORTRAIT..
suzanne

March 5, 2011 at 4:16:00 PM EST  

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