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DINNER AT EIGHT (1932)


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Dinner at Eight (1932), is a trenchant observation of New York’s high society.  Beautifully directed by George Cukor, with razor-sharp characterizations, Dinner at Eight is a film one can watch over and over.  I was particularly struck by John Barrymore’s character, washed up thespian Larry Renault. Television wasn’t around to throw him a life line, in which he could have played a strict but loving father.  With the studio system firmly in control, there was no hot shot independent film maker to resurrect the career of a fading actor.

 

John Barrymore’s alcoholism would later cost him parts, and the irony cannot be lost that the Larry Renault character was an alcoholic.   The scene of Barrymore’s breakdown, after being humiliated by his agent, and later evicted from the hotel, is devastating.  I was also struck by Marie Dressler’s character, Carlotta Vance, reflecting on the loss of the New York she knew in her younger days, in front of Oliver Jordan (Lionel Barrymore).  Every performance in Dinner at Eight is memorable.

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Dinner at Eight (1932), is a trenchant observation of New York’s high society.  Beautifully directed by George Cukor, with razor-sharp characterizations, Dinner at Eight is a film one can watch over and over.  I was particularly struck by John Barrymore’s character, washed up thespian Larry Renault. Television wasn’t around to throw him a life line, in which he could have played a strict but loving father.  With the studio system firmly in control, there was no hot shot independent film maker to resurrect the career of a fading actor.

 

John Barrymore’s alcoholism would later cost him parts, and the irony cannot be lost that the Larry Renault character was an alcoholic.   The scene of Barrymore’s breakdown, after being humiliated by his agent, and later evicted from the hotel, is devastating.  I was also struck by Marie Dressler’s character, Carlotta Vance, reflecting on the loss of the New York she knew in her younger days, in front of Oliver Jordan (Lionel Barrymore).  Every performance in Dinner at Eight is memorable.

 

 

 

Well said. 

 

This past Spring, TCM did a bunch of Marie Dressler movies and I am now a huge fan of her work.   Anything with John Barrymore we watch.  

 

Dinner at Eight is one of those movies that, if on, I can't take my eyes off the screen. 

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I watched this film recently. Quite delightful. The suicide of Larry (Barrymore) was unexpectedly poignant, and one can't help but feel pity for Barrymore himself given his own later fate. The old Vaudeville Queen (Dressler) advising Paula (Madge Evans) to conceal her sexual adventures from a doting fiancé was a deliciously Pre-Code moment. And, of course, Billie Burke was her usual "acting-is-dancing" fairy-like self. I loved every minute of it.

 

On a side note:

 

It was very interesting to see Marie Dressler act in a film with Lionel Barrymore and John Barrymore. According to a November 10, 1933, article in The New York Times, "it was Maurice Barrymore, father of Ethel, John and Lionel, who was responsible for changing [Dressler] into a comic. He saw [Dressler's] laugh-making qualities which others had missed," and Dressler ascribed her later success to him. At the time Dinner at Eight was made, Dressler was "one of the highest-salaried stars in pictures," a far-cry from her impoverished chorus-girl days.

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