Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, August 11, 2008


DINNER AT EIGHT (1933). Director: George Cukor.
"You couldn't get into the men's room at the Astor!"

The only thing on the mind of airy Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke) is the dinner party she's planning, so she doesn't realize that her husband Oliver (Lionel Barrymore) has serious business woes and even more serious health problems. But then most of the guests have their own preoccupations. Dr. Talbot (Edmund Lowe) is having an affair with an increasingly clingy Kitty Packard (Jean Harlow, pictured), whose grumpy, much older husband Dan (Wallace Beery) wants to take over Oliver's business. Faded actress Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler) has money troubles, but not as bad as has-been Larry Renault (John Barrymore), who can't pay his hotel bill and whose agent (Lee Tracy) has to deliver some devastating news. The Jordan's daughter Paula (Madge Evans) has fallen in love with Larry, even though she already has a fiance.

Although the pace sometimes drags, this is a brilliant comedy-drama that has many highly amusing lines and situations but can also slide effortlessly into tragedy as we witness the grim fate of Larry Renault. John Barrymore handles the horrifying situation with his usual aplomb. Harlow and Beery have a great scene battling together and telling each other off, and Marie Dressler is perfection (she has a funny scene with fawning Elizabeth Patterson -- Mrs. Trumble on I Love Lucy -- in a bit.) All the performances are excellent.

Verdict: They really don't make 'em like this anymore. ****.

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