Grand Hotel

  • Directors: Edmund Goulding
  • Producers: Irving Thalberg
  • Writers: William A Drake, Based on the play by Drake and a novel by Vicki Baum
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt

Doctor Otternschlag (Lewis Stone), a disfigured veteran of World War I and a permanent resident of the Grand Hotel in Berlin, wryly observes, “People come and go. Nothing ever happens,” after which a great deal transpires. Baron Felix von Geigern (John Barrymore), who squandered his fortune and supports himself as a card player and occasional jewel thief, befriends Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), a meek accountant who, having discovered he is dying, has decided to spend his remaining days in the lap of luxury. Kringelein’s former employer, industrialist General Director Preysing (Wallace Beery), is at the hotel to close an important deal, and he hires stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) to assist him. She aspires to be an actress and shows Preysing some magazine photos for which she posed, implying she is willing to offer him more than typing if he is willing to help advance her career.

Another guest is Russian ballerina Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), whose career is on the wane. She unexpectedly returns from the theatre while the Baron is stealing her jewelry, and when she discovers him in her room she tells him, “I want to be let alone.” Disregarding her, the Baron stays and engages her in conversation, and Grusinskaya finds herself attracted to him.

Grusinskaya departs for the train station, fully expecting to find the Baron waiting for her there. Meanwhile, Kringelein offers to take care of Flaemmchen, who suggests they go to Paris and seek a cure for his illness. As they leave the hotel, Doctor Otternschlag once again observes, “Grand Hotel. People come and go. Nothing ever happens,” although a great deal has.

Ninotchka

  • Directors: Ernst Lubitsch
  • Producers: Ernst Lubitsch, Sidney Franklin
  • Writers: Melchior Lengyel, Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch
  • Genres: Comedy, Romance
  • Actors: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas

Three Russians, Iranoff (Sig Ruman), Buljanoff (Felix Bressart) and Kopalski (Alexander Granach), are in Paris to sell jewelry confiscated from the aristocracy during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Upon arrival, they meet Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas), on a mission from the Russian Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire) who wants to retrieve her jewelry before it is sold. He corrupts them and talks them into staying in Paris. The Soviet Union then sends Nina Ivanovna “Ninotchka” Yakushova (Greta Garbo), a special envoy whose goal is to go through with the jewelry sale and bring back the three men. Rigid and stern at first, she slowly becomes seduced by the West and the Count, who falls in love with her.

The three Russians also accommodate themselves to capitalism, but the last joke of the film is that one of them carries a sign protesting that the other two are unfair to him.

Queen Christina

  • Directors: Rouben Mamoulian
  • Producers: Walter Wanger
  • Writers: Story, Margaret P Levino, Salka Viertel, Screnplay, S N Behrman, H M Harwood
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History, Romance, War
  • Actors: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert

Queen Christina of Sweden (Greta Garbo) is very devoted to her country and the welfare of her people, and she has long since abandoned all thoughts of pursuing any kind of a romance. Yet, one day in an effort to escape the restrictions of her royal life, she rides away, disguised as a man, and is snowbound at an inn. There she meets and falls in love with Spanish envoy Antonio (John Gilbert). After a few idyllic nights together, Christina and Antonio are compelled to part, but the Queen vows that they will meet again – which they do, when the Spaniard presents his embassy to the Queen.

As Queen, Christina favours peace for Sweden. At one point in the film she argues an end to the Thirty Years’ War, saying:

Spoils, glory, flags and trumpets! What is behind these high-sounding words? Death and destruction, triumphals of crippled men, Sweden victorious in a ravaged Europe, an island in a dead sea. I tell you, I want no more of it. I want for my people security and happiness. I want to cultivate the arts of peace, the arts of life. I want peace and peace I will have!

When Count Magnus (Ian Keith), who wants the Queen’s affections for his own, riles up the Swedish people against the Spaniard, Christina abdicates the throne. She leaves Sweden to be with Don Antonio, but he is wounded by Magnus in a duel, and dies in her arms. In arguably the most famous shot of the film, Christina stands as a silent figurehead at the bow of a ship. With the wind blowing through her hair, the camera moves in to a tight close-up on her face.