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.

Key Largo

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Maxwell Anderson, Richard Brooks, John Huston
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Marc Lawrence

Frank McCloud (Bogart) visits a small backwater Key Largo hotel run by wheelchair-bound James Temple (Barrymore) and his daughter-in-law Nora (Bacall), the widow of Frank’s World War II friend. The hotel has been temporarily taken over by notorious fugitive gangster Johnny Rocco (Robinson) and his gang.

Frank at first appears indifferent to the situation, but Rocco’s treatment of his alcoholic mistress Gaye (Trevor) and his hand in the murder of two local Indians and a police officer convinces Frank that Rocco must be stopped. His chance comes when Rocco forces Frank to pilot the boat by which the gang intends to escape to Cuba. Once at sea, with no hostages to worry about, Frank is able to kill every member of the gang, one by one, Rocco last of all. Frank then returns to Nora.

The subplot turns on Temple’s grief over his dead son; he is under the impression that his son died a hero in Italy. McCloud resists relating any tales about the Temple boy, despite Mr. Temple’s urging. When McCloud relents, he tells exactly the story Mr. Temple and the widow want to hear, although it is apparent that McCloud was the hero that he’s allowing the Temple boy to be.

It s a Wonderful Life

  • Directors: Frank Capra
  • Producers: Frank Capra
  • Writers: Screenplay, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, Frank Capra, Short Story, Philip Van Doren Stern
  • Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • Actors: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers

On Christmas Eve 1946, George Bailey (James Stewart) is deeply depressed, even suicidal. Prayers for George Bailey are heard by angels appearing as stars in the night sky. Clarence Odbody, an Angel Second Class, is sent to Earth to save him—and thereby earn his wings. Joseph, the head angel, is told to review George’s life with Clarence.

As a 12-year-old boy in 1919, George (Bobby Anderson) saved the life of his younger brother Harry from falling through ice, though George caught a cold that became an ear infection and left him hearing-impaired in one ear. Returning weeks later to his job as errand boy in a pharmacy, George stopped his boss, local druggist Mr. Gower (H.B. Warner), from accidentally filling a child’s prescription with poison while grief-stricken over the death of his son from influenza.

From childhood, George’s greatest ambition has been to see the world and design bridges and skyscrapers. However, George repeatedly has to sacrifice his dreams for the well-being of the people of Bedford Falls. Four years older than Harry, he puts off going to college to help in the family business until Harry graduates from high school and can replace him at the Bailey Building & Loan Association, essential to many of the disadvantaged in town. But on Harry’s graduation night in 1928, as George discusses his future with Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) — who has had a crush on him since she was a little girl — family friends arrive after George and Mary were throwing rocks at an old house to make wishes, and break the news to George that his father has had a stroke. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a vicious slumlord, seizes this opportunity and tries to persuade the Board of Directors to end the “sentimental hogwash” of home loans for the working poor. George persuades the board members to reject Potter’s proposal; they agree, but only on condition that George himself run the Building and Loan. George reluctantly stays in Bedford Falls and gives his school money to his brother.

George returns to the bridge and calls upon Clarence and God to let him live again. His prayer is answered and George is returned to the moment he met Clarence. Small changes that had occurred while he didn’t exist, such as his daughter’s petals in his pocket, his crashed car, and even the weather being windy instead of snowy, are now just as they were, but George runs home filled with a new appreciation of what he has accomplished. There, he finds that his friends and family have collected a huge amount of money to save George and the Building & Loan from scandal and ruin. The newly arrived Harry proposes a toast to his brother, “the richest man in town.” Seeing how many lives he has touched, and the difference he has made to the town (and having helped Clarence earn his wings), George Bailey realizes that despite his problems, he “really has a wonderful life.”