5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Superb - surely as good now as it was then!,
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This review is from: Dinner at Eight [ 1933 ] Uncut + extra's (DVD)
I very much enjoyed 'Dinner At Eight' which is surely just as much fun now as it was way back in 1933! The dinner happens right at the end and we get to see none of it. What we do see are the events leading up to it from the points of view of both the hosts and the guests. Most the humour still works wonderfully well - what a very good script this is! I have to say that I think pretty much everyone is excellent but if I have to pick favourites...
Surely Marie Dressler steals the show as Carlotta with her expressive features and excellent comic timing - she has so many great lines, including the famous exchange with Jean Harlow at the end of the movie but also a very good serious scene with Madge Evans' Paula which shows that she's not all about laughs! Next, Billie Burke whom I had only known as Glinda in 'The Wizard Of Oz'. Here, she sounds much the same and looks much the same but shows herself to be an excellent comedy actress. She delivers her lines outstandingly well and is the very model of someone crumbling under a bright and brittle exterior as her dinner party collapses on top of her. Her 'distress' scene with her husband and daughter on the evening of the party is just superb. But despite all this, she still manages to be wonderfully sympathetic when she finds out about her husband's many problems. I also very much enjoyed Jean Harlow in what I understand was a fairly typical role for her at this stage in her career - the tart with a heart and a neat sense of humour but even her character has a couple of good serious moments, like the darkly shaded blackmail scene with the maid.
I watched 'Grand Hotel' shortly before this movie and the two share a few stars, all of whom I much preferred this time around. I still can't really take to John Barrymore as romantic male lead and once again he is paired with a much younger love interest which makes the whole thing slightly creepy BUT his Renault character becomes more believable because he is played as an ageing idol and does it well. His disintegration is the real serious thread running through an otherwise light movie and while he plays it very well, like the darkness in 'Grand Hotel', I found his fate just a little jarring and perhaps unnecessary in what is essentially a comedy. Lionel Barrymore is very likeable as Oliver Jordan though I feared for his fate as well as the movie progressed! Finally Wallace Beery plays another arrogant oaf but slightly more likeable than Preissler in 'Grand Hotel'. Most of the smaller roles are also very well done with special mention to Louise Closser Hale as Hattie, another fine comic turn.
The Great Depression stalks through the entire movie and whilst largely played for laughs, the serious elements are generally also well handled; Carlotta's money worries and nostalgia for her youth, Oliver's business and health worries, the marital problems of the doctor and his wife (she is remarkably understanding of what seems to be an astonishingly early case of sex addiction) and, of course, the trials of John Barrymore's character. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed 'Dinner At Eight' and look forward to watching it again soon.