Grand Hotel 1932
Author and playwright Vicki Baum based "Menschen im Hotel" both on a true story about a scandal at a hotel involving a stenographer and an industrial magnate, and on her own experiences working as a chambermaid at two well-known Berlin hotels.
In a package deal, MGM purchased both the stage and film rights of Vicki Baum's novel, Menschen im Hotel, for $35,000. The play was a spectacular hit on Broadway, and recouped the studio's initial investment before a single frame of the film was shot.
It became the biggest Hollywood hit of 1932.
In addition to her reservations about appearing youthful enough to portray a prima ballerina, Greta Garbo was also reluctant to act in a film which included a cast with so many additional stars. Irving Thalberg was able to convince her to take the part by offering to bill her by her last name only in the credits, an honor which was reserved for only the most esteemed actors at the time.
Joan Crawford was admittedly awestruck by Greta Garbo. Though they had no scenes together, Crawford would greet the enigmatic star with reverence whenever the two passed each other between camera setups. Garbo never responded, so Crawford ceased her efforts to engage her. Some time later, Garbo stopped Crawford as she walked silently past her, remarking, "Aren't you going to say something to me?"
Joan Crawford tackled the role of Flaemmchen with her characteristic gusto and confidently held her own with the rest of the more established cast. Crawford was always in awe of Greta Garbo's presence and eager to talk to her idol, but since the film never called for their characters to be in the same room at the same time, there was little chance of the two spending much time together. Crawford was also too intimidated to ever directly approach Garbo, who coolly kept her distance. One day, however, Crawford was surprised when Garbo spoke to her first. It was an experience that Crawford called "thrilling" when Garbo stopped her on the stairs at MGM and said, "We're in the same picture. How sad I am that we haven't one scene together." It was a story that Crawford proudly told many times throughout her career, the thrill of that moment always evident.