WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF
(director: Robert Z. Leonard; screenwriters: Sam Spewack/Bella Spewack/Guy Bolton/based on the play “Grand Hotel” by Vicki Baum; cinematographer: Robert Planck; editor: Robert E. Kern; music: Johnny Green/Sidney Cutner; cast: Ginger Rogers (Irene Malvern), Walter Pidgeon (Chip Collyer), Van Johnson (Capt. James Hollis), Lana Turner (Bunny Smith), Robert Benchley (Randy Morton), Edward Arnold (Martin X. Edley), Leon Ames (Henry Burton), Keenan Wynn (Oliver Webson, the cub reporter), Phyllis Thaxter (Cynthia Drew), Samuel S. Hinds (Mr. Jessup), Lina Romay (Juanita), George Zucco (Bey of Aribajan), Xavier Cugat (Himself); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Hornblow Jr.; MGM; 1945)
“I wanted to check-out early, even though the Waldorf-Astoria certainly has its charms.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A revised version of MGM’s 1932 Oscar-winner Grand Hotel that was based on the play by Vicki Baum. Robert Z. Leonard (“Dancing Lady”) directs this star-studded ensemble film set in the famous posh Manhattan landmark Park Avenue hotel that features several plots and subplots among its guests. It takes place over one supposedly typical weekend.
Ginger Rogers plays Irene Malvern, in the city for the opening of her latest film. The glamorous and famous but depressed movie star wants to be alone (think Garbo!) and dreams of meeting Mr. Right. Walter Pidgeon is Chip Collyer, a jaded veteran war correspondent for a newspaper who is eager to go back to Europe to see if he can still write after witnessing the horrors of war and becoming too cynical. Van Johnson is Captain James Hollis, a decorated Air Force pilot who lost his best friend in combat and is back from the war with a shard of shrapnel lodged near his heart and awaiting a risky operation in Washington next week. He wants one last fling before he may possibly die. Edward Arnold is Martin X. Edley, a crooked oil stock promoter scheming to defraud the visiting Bey of Aribajan (George Zucco). Edley falsely tells the bey that he is in a partnership with the tycoon Mr. Jessup (Samuel S. Hinds), the president of Volcanic Oil. Jessup has left for the weekend his permanent suite at the Waldorf-Astoria for his country retreat and generously lent his place to a young serviceman on his honeymoon. Lana Turner is Bunny Smith, an attractive but poor stenographer who dreams of wealth. When hired for temp work by Edley, she sees him as her ticket to riches. But the soft-hearted Bunny falls for Hollis and tries to figure out which way to play it. Phyllis Thaxter is Cynthia Drew, a neurotic bride-to-be preparing for her wedding at the Waldorf. She convinces herself that her fiancé is in love with Malvern. When she confronts the actress, to get rid of her and ease her fear Malvern concocts a story about being secretly married to Collyer. The reporter is in her room accidentally and is mistaken by Malvern for a jewel thief, which is cleared up only after he innocently spends the night there. Malvern’s fib backfires and she becomes an item for the gossip columns. The reason Chip was in Malvern’s room is because he’s helping cub reporter Oliver Webson (Keenan Wynn) get a scoop on Edley’s possible business deal with the bey, which he says is bad for the country. Chip offers Oliver help in getting his story and that’s the reason he mistakenly enters Malvern’s room (which is next to the bey’s). Their love story becomes the most fetching of all the Waldorf tales. Robert Benchley is a nosy newspaper columnist named Randy Morton, who has decamped at the Waldorf-Astoria and snoops around trying to uncover the truth about the Malvern and Chip wedding story. Xavier Cugat is the hotel’s bandleader oozing with elegance, whose orchestra performs on the Starlight Roof a song written by Hollis’s dead war buddy.
Writers Sam and Bella Spewack (husband and wife reporters turned screenwriters) keep it entertaining and lighthearted but at two hours and eight minutes it’s overlong and the fast-moving but empty stories have no originality or freshness or enough substance to hold one’s interest. I wanted to check-out early, even though the Waldorf-Astoria certainly has its charms and the glossy melodrama has its slick moments.
REVIEWED ON 12/2/2006 GRADE: C+