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With a star-studded cast this generation would likely not recognize, Dinner at Eight really went all out to bring some of the biggest names together for this film event.
With these hugely successful and talented actors Dinner at Eight gives life to some of the most interesting characters I have seen in a long time. Any audience, no matter how unfamiliar with the actors of yesteryear, is bound to enjoy these well crafted and memorably portrayed characters.
Dinner at Eight follows Millicent Jordan, a middle aged woman prone to frantic episodes, as she prepares for a dinner in her luxurious home that promises to be quite an event. Everyone who is any one has been invited, or so it seems. As she prepares, the movie takes time to feature little snippets out of the lives of her guests, painting a very colorful picture filled with scandal, intrigue, love triangles, adultery, despair, and moral decay.
It seems these guests of innocent Millicent aren’t necessarily the high class people they desire the world to perceive them as. Their skeletons and tribulations end up seeing the light of day and the level of infamy and disgraceful behavior is shocking, especially for the early 1930s.
This movie really does feature some impressive and memorable performances, too many to give justice to, suffice it to say, these characters will stick with you and are bound to have a profound impact even with more then seven decades having passed since they were initially portrayed.
One of the elements to the movie that must be mentioned is the ease with which it mixes incredibly somber subject matter with the most delightful humor. The mastery over the art of storytelling needed to pull that feat off is worth praising.
Surprisingly, despite being completely engaged and enthralled by the characters, and absolutely loving the blend of humor and intense drama I found myself surprisingly un-invested. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and respected the quality of the production, but felt some how detached. It was almost as if I enjoyed the movie more on an academic level and less on a personal level. Even as I write about it, I don’t fully understand it, but it certainly wouldn’t be a movie I would revisit again and again and I wouldn’t give it a ten or a nine, though I completely respect it and enjoyed it immensely.
As bizarre as that may sound, don’t let it deter you from seeing it (I did really enjoy it), it is a masterpiece of writing, and features some of the best performances from some of the most unparalleled film actors of the last one hundred plus years.
Dinner at Eight is both satisfying and filling, not to mention delicious.
Review By: Greg Dickson
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Cast: Lionel Barrymore, Madge Evans, Kay Francis, C. Aubrey Smith, Polly Moran, Alan Mowbry
Plot: Richard Grant (Barrymore) is a successful lawyer who believes that his many years of dealing with crime has taught him how to commit the perfect murder. He’s working for shady cad Gordon Rich (Mowbry) who informs Grant before a dinner party that he intends to marry his daughter, Barbara (Evans). Grant seethes with anger and, after dinner, kills Rich. It’s almost the perfect crime, but Rich’s troubled mistress Marjorie (Francis), becomes suspicious of Grant.
Director: George Cukor
Cast: John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Billie Burke, Madge Evans, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, Jean Hersholt, Karen Morley
Plot: Millicent Jordan (Burke) plans to throw a dinner party, but things are never as simple as they should be. Her husband Oliver (Lionel Barrymore) has health problems and is concerned about people buying up his company’s stock. Even his oldest friend Carlotta (Dressler) wants to sell. He hopes to get help from Dan Packard (Beery), who is trying to secretly secure the company himself. Packard’s wife, Kitty (Harlow), is a gold digger who is having an affair with Dr. Talbot (Lowe). To make matters even more complicates, Millicent and Oliver’s teenaged daughter Paula (Evans), is having an affair with has been movie star Larry Renault (John Barrymore).
Reviews: Greg Dickson