Dinner at Eight (1933)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Sophisticated Comedy  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Hans J. Wollstein

Dinner at Eight is, above all else, about changes: changes in society where graceful old money is about to be supplanted by the new and crass; changes in the motion picture business where talkies turn silent stars into alcoholic has-beens; and changes in industry, where, according to Jean Harlow's brassy Kitty Packard, "machines are taking the place of every profession." After which observation, of course, Marie Dressler, as the grand Mrs. Patrick Campbell-like stage diva, delivers one of the screen's most memorable closing lines, "That my dear," she intones, giving the bleach blonde the once-over, "is something you never need to worry about!" It is a delicious moment in a film positively giddy with such bon mots and brimming with performances as fresh today as they were in 1933. Were Dressler, Harlow, Billie Burke, or the Barrymore brothers ever better? Although director George Cukor and producer David O. Selznick deserved much of the credit, they were, of course, heavily indebted to a sparkling screenplay penned by Frances Marion, Herman J. Mankiewicz, and Donald Ogden Stewart. It is to the credit of all these talented professionals that Dinner at Eight manages to amuse and delight even the jaded audiences of today, in contrast, perhaps, to its equally famous predecessor, the rather overstuffed and decidedly dated Grand Hotel (1932). Although no embarrassment, the 1989 television remake starring Marsha Mason, Lauren Bacall, and Harry Hamlin seemed merely unnecessary.