Sunday, June 04, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Week-end at the Waldorf (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

An all-star cast appears in MGM's WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF (1945), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

MGM filled this loose remake of GRAND HOTEL (1932) with a quartet of "A" list stars, a deep supporting cast, music by Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra, and the usual MGM glamour. While this 130-minute film is a bit overstuffed and could easily have shed 10 minutes, this "MGM land" depiction of New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel is a nice place to spend time.

Ginger Rogers is front and center as movie star Irene Malvern, a single woman who's just beginning to realize her career isn't enough; she's lonely. Enter Chip Collyer (Walter Pidgeon), a war correspondent home from Europe for a short break. Irene initially mistakes him for a jewel thief; later, after learning his true identity, she introduces him to a friend (Phyllis Thaxter) as her secret husband in order to get out of a sticky situation. Word spreads like wildfire that Irene Malvern is married, but Chip doesn't mind as he's fallen for her.

Elsewhere in the hotel, Captain James Hollis (Van Johnson) will soon be having surgery to remove shrapnel from his heart. It's a delicate operation, but a consultant physician (Warner Anderson) believes he'll make it if he has "the will to live." Only problem is, James has no family and no one to live for. Until he meets beautiful hotel stenographer Bunny (Lana Turner)...she's enough to give any soldier the will to live, right?!

There are other minor threads which could have stood being removed or pared down, such as Robert Benchley's dog having puppies or Edward Arnold as a crook trying to fleece a rich Middle Easterner (George Zucco). I'm all for the Xavier Cugat appearances, though, as he and singer Lina Romay are great, and the sequences add some of that special '40s MGM gloss.

The young Johnson and Turner are cute, though they don't do a great deal more than moon over each other and worry about their futures (including whether he'll have one). Rogers and Pidgeon have the richest parts and probably the most screen time, which was fine with me; in fact, I would have been happy if their characters had had their own movie!

Rosemary DeCamp plays Rogers' maid, using one of her trademark accents; the woman was a wizard when it came to accents! Also in the huge cast are Leon Ames, Keenan Wynn, Moroni Olsen, Frank Puglia, Nana Bryant, Porter Hall, and Byron Foulger. Former child actress Cora Sue Collins (QUEEN CHRISTINA) plays a young bride; she and her new husband (Michael Kirby) are lent a room in the full hotel by Samuel S. Hinds. And yes, you'll find everyone's favorite dress extra, Bess Flowers, hanging around in the nightclub and maybe at a wedding as well.

Occasional extremely obvious use of back projections, including in the barber shop (!), are a bit disconcerting inserted into such a gorgeous movie, but I guess even MGM had to save money somewhere! It's a beautiful-looking film, including gowns by Irene. Though I did wonder what was with Ginger's hairstyle, in which a bracelet appears to be dangling from her fancy hair twist!

WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and filmed in black and white by Robert Planck.

The Warner Archive print has a good picture and sound. The disc includes the trailer.

WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF isn't a perfect film, but fans of the lead actors and MGM '40s films should find it a pleasant time. I did!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger barrylane said...

Ginger and Walter in anything. Certainly head and shoulders above the crowd. Cut Benchley and his cute tricks right out of the picture, diminish Edward Arnold, and build Leon Ames, which goes along with our first thought about Ginger as everything he does in the film relates to her character. You think ten minutes should be excised, well that might be okay, but if is it, take another ten and let's see what we have, other than a shorter picture.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Can't argue with your suggestion!

I'd be happy with a movie the current length if we traded the Benchley-Arnold scenes for more Ginger/Walter/Leon Ames!

Best wishes,

8:19 PM  

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