ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: Dinner at Eight (1933)

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A few years ago, I wrote about Marie Dressler’s performance in Dinner at Eight (1933, dir. George Cukor) and why she’s the stand-out performer for me. And in a film of this calibre, that is quite something. You see, the dinner in Dinner at Eight never happens. The film is actually about the lives of these characters leading up to the dinner itself. We’ve got hostess Billie Burke, her businessman husband Lionel Barrymore, broke stage star Marie Dressler, the other broke stage star John Barrymore, and bickering couple Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery. With all this talent in a Kaufman and Ferber play adaptation directed by George Cukor all of people, it’s damn near impossible to pick just three stand-out quotes. But I’m going to try. (I am leaving out the final exchange between Harlow and Dressler, because, well, it’s too great to put into words.)

– (about her theatre) ‘For six months, they haven’t taken the lock off the door. It’s now known as the spiders rendez-vous. Can’t collect rent from them. You know, when old Stanfield gave me that theatre, I thought it was very magnificent of the old boy. Now I wish I’d taken a sandwich.’ Carlotta Vance – This, to me, is one of the best lines in the film. Not only is this a brilliantly written speech, it also sums up Carlotta’s character perfectly. She is broke and about to sell her stock, and this tongue-in-cheek speech reflects her feelings without getting too dramatic, which is something I’ve always loved about Dressler’s performance in the film. That balance between comedy and drama is magnificent.

– ‘I’ve told you a million times not to talk to me while I’m doing my lashes!’ Kitty – Kitty’s shallowness is often a punchline and this is easily her best line!

– ‘I’ve had the most ghastly day anybody ever had! No aspic for dinner, and Ricky in jail, and Gustav dying for all I know. And a new butler tonight and that Vance woman coming in. And having to send for crab meat. Crab meat! And now on top of everything else, the Ferncliffes aren’t coming to dinner. They call up at this hour, the miserable cockneys, they call up to say they’ve gone to Florida. Florida!’ Millicent Jordan –Ah the woes of hosting a big, high society dinner party, we’ve all been there. Millicent has lost it at this point and Billie Burke brought it! Her delivery, her expressions, her voice… She was made for type of film. And you know I worship her in Merrily We Live (1938)! But I digress.

Go on, go watch Dinner at Eight, if you haven’t. And if you have, watch it again. You can never go wrong with it.

6 thoughts on “ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: Dinner at Eight (1933)

  1. mikefilmbuff

    Great quotes and as you said you didn’t even mention the most famous one. For a film that will be 100 years old in 11 years it sure holds up well. When you mentioned them never having dinner in the film it reminded me of a movie that I saw for the first time recently- “ the discrete charm of the bourgeoisie “.

    Liked by 1 person

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