Dinner at Eight (1933)
Directed by George Cukor
Jean Harlow, Billie Burke, Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Edmund Lowe, Wallace Berry, Lee Tracy
TCM is broadcasting Dinner at 8 later this month. It is now 83 years old! Isn’t it about time for a restoration? Come on, some of the silicon billionaires must have some spare change around to fix this one up. In the meantime, here’s some old trivia.
- Dinner at 8 was taken from a broadway smash hit by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. The play opened at the Music Box Theater in 1932.
- This was David O. Selznick first feature film for MGM.
- According to George Cukor, John Barrymore based his performance in Dinner at 8 on a combination of his father-in-law Maurice Costello, his brother-in-law Lowell Sherman and himself.
- Carlotta Vance has a tiny dog that she sometimes carries around with her. Originally, the dog’s name was Mussollini, but the political climate of the day led to a change in his name to Tarzan. When Carlotta (Dressler) shows up with the dog at the dinner party, watch her lips mouth Mussolini and her dubbed voice say “Tarzan”.
- Billie Burke (Glinda, the Good Witch, in The Wizard of O) was married to famed Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfield. Ziegfeld died just after the movie opened in 1933. Three years later Myrna Loy portrayed Billie Burke in a Windexed version of Florenz Ziegfeld’s life in The Great Ziegfeld (1936).
- Marie Dressler underwent cancer surgery shortly before accepting the role of Carlotta Vance. She died from the disease in 1934, not long after the release of Dinner at 8.
- Joan Crawford was among the actresses considered for the part of Paula Jordan, and Clark Gable was one of the actors considered for the part of Dr. Wayne Talbot.
- Dinner at 8 didn’t receive any Academy Award nominations, but it was number 85 on the American Film Institute list of the top 100 comedy movies of all time in American cinema, and it was named one of the 10 best films of 1933 by the New York Times and Film Daily.
- Lee Tracy was filming another MGM picture, The Nuisance (1933), at the same time he was making this film. The Nuisance also featured actress Madge Evans, who played Lionel Barrymore’s daughter in Dinner at 8.
- Dinner at 8 was one of five films in which both Lionel and John Barrymore appeared. They didn’t share any scenes together in this feature, though.
- Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow had quite a mutual admiration society after working on Dinner at 8. Harlow said that being in the cast with Dressler was “a break for me. She’s one trouper I’d never try to steal a scene from. It’d be like trying to carry Italy against Mussolini.” And Marie Dressler said of Harlow, “Her performance as the wife of the hard-boiled, self-made politician played by Wallace Beery belongs in that limited category of things which may with reason be called rare. The plain truth is, she all but ran off with the show!”