Like Grand Hotel, MGM's 1932 Oscar-winning picture, George Cukor's 1933 comedy, Dinner at Eight, is a multi-character film in the Thalberg tradition of literary quality and class.
It is based on the George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's popular stage play, which MGM obtained for 100,000 dollars. Frances Marion, Herman J. Mankiewicz, and Donald Ogden Stewart made some script changes and additions, including the classic exchange between Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow.
Taking full advantage of the studio's talent pool, Cukor directed this witty play with a big-gun cast that includes Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, and Jean Harlow.
The story revolves around a dinner given by Millicent (Billie Burke), a foolish snob obsessed with status. As her guests arrive for a party in honor of VIPs (who never show up), the carefully planned evening falls apart. Her husband Oliver (Lionel Barrymore), seriously ill and in danger of losing his business, has invited crass industrialist, Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his vulgar wife, Kitty (Jean Harlow) in an attempt to salvage the fortunes of the Jordans.
Production commenced on March 16, 1933, with 27 days of shooting. “That was a wonderful record,” Cukor later recalled, “I owed it all to these marvelous performers, with them behind me, everything seemed possible.”
All of the performances are excellent, particularly Dressler as a gaudy dowager and Harlow, who with her tinny voice is at her comic best.