Both of my parents grew up with the movies. My Dad had been born in 1910 and thus could literally remember Chaplin at his early peak! My mother, born five years later, became a big motion picture fan in the Great Depression. I've already written about the first movie I remember them ever seeing with me. DINNER AT EIGHT was the last.
Here in the Greater Cincinnati area, film buffs were lucky in the mid-seventies when The Ohio Valley Theater Organ Society reopened the long dormant uptown Emery Theater on weekends for showing classic motion pictures in order to raise money to restore the theater. There was usually a theater organ recital preceding each show, on the relocated RKO Albee giant Wurlitzer! Then a single or often double feature, sometimes accompanied by cartoons and/or short subjects. In spite of the always uncomfortable metal seats with torn padding, I loved every visit.
I spent most of my Sunday afternoons at the Emery in those days and continued to do so into the early eighties before they finally gave up the ghost.
Based on a largely forgotten play by the brilliantly witty George S. Kaufman with Edna Ferber, DINNER AT EIGHT introduces us to a group of people, few of whom are much like the images they project, as they prepare for a major society dinner party.
Outside of the somewhat soapy story itself, what makes the film memorable is its all-star cast, one of the biggest and best mixes to that date. Matinee idol John Barrymore appears, still looking awesome, as does his brother Lionel, MGM stalwart Wallace Beery, longtime star Marie Dressler, handsome Edmund Lowe and Lee Tracy, flighty Billie Burke (best-remembered today as Glinda in THE WIZARD OF OZ) and, most memorably, Jean Harlow, stealing every scene as the gold-digging blonde who most definitely does not fit in with the rest of the crowd.
But Mr. and Mrs. Thompson laughed loudly and applauded that night and I beamed at getting them to come out with me, never suspecting it would be the final time. All the way back, after 11 PM, we talked about the movie as we hurried along through less than savory neighborhoods to catch the last bus back across the river.