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Hotel Imperial (1939) DVD-R

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Starring Isa Miranda, Ray Milland, Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, J.
Carrol Naish
Directed by Robert Florey

Print: black/white
Runtime: 79 min.
Genre: drama
Print Quality: B

In this drama, a vengeful woman searches for the man she blames for her
sister's suicide. To get at him, the woman masquerades as a mousy maid
in the tiny hotel where he stays. The story is set in Gallacia during WW I
and while she enacts her plan, the Russians and Austrians take over the
town. This does not stop her from getting revenge. This is a remake of a
1927 film of the same title. In Hollywood it has the legend of being a
cursed production in that it suffered endless production problems and
major changes in cast and crew. Originally Marlene Dietrich was to play
the title role, but she and director Henry Hathaway were constantly at
loggerheads. With the help of Paramount head Arthur Lubitsch, she got
Hathaway to rewrite the script with Grover Jones. The new story was
called I Loved a Soldier and things resumed. Unfortunately, Lubitsch had
been fired and Dietrich, still miserable, abruptly quit, costing Paramount,
a fortune. All production ceased, but later they resurrected the original
script and tried again to make the film with Margaret Sullavan.
Unfortunately, Sullavan and a co-star were horsing around one day on the
set and she ended up with a broken arm. The studio heads demanded
she perform the role in a sling. This was too much for Hathaway who
immediately quit. Soon after, Dietrich returned with her long-time director
Josef von Sternberg and said she was now willing to make Hotel Imperial.
The studio heads refused and eventually the lead was given to Italian
actress Isa Mira. A major sex symbol in Italy, she made this her U.S. debut.
Unfortunately, she spoke little English and was forced to recite her lines
phonetically. Meanwhile her co-star Ray Milland nearly died during a
scene in which he had to lead a cavalry charge. During the run, he was
thrown off his horse and tossed head first into a brick pile. Fortunately he
only suffered a concussion. Later Hotel Imperial was remade as Five
Graves to Cairo Sometimes, as in this case, the history behind the film is
more interesting than the film itself, no?

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