Dinner at Eight (film)

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Dinner at Eight
Dinner at Eight cph.3b52734.jpg
Film poster
Directed by George Cukor
Produced by David O. Selznick
Screenplay by Frances Marion
Herman J. Mankiewicz
Starring Marie Dressler
John Barrymore
Wallace Beery
Jean Harlow
Lionel Barrymore
Lee Tracy
Edmund Lowe
Billie Burke
Music by William Axt
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Ben Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
August 29, 1933 (1933-08-29)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $435,000[1]
Box office $2,156,000[1]

Dinner at Eight is a 1933 American Pre-Code dramedy film directed by George Cukor. Adapted to the screen by Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz from George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's play of the same name, it features an ensemble cast of Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, and Billie Burke.

Dinner at Eight continues to be acclaimed by critics; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports 100% approval among 16 critics, with an average rating of 8.6/10.[2]


One week before her next society dinner, Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke) receives word that Lord and Lady Ferncliffe, whom she and her husband Oliver (Lionel Barrymore), a New York shipping magnate, had met in England the previous year, have accepted her invitation. Overjoyed by this social coup, Millicent is oblivious to Oliver's lack of enthusiasm about the dinner and her daughter Paula's (Madge Evans) preoccupation about the impending return of her fiancé, Ernest DeGraff (Phillips Holmes), from Europe. Millicent fusses about finding an "extra man" for her single female guest, former stage star Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), who resides in Europe.

Meanwhile, Oliver faces distressing news about his shipping business, which has been struck hard by the Depression. Carlotta, a former lover of Oliver, visits Oliver at his office and asks him to buy her stock in the company, but he does not have the money. Dan Packard (Wallace Beery), a mining magnate, stops by long enough for Oliver to ask him to buy some company stock. Dan agrees only to consider the proposition, he then brags to his wife Kitty (Jean Harlow) that he will take the shipping business through deceit.

Unknown to Dan, Oliver has convinced Millicent to invite the Packards to her dinner with the hopes that it will increase Dan's wish to buy the stock. The ill-mannered but socially ambitious Kitty eagerly has accepted. Although he at first refuses to go, Dan, who believes that he will soon be appointed to a Cabinet post, changes his mind about the dinner when he finds out that the Ferncliffes, the richest couple in England, are also invited. Also unknown to Dan, one of Millicent's other guests, Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe), has been having an affair with Kitty while pretending to be tending to her feigned illnesses.

On the eve of her dinner, Millicent, still short an extra man, telephones Larry Renault (John Barrymore), a washed-up silent movie star, and extends him a last-minute invitation, completely unaware that Paula is having a clandestine love affair with him. At Paula's urging, Larry, a three-time divorcé and hardened alcoholic, accepts the invitation, but advises the much younger Paula to forget about him and return to Ernest. After Paula stubbornly refuses to take Larry's admonitions seriously, she is seen leaving his room by Carlotta, who is residing at the same hotel.

Later that evening, Larry is visited by his agent, Max Kane (Lee Tracy), who tells him that the stage play he was planning to star in has lost its original producer. Max breaks the news to Larry that the play's new producer, Jo Stengel (Jean Hersholt), wants another actor in the lead but is willing to consider him in a bit part. Crushed, Larry takes to drink.

The next day, Talbot is discovered by his wife Lucy (Karen Morley) in a compromising telephone call with Kitty and confesses that, in spite of his love for her, he is addicted to women and needs help to overcome his weakness. Talbot then is rushed to see Oliver, who has come to the doctor's office with severe chest pains.

Although Talbot tries to hide his prognosis of terminal thrombosis of the heart, Oliver wisely deduces the seriousness of his illness. When he returns home, the weakened Oliver tries to explain to Millicent his need for rest, but she is too hysterical to hear because, among other minor disasters, the Ferncliffes have cancelled and are on their way to Florida. Although anxious to tell Millicent about Larry, Paula, too, is turned away by her upset mother and faces the prospect of facing Ernest alone.

At the Packards', meanwhile, Kitty reveals to Dan in a fit of anger that she is having an affair. When threatened with divorce, however, Kitty tells her husband that, if he wants his Cabinet appointment instead of a career-stopping revelation from her about his crooked dealings, he must back down from his takeover of Oliver's line and treat her with more respect.

Just before he is to leave for the dinner, Larry is visited by Max and Jo Stengel and drunkenly berates Stengel for insulting him with his paltry offer. After a frustrated Max denounces him for ruining his last career chance and the hotel management asks him to leave, Larry quietly turns on his gas fireplace and commits suicide.

At the ill-fated dinner, Carlotta confides in private with Paula, who is just about to break her engagement with Ernest, about Larry's demise and counsels the young woman to stay with her fiancé. At the same time, Millicent learns from Talbot about Oliver's illness. Finally awakened to her selfishness, Millicent announces to Oliver that she is ready to make sacrifices for the family and be a more attentive wife. Then, as the beleaguered guests are about to go in to dinner, Dan, with prodding from Kitty, tells Oliver that he has put a stop to the takeover of the Jordan shipping line.

Primary cast[edit]

  • Marie Dressler as Carlotta Vance, an aging actress, destitute, dealing with the loss of prestige
  • Lionel Barrymore as Oliver Jordan, a kind businessman whose business is failing
  • Billie Burke as Millicent Jordan, his wife, a shallow, wealthy socialite
  • Madge Evans as Paula Jordan, the Jordans' slightly rebellious daughter
  • Wallace Beery as Dan Packard, a successful, crooked, bully of a businessman
  • Jean Harlow as Kitty Packard, a lonely, conceited woman and wife of Dan Packard
  • John Barrymore as Larry Renault, a washed-up, drunken actor
  • Lee Tracy as Max Kane, Larry Renault's desperate agent
  • Edmund Lowe as Dr. Wayne Talbot, an unfaithful husband, doctor to the rich, especially Kitty Packard
  • Karen Morley as Lucy Talbot, Wayne Talbot's longsuffering wife
  • Jean Hersholt as Jo Stengel, a theatrical agent and producer
  • Phillips Holmes as Ernest DeGraff, fiancé of Paula Jordan
  • Louise Closser Hale, as Hattie Loomis, Millie's cousin, last-minute dinner guest
  • Grant Mitchell, as Ed Loomis, Hattie's husband, reluctant dinner guest

The cast also includes


According to MGM records the film earned $1,398,000 in the US and Canada and $758,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $998,000.[1][3]

Awards and honors[edit]

American Film Institute recognition

Come to Dinner parody[edit]

Come to Dinner was a 1934 Broadway Brevity parody of Dinner at Eight using look-alike actors.[4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles, California: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ "Dinner at Eight (1933) on RT". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 6, 2015. 
  3. ^ David Thomson, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick, Abacus, 1993 p 160
  4. ^ "Come to Dinner (1934) - IMDb". Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Come to Dinner (1933) - Overview - TCM.com". Retrieved 13 October 2014. 

External links[edit]