Black SplatDinner at Eight (1933)

"Listen, you little piece of scum, you...You can go back to that sweet-smelling family of yours back of the railroad tracks in Passaic!"

Dinner at Eight - Wallace Berry and Jean Harlow

Description: Wallace Berry as entrepreneur Dan Packard threatens his social climbing wife, Kitty (Jean Harlow) with poverty if she doesn’t come around to his way of thinking in the motion picture Dinner at Eight (1933).

To drive his point home, Dan says, “And get this—if that sniveling, money grubbing, whining old mother or yours comes fooling around my office anymore, I’m going to give orders to have her thrown down those sixty flights of stairs, so help me.”

But Kitty has a tough side as well and tells her husband in no uncertian terms: “Who do you think you’re talkin’ to, that first wife of yours out in Montana?...The poor mealy-faced thing with her flat chest that didn’t have enough nerve to talk up to ya‘, washin’ out your greasy overalls and cooking and slavin’ in some mining shack? No wonder she died. Ya’ big wind bag!”

The film revolves around a high society dinner party thrown by Mrs. Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke), a social butterfly who is unaware that her husband, Oliver (Lionel Barrymore) is contending with bankruptcy and a bad heart.

Oliver wants to invite Dan Packard to the party so he can ask Packard to help him out of his financial difficulties. Millicent hates the idea but reluctantly agrees, after saying, "You're joking! Ask that common little woman to the house with that noisy, vulgar man? He smells Oklahoma!"

Among the guests invited to the dinner party:

  • The Ferncliffes, the richest couple in England who cancel their plans to come to the party at the last minute and instead travel to Florida.
  • Dan Packard, a rough-talking, nouveau-riche mining magnate who secretly intends to take over Mr. Jordan's failing shipping line. Dan doesn't want to go to the party.
  • Kitty Packard, his sexy, ill-mannered, platinum blond wife who went from an ex-hat check girl to high society. She yearns to be sophisticated socialite and coerces her husband to attend the dinner. He tells Kitty "Aw, go lay an egg." But Kitty insists that Dan escort her to the party, declaring "I'm going to be a lady if it kills me."
  • Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) who is having an affair with Kitty. He is married.
  • Larry Renault (John Barrymore), an alcoholic, silent movie matinee idol who must confront the fact that he is no longer popular.
  • Paula (Madge Evans), Jordan's daughter who is romantically involved with Renault but engaged to Ernest DeGraff (Phillips Holmes).
  • Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), a former stage actress but financially wanting. She intends to ask Mr. Jordon to cash in her stocks in his company to obtain needed funds.

Before dinner, Dan Packard and his wife Kitty have a heated exchange after Kitty reveals her affair with the doctor. Threatened with divorce, she tells Dan she will squeal about all of his corrupt business dealings, if he refuses not to help Mr. Jordon out of his business troubles.

"When I tell about (your dirty business affairs), I'll raise a pretty stink. Politics? You couldn't get into politics. You couldn't get in anywhere. You couldn't even get into the men's room at the Astor!"

Larry Renault never makes it to the dinner party because he commits suicide (gassing himself in his hotel room) after his agent Max Kane (Lee Tracy) tells him he is all washed up.

"Oh, no. l'm just telling you the truth... You know, you never were an actor. You did have looks, but they're gone now. You don't have to take my word for it. Just look in any mirror. They don't lie. [Forces Renault to look in a mirror] Take a good look. Look at those pouches under your eyes. Look at those creases. You sag like an old woman! Get a load of yourself! Wait till you start tramping around the offices, looking for a job, because no agent's going to handle you. Sitting in those anterooms hour after hour, giving your name to office boys that never even heard of you. You're through, Renault! You're through in pictures and plays and vaudeville and radio and everything. You're a corpse, and you don't know it. Go get yourself buried!"

In the end, despite complications with the servants and assorted dramatic revelations, the dinner is served precisely at eight.

As the guests head to dinner, a final conversation between Kitty Packard and Carlotta the stage actress closes out the movie.

Kitty: I was reading a book the other day.
Carlotta: [surprised] Reading a book?
Kitty: Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
Carlotta: Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about.

Note: In the motion picture Footlight Parade (1933), Nan Prescott tells stenographer Vivian Rich "Outside, countess. As long as they've got sidewalks YOU'VE got a job."

Dinner at Eight -  Movie Poster

Dinner at Eight -  Movie Poster

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