Hotel Berlin

Photo montage of Helmut Dantine, Raymond Massey, and Andrea King in "Hotel Berlin." Warner Bros., 1945.

 Helmut Dantine, Raymond Massey, and Andrea King in “Hotel Berlin.” Warner Bros., 1945.

“Hotel Berlin” (Warner Bros., 1945) is Andrea King’s favorite film for many reasons. It was her first leading role at Warners, playing Lisa Dorn — a part for which Bette Davis herself had campaigned publicly. And with this one film, Andrea was lifted after scarcely a handful of films from the ranks of “featured player” to that of “leading lady.”

Based on Vicki Baum’s popular follow-up novel to her best-seller “Grand Hotel,” “Hotel Berlin” is set on the eve of the fall of the Nazi empire in Germany at the end of World War II. To say the subject was timely in 1945 would be an understatement, and Warner Bros. did everything it could to incorporate up-to-the-minute facts and attitudes into the film. This endeavor created chaos during filming when cast and crew were handed daily dialogue revisions in order to thrust their story into a parallel with current headlines.

Andrea remembers filming day and night with no time off for over a month in order to rush this “current” film into theatres. The studio reduced by nearly half the usual number of shooting days but made up for it by making everyone work 12- to 18-hour days. Andrea didn’t complain. She was given the full star treatment with interviews, photo shoots, and publicity events wedged into every second that she wasn’t in front of the cameras. She may have been exhausted, but it was everything she had dreamed of.

Then fate took a twist but not on her behalf. During filming, co-star Faye Emerson shocked everyone by eloping with President Roosevelt’s son Elliott. Andrea remembers feeling as if the red carpet had been pulled sharply out from under her. The bulk of the studio’s attention shifted to Miss Emerson, and while she clearly had a good but supporting role in “Hotel Berlin,” Warner Bros. executives decided to boost her to top billing, simply switching her name with Andrea’s, who would now be listed fourth — despite the fact that Andrea and Helmut Dantine were the story’s obvious leads. But there was nothing she could do about it. This was, after all, her first leading role, and the studio clearly called the shots.

Original half-sheet from "Hotel Berlin" (Warner Bros., 1945).

Original half-sheet from “Hotel Berlin” (Warner Bros., 1945).

“Hotel Berlin” received a mixed bag of reviews when it opened. Everything from high praise and astonishment to dismissal. But one thing was clear in all the reviews — Andrea had delivered a star-caliber performance. At least the critics weren’t fooled by the billing switch. They made no hesitation pointing out the film’s standout performance. Our very own, very lovely, Andrea King.