Renault’s Suicide – Dinner at Eight

IN CONTEXT

Former silent film star Larry Renault is now a washed-up drunk, self-imprisoned in a hotel suite, too proud to accept work he considers beneath him. After one insult too many, his manager walks out on him. It’s downhill from there.

Dinner at Eight

His manager walks for the last time and leaves Larry with the timeless line “You’re a corpse and you don’t know it.” He shies away from his wraith-like reflection in the mirror, stumbles and falls on the floor. He picks up a discarded telegram, an insulting rejection from a talent agency.

Dinner at Eight

The bellboy returns, unable to pawn some folderol Larry gave him to get money for booze. He insults the kid, who turns his back to leave. Larry is suddenly desperate and pathetically begs him for liquor. “I’m sick. I gotta have it, I gotta.”

Dinner at Eight

The bellboy leaves for good. Moments later management arrives telling him another guest has booked the suite…and they have no alternative rooms to offer him. Please be gone by midday tomorrow. Well, they do say these things come in threes.

Dinner at Eight

…which of course finally breaks him. He collapses into tears by the mantel. Then looks down and spies a way out in the fireplace.

Dinner at Eight

In a fever of activity he locks himself in and closes up all the gaps under the doors. A moment of potential reprieve arrives as he takes a final look at a portrait of his beloved Paula (played by the ravishing Madge Evans ) but merely sighs to himself, knowing not even she can save him. He shreds the picture and locks the window.

Dinner at Eight

Once a professional, always a professional – Renault makes sure he will at least look good in death. He composes himself then brushes his hair, fixes his tie and dons his smoking jacket. Hell, he even gives his moustache a brush.

Dinner at Eight

To maximise the theatrics, or possibly to sate his thespian instincts he turns on the fireside lamp and positions the leather chair for the best possible angle in relation to the door. Always thinking of his audience is Mr Renault.

Dinner at Eight

The gas goes on.

Dinner at Eight

He sits in the chair and Larry Renault, once king of Vaudeville, takes his final bow. The camera tracks in and the screen fades to black.

This post is part of the 2013 TCM Summer Under the Stars blogathon that lasts through the month of August, and specifically celebrating the Wallace Beery day on August 17th.

TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon at @tcmSUTSblog

Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

Dinner at Eight – directed by George Cukor (1933)


In Short
Realising his career, lifestyle and by extension, pride is destroyed a one time movie great commits perhaps the most dignified suicide in cinema.
Trailer here