Vicki Baum jokingly referred to herself as “a first-class second–rate writer,” but she created a new genre for popular fiction when she wrote the novel that inspired the stage and screen classic Grand Hotel. Baum’s father disapproved of reading for pleasure and was horrified when she won a literary competition, but Baum began publishing short stories as soon as she left home at age eighteen and published her first novel by twenty-two. Encouraged to create a strong female protagonist, she wrote Stud. chem Helene Willfuer, which sold 100,000 copies in three years, before writing her most famous work, Menchen im Hotel, the first “hotel novel,” which followed the intersecting lives of various guests at an elegant resort in nuanced detail. She wrote the adaptation for the play, Grand Hotel, which was an overwhelming success in both Berlin and New York, and the film, which starred Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, won the 1933 Oscar for best film. As the Nazis rose to power, Baum chose to stay in America, continuing to write novels and screenplays that explored strong, independent women struggling to survive the hardships of the modern world.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Vicki Baum." (Viewed on August 2, 2015) <http://jwa.org/people/baum-vicki>.