Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do You Love Luise?

Though life expectancy has been increasing for decades, it still feels like a particularly incomparable achievement when someone lives to be the big 1-0-0. Today is the centennial of Oscar's first double acting winner, Luise Rainer. And she's still alive to celebrate it!


Depending on where you read the information Luise was born in either Vienna, Austria or Düsseldorf, Germany* to a prosperous Jewish family. She was a popular stage actress by her early 20s. She had the good sense (and good fortune) to get a Hollywood offer and hightail it out of Germany by 1935 when Hitler was consolidating power. Within her first three years in Hollywood she had already won two Oscars. In the grand scheme of cinema, she may appear now to be something like a flash in the pan, but the flash was obviously of supernova proportions. When I finally saw The Great Ziegfeld (1936) for the Best Pictures From The Outside In series I fell for her flighty emotional French diva. Here's a taste.



Luise currently lives in London and she's still giving interviews. How about that! I love this bit from her on acting
I don’t believe in acting. I think that people in life act, but when you are on the stage, or in my case also on screen, you have to be true. You must feel it, and give birth to it, like to a child, Do you understand? I was asked long ago, by Columbia University in New York, would I teach I said: 'Teach? I would wring everyone’s neck!’ I wouldn’t dream of it, because life has to teach you.
Have you seen both her Oscared turns, the other being The Good Earth (1937)? Did you want to sing Luise a rousing round of Happy Birthday in English and/or German today?

*According to some reports this confusion is purposeful, Hollywood sold her as 'Austrian' nicknaming her "The Viennese Teardrop" because Germany wasn't exactly popular in the States in the 1930s.
*

14 comments:

Marsha Mason said...

How many other Oscar winners have made it to 100? The only ones I can think of are George Burns and Irving Berlin, right?

Jim T said...

I have read in wikipedia that winning an Oscar makes you live longer (in a nutshell). It brings happiness wich reduces stress I guess? Hepburn with 4 lived almost to 100. Of course there examples of the opposite.

brandz said...

Bob Hope got an honorary, no?

FenixPahedi said...

Have not seen a single film with Rainier but her statement is simply marvelous. Á la Ratatouille i would say.

Jared said...

How odd. I just turned over to TCM to watch The Good Earth. Then I saw your article on the lovely Ms. Rainer. Coincidence?

Marsha Mason said...

Hope made 100 and won quite a few honorary ones, but honorary ones don't usually "count," do they? (Unless they give Ole Marsha one, call me!)

kent said...

yes, i have seen both turns. THE GREAT ZIEGFELD and THE GOOD EARTH are both toss ups. she is fine in both films but i prefer the former. she has a delicacy in her performances that the academy might have loved at the time. her popularity sure showed.

Cuban Bach said...

She was brilliant in the three roles I saw, The Great Ziegfeld, The Good Earth and The Great Waltz! I was so happy to see them again today! It's a darn shame she did not act more and moved away from Hollywood. Our great loss but oh what WONDERS she left us in her few (14) movie roles!! HAIL HAIL to LUISE!!!! WE LOVE YOU!

Moose said...

Who else'll make 100? De Haviland, Fontaine, Holm?

Bing147 said...

I really enjoy her work in The Great Ziegfeld, the best thing about that turd of a movie... but I couldn't stand her in The Good Earth, or the film for that matter.

MrW said...

I remember seeing her in an oddity of a film named 'Poem' (barely known in German speaking countries and completely obscure in the rest of the world), which consists of a series of great German poems recited by great German actors.

Although I forgot most of the film, it's impossible to forget her contribution to the film: Already a ninety-something, she stood in front of a geyser, shouting out the words written by Goethe, throwing her hands in there, and seeming more alive than most people thirty years her junior.

A most impressive performance.

Shells said...

wow i love that quote. its so true.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't seem like there was a clear frontrunner for best actress in the years she won the award; although some will argue that Garbo in Camille should have won in'37. I've seen both of her winning performances; I think the Good Earth was the better - at least it was a leading role. Clearly an oscar worthy performance. Her other win in Ziegfeld, I think luck was on her side - a supporting role if that.

Anonymous said...

Even if I'm late, Happy Birthday to Mrs. Rainer! For what concernes her Oscar achievement, I think the first victory was acceptable (even if the ever-delicious Carole Lombard for My Man Godfrey was maybe better...but we know the rule: comic perf is always reputed lesser than a drama one!), the second not so much (I think the Academy, instead of glorify again Rainer so soon, could have selected Dunne or legendary Garbo as Best Actress, making one of these two stars of that period an Academy Award winner).
even if Rainer's career didn't shine for long after her double-shot, I always like her way! so, for what it worths, I give her my respect!

mirko