Luise Rainer’s last Academy Award nod was for her role in The Good Earth … in 1938. The beautiful German actress’ first had come the year before opposite William Powell in The Great Ziegfeld. A win that brought about considerable controversy, as she was a rather unknown at the film opened. (The award is justified entirely by the tremulous, heartbreaking scene in which she congratulates the man she loves for his marriage over the phone.)
It was the first time an actor(ess) had ever won a competitive Oscar back to back. (“For my second and third pictures I won Academy Awards,” says Rainer. “Nothing worse could have happened to me.”)
Next week, this grand dame of cinema turns 100. Rainer, along with Joan Fontaine, Olivia DeHavilland, Deanna Durbin and Shirley Temple, is amongst the last surviving leading ladies of 1930s Hollywood.
The actress who strong-armed Hollywood’s studio system (‘By the time I’m 40, you’ll be dead,’ she told Louis B. Mayer) and refused to work on projects she didn’t believe in (something of a problem for any MGM contract player) is still a square-shooting firecracker of a dame, who is acutely aware of her extraordinary past—and the presented opportunities that she herself insists were squandered.
Her recent interview with The Scotman speaks for itself. Read Rainer’s dynamic, illuminating interview here.
Or, take a look at one of her most legendary celluloid moments here.