Site updates – February 2021

I’ve taken the opportunity afforded by the UK lockdown to make some amendments and new additions to the site over the last few weeks:

New Galleries:
Sharing my image collection has always been part of the intention of the website and I’ve finally got around to doing this by uploading the first batch of pictures. The galleries can be accessed from the main menu where you’ll see a dropdown of options. There is a gallery for each of Luise’s films, plus separate galleries for a selection of images from her television and stage work. There are also individual galleries for magazine covers, studio portraits, and candid / press photos. The galleries currently contain over 250 images, many of which have not been made available online before.

New additions to the archive:
The archive continues to grow and I have recently added more transcriptions of articles from various sources, including:

– the earliest interview/article in the collection from Stuttgarter Illustrierte magazine in 1933
– An honest account of Luise’s situation in this interview of 1939 with Freda Bruce Lockhart for the British film magazine Film Weekly.
– A 1979 interview with Harry Haun for Films in Review magazine
– Complete transcription of Picturegoer’s 1937 supplement on The Good Earth featuring articles about Paul Muni and Tilly Losch, plus a piece by the director Sidney Franklin

New pages:
I’ve been slow to update the ‘other films‘ information, relating to those titles which Luise did not appear in but which have a connection to her in some way. Recent new additions here include pages for The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, The General Died at Dawn and Madame Curie

Hollywood: A Netflix Original Series

Premiering on the streaming service Netflix on 1 May 2020, Hollywood is a six-part limited series from Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. It marks the first time that Luise Rainer has been portrayed in any media.

Read more about the series here.

Camille Natta (right) appears as Luise Rainer in Hollywood (2020). This is the first time Luise has been portrayed in any media.

Interviews and Reviews for “Seen From The Wings” – July 2019

To coincide with the publication of Francesca’s memoir, Seen From The Wings, Luise’s daughter has been discussing the book with news outlets and film bloggers. These interviews are an interesting addition to the book, which is a must-read. I’ve amalgamated the various interviews and reviews of the book below.

Hometowns to Hollywood by Annette Bochenek

Musings Of A Film Addict by Samantha Ellis
Lavender After Dark by Jed Ryan

Book Talk by Doug Miles

Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear by igsjr

The Long Arm Of A Hollywood Mother by Silver Screenings

Francesca’s memoir, Seen From The Wings: Luise Rainer. My Mother, The Journey. is available from online booksellers.

Oscar So White

When we look back through the history of the Academy Awards, 2016 will be remembered as the year of the backlash against racial inequality and stereotyping that has been growing for years, even decades. For the second year running there are no non-white actors nominated for an award in an industry where black players are omnipresent on screen but under-represented not only at awards shows but also in mainstream media coverage of the cinema. In this week’s UK Box Office chart three out of the top five films have a black leading actor – Ride Along 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Creed – hardly a minority.President Photos, Cheryl Boone Isaacs

The Academy President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs (right), has responded to criticism by announcing an overhaul of Academy membership to better represent the diversity of the business. The Academy members are majority white males over the age of 50 and it might seem like an obvious solution to mix this up a little (or a lot). There’s certainly a need for the voters to better reflect the industry and the population as a whole, but this decision seems like a knee-jerk reaction to some high profile outrage from Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith, amongst others, and from Isaacs’ own ‘heartbreak and frustration’. The idea that ‘more black people will vote for more black people’ seems wrong-footed at best and almost racist in itself, at worst. It worries me that the Academy’s approach will lead to issues of credibility for black nominees whose nominations will be viewed by some as a result of a rule change and box-ticking.

This week the actor (and Academy member) Stephen Furst spelled out his frustration with the new rules, labelling them both sexist and ageist by suggesting that ‘old white men’ wouldn’t use their vote without prejudice. I tend to agree with him and would much rather the Academy concentrated on getting their voting members to actually watch the films – it’s widely known that many don’t view the screening DVDs which are sent to them, and in some cases they even cast votes for films or actors they haven’t watched. This would seem to me to be the crux of the problem. By all means expand and diversify the membership, but those who don’t engage with the process shouldn’t be part of it in the first place, regardless of age, gender or race. Get rid of them and then you can really make an attempt to build a membership representative of the diversity of cinema.


I fear that the Academy has taken on an unwinnable battle, and one which is not of their making. Whilst there have been a handful of high-profile films with non-white performers this year, I don’t believe there have been sufficient to merit nominations. For me, there were only two surprise omissions: Straight Outta Compton, one of the best films of 2015, unbelievably missed out on a Best Picture nomination which probably has more to do with the age of the voters rather than the race. It also suffers from a great ensemble cast which may have split the voting for one particular actor and it is an awkward, but coincidental, shame that only the (white) writers made it to the nominations sheet. I’d also expected to see Idris Elba receive a nod for Best Actor in Beasts of No Nation, but my opinion here is only based on what I’d read – I haven’t seen the film, and I don’t think many of the voting members had either, hence no nomination. Michael B. Jordan in Creed (he was much, much better in Fruitvale Station, which on the whole is a better film and should’ve been nominated last year) didn’t do enough to convince me it was an Oscar-worthy performance (and neither did Stallone, to be honest), and Samuel L. Jackson was never going to get an Oscar nod for playing Samuel L. Jackson again, no matter how many times he says the ‘n’ word.

The real problem is the lack of diversity in the roles offered to minority actors? Not just black actors but Hispanic, Asian, hell, even Inuit actors… it’s unacceptable that the ‘everyman’ roles still go to Will Smith (and to a lesser extent these days, Denzel Washington) and that award-worthy roles for black actors still tend to be those embedded in Hollywood’s skewed version of ‘black history’ and culture. It’s surprising that more black actors haven’t been nominated given the Academy’s penchant for the oppressed, the struggle and the battle over adversity considering the pigeon-holing that goes on in casting offices.

the-good-earth-paul-muni-luise-rainer-1937It was exactly 79 years ago today that The Good Earth premiered and led to Luise Rainer’s second Oscar win for Best Actress, playing a Chinese woman in yellow face (although she did refuse most of the make-up effects and insisted on the minimum, preferring to ‘act’ – now there’s an idea!) Three years later Hattie McDaniel became the first African American Oscar winner for her role as ‘Mammy’ in Gone With The Wind (1939), sitting at a segregated table during the ceremony. Both were worthy winners but times have changed, maybe not so much as we might think: yellowface performances were still being given Oscars as recently as 1983 when Linda Hunt won for her astonishing turn as Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) and Joseph Fiennes has been cast to play Michael Jackson… although any black actor hoping for that part would have to do it in whiteface make-up anyway.

second motherFor my part I’d like to have seen some representation in this year’s awards season for Regina Casé (actor) and Anna Muylaert (director) for The Second Mother (2015), for Benicio del Toro in Sicario (2015) and DooNa Bae in A Girl at My Door (2014). But what I know, and what Oscars boycotters appear not to, is that the Oscars don’t represent world cinema, they don’t even represent American cinema, they represent Hollywood cinema. If only they weren’t so damn influential we could just let them get on with it.

One day I genuinely hope that there’ll be a bunch of great actors and actresses in the Lead and Supporting categories that aren’t all the same colour, maybe they don’t even all speak the same language, but they all gave great, award-worthy performances. That’s why they will be there, not because their friends stuck a vote in for them, or they’re filling a quota but because they deserve to be.

The property of a lady


It was announced yesterday that Julien’s of Beverly Hills will be holding an auction of property from Luise’s estate on 1st October with a vast array of items for sale from her London apartment. The sale is one in a long line of ‘celebrity’ auctions held by the house who have previously handled the estates of Greta Garbo, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, amongst others.

The items included in Luise’s sale are mostly unconnected to her short film career. There are some pieces of memorabilia, awards and photographs but on the whole the estate is of interest for her antiques and art. She was a collector of both and amassed a varied collection of European furniture, jewellery and artworks. Of particular interest to me are her own pieces, often collage work but watercolours and sketches are also included. Luise studied art at the Camden Institute in London in the late 1950s and early 1960s but she rarely exhibited; this auction and the accompanying catalogue gives us a rare chance to see a range of her work. The sale also includes pieces by many other artists, notably sculpture by Geog Kolbe and Felix Weihs de Weldon, and paintings and sketches by Domenico Gnoli, Robin Hazlewood, Emma Sergeant, Johann Fischbach and Jan van Kessel as well as numerous unsigned and unattributed works, religious scenes and more. The portrait of Luise by Dimitri Berea, painted for the cover of France Illustration (below) is on offer with an estimate of a very reasonable $6000.FullSizeRender (18)

For film fans there is little of interest, although there are a selection of photos by George Hurrell and Clarence Bull, plus her George Eastman medal, awarded in 1982. Luise kept very little of her film memorabilia so it isn’t surprising not to see it here. In the late 1990s she gifted her archive of correspondence to the Howard Gottlieb Centre at Boston University which explains the lack of personal items although there are a few significant objects included, not least a collection of Clifford Odets’ plays signed and dedicated to Luise, and some personal photographs from their holiday with Einstein at his house on Long Island. There are also some personal items of clothing, which always make me feel a little queasy, including the cape she wore when she accepted her second Academy Award. Her Oscars, I should point out, are not included – the Academy famously brought in an agreement in 1950 that any Oscar sold should be offered back to them for a nominal sum of $1 in order to preserve the integrity of the award. Oscars have come up for auction however, and those won before 1950 are not covered by the agreement (although that hasn’t stopped the Academy fighting to have them removed), so Luise’s could be sold, theoretically, but I believe that Francesca (Luise’s daughter) is likely to want to hang onto them, and rightly so.

On the whole the property on offer shows Luise’s love for fine art and good taste. There is much to be gleaned from her collection and the items she and Robert purchased over the years. It is interesting (and not unexpected) to see that she kept almost nothing from her Hollywood years and the bulk of this property comes from her post-film career when she had returned to Europe. I hope that they find good homes for these belongings, especially the artworks and personal items which will always carry a quantum of Luise with them. Unfortunately almost everything is out of my range but I’ll be following the auction with great interest on the day, and maybe my itchy fingers will do some clicking…..

“omg luise rainer”

I’ve been quiet. Since Luise’s death at the end of last year I’ve done very little in the way of updates and I’m sad to admit I questioned whether to continue with the site, the blog and the Twitter feed. I didn’t expect that, I thought I’d always be in thrall to Luise, but, understandably (?) I felt lost. Looking over the collection (the hifalutin part of me would prefer ‘archive’) and after talking to friends I realised that now, more than ever, it’s important to keep researching and continue letting the world know about Luise. So I will.

Something happened this week that hasn’t happened since Luise died too: my regular Twitter search for her name went crazy. Suddenly hundreds of people were Tweeting about her in the most unexpected context. On 28th July Justin Bieber posted this photo on his Shots timeline. I was mystified, but not as much as his fans who posted and retweeted the image with an almost universal question: “Who?”


Bieber tagged the photo simply, “omg luise rainer” (un-capitalization, his own). It was taken at Luise’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6302 Hollywood Boulevard, placed there as one of the original intake of stars in February 1960. Quite what Justin means by this post is a mystery… is he a fan? Or is sarcasm intended here? Either way, even if only a few fans Google her name, find her films, read about her life, it’ll be worthwhile. All publicity is good publicity, right?

Funeral: Tuesday 13th January

Luise’s funeral was held in a South London crematorium on Tuesday 13th; as she had wished there was no fanfare and the service was private with ten members of her family present, including her daughter Francesca. The only media in attendance were the news agency Reuters who published the brief video below online on the day. It also includes archive footage from the UK premiere of The Gambler in 1997 (with Dominic West and Jodhi May).

Site updates for January 2015

I’ve been updating the site over the past few weeks, and intended to re-publish with a release of new material on Luise’s birthday. That day has come, but, with the news of her death on 30th December I’ve been busy responding to queries and have already submitted some updates rather than have the workload get on top of me. So, the monthly updates for January are as follows:

The galleries have been redesigned; you may be able to tell that the site isn’t higEscapade 19h-spec when it comes to slideshows and whatnot. That’s because I have no website knowledge other than what I’ve learnt whilst putting this site together. So, I like to keep it simple. With this in mind I’ve re-styled the galleries as simple webpages with photos tabled and noted. On each page you can open up each picture for a larger but manageable version. I hope the simplicity makes the galleries easier to navigate than before. A plus is that the collection now shows up in a Google image search, which it hadn’t done previously. I’ve also tried to separate the gallery into useful sub-sections, so you can find all of the images relating to Luise’s Oscar appearances together, a collection of Press images from random events together, and stills from each film neatly packaged on one page, for example. Some of the formatting looks a bit skew-whiff but I’ll work on that as I go along.

I am particularly excited about the new gallery for 1935’s Escapade. I was lucky enough to purchase a number of stills from the film recently and these have been put on-line for the first time; as a researcher I know I haven’t seen many of these Picturegoer Dec 1938before, and without the actual film available to view these are the next best thing. They include photos of Luise and her co-stars William Powell, Mady Christians, Virginia Bruce, Henry Travers, Frank Morgan and Mathilde Comont.

There are also new additions to the ‘Magazines’ section of the site (now renamed as ‘Archive’): the earliest article from a British film magazine in my collection is The Romance of Luise Rainer by Leonard Wallace (from Film Weekly, 1935). I’ve also recently added this review of The Great Ziegfeld from the same magazine in 1937, and this interesting character piece on Luise and Clifford Odets, “Living the Part” with Luise by Jack Chandler, taken from a 1938 edition of Picturegoer. The archive section has also been updated with links to a couple of obituaries and recent articles of interest that have appeared online.

I will continue to work through my personal collection of material and add updates to the site as and when I get the chance. I hope that there is enough interesting material to keep readers entertained and educated.

TCM remembers Luise Rainer

img_LuiseRainer2014Today, 12th January 2015, Luise Rainer would’ve turned 105 years of age. TCM, the classic film channel, had already planned to celebrate the birthday with seven of Luise’s MGM films in succession and the schedule is going ahead as planed, now as a bittersweet tribute to her.

TCM is the only channel (that I know of) marking the day, and it’s a real treat for film fans to see these movies, some of which are not often screened. The day starts with the 1936 Best Picture winner, and the role or which Luise received her first Oscar, The Great Ziegfeld at 6.00am (EST). There follows Big City, with Spencer Tracy at 9.00am, The Emperor’s Candlesticks (10.30am), her second Oscar winning turn in The Good Earth (12noon), her final picture at MGM, Dramatic School (2.30pm), The Great Waltz (4.00pm), The Toy Wife (5.45pm); the day rounds off with the wonderful 2011 film festival interview with Robert Osborne.

Only a few years ago most of these films were rare, but thanks to Warner Archive we now have most of Luise’s MGM output available to watch at our leisure on DVD. Of especial interest in today’s schedule, aside from the interview, is 1938’s Dramatic School, which still doesn’t have an official DVD release and is rarely shown. It’s a shame as it has much to offer, including a great supporting cast featuring Lana Turner, Paulette Goddard and Gale Sondergaard and a chance to see Luise playing Joan of Arc, which she played on stage hundreds of times. It’s well worth a look.

Notable absences are Escapade (1935), her first MGM film and still mired in rights issues, and her final Hollywood picture, Hostages, made for Paramount in 1943 and also proving elusive. But, despite these two omissions, this is a superb schedule to show off her work, of varying quality, and to remember an actress who made history and walked away.

On board the Ile-de-France…

2015 is a notable year for Luise, being the 80th anniversary both of her move to Hollywood and of her first American film, MGM’s Escapade. 1935 was the year which changed everything for her, in love and in life. Today, 9th January, marks 80 years to the day that Luise boarded the luxury passenger ship Ile-de-France at Le Havre in northern France to head for her new life in the USA. Already a star of the stage in Europe she couldn’t have possibly imagined how her decision to take up the offer of a contract at MGM would change the course of her life. Leaving behind her family, and a continent on the brink of war, she travelled alone, except for her Scottish terrier, Johnny.Ile_de_France_06

The journey took a week and whilst on board Luise celebrated her 25th birthday (12th January 1935). But, she was in good company; the Ile-de-France was a grand liner favoured by rich Americans and Europeans making the journey to New York. The ship had a distinguished career as a passenger ship before ferrying troops during the war and, in a bizarre coincidence, it ended it’s life ignominiously with an appearance in the MGM film, The Last Voyage (1960), where it was partly blown up. In 1999 Luise talked about the trip when she appeared on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs, recalling her dinner date with fellow passengers, Feodor Chaliapin and Mischa Elman. Word had got around the ship that she would be celebrating a birthday whilst on board and when she arrived for dinner she was met with flowers and a menu dedicated to her – “Birthday luncheon for Luise Rainer”. She could hardly believe it, “I am nothing!” she thought, as the great opera singer and violinist serenaded her with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.

A look at the passenger list (below) for that crossing confirms the presence of Luise and Chaliapin amongst bankers, diplomats and industrialists. Luise, whose destination is noted as Culver City, the home of MGM, has her passage paid for by the studio. Luise wasn’t the only notable person on board: playwright John Van Druten, car and speedboat racer Kaye Don, entertainer Eddie Cantor were amongst the passengers and there were also Federal Agents aboard, escorting three witnesses in the Lindbergh Baby trial to New York where they were to testify in the murder trial of Bruno Hauptmann. Security was high at departure and upon arrival, with agents guarding the witnesses on board.Luise_Passenger_Manifest_1 Luise_Passenger_Manifest_2This wasn’t the only drama to take place on the ship. In an episode that Luise rarely ever spoke about: before leaving Germany, and perhaps a deciding factor in her decision to go, Luise had lost her fiance, who was killed unexpectedly in a plane crash. Details of this affair are sketchy, but I believe he was a high-ranking official, a Dutchman who courted her with private flights in his two-seater aeroplane. It was he who flew her to London for her screen test for Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms in 1934 and with whom she fell in love for the very first time. In late 1934 he was killed when his plane came down in Africa; a devastated Luise began a short fling with his brother, confused and in mourning, “I had mixed them up in my mind but they were not at all alike,” she said, in an interview in 2000, one of the very few occasions where she discussed her life before Hollywood. Whilst on board she discovered that she was pregnant with her dead lover’s child and realised at once that she couldn’t have this new life and career and the child. “It was a romantic, idiotic thing! I thought that the child would be like him… it was a young foolishness.” She honestly believed that she wouldn’t be long in Hollywood, that they would realise they had made a terrible mistake in bringing her all that way; there is, perhaps, a sense that Luise would’ve kept the child had her expectations been borne out and she’d returned home to Germany. Luise always intimated that it was her decision not to have the child but it’s not difficult to imagine the reaction of her new bosses at MGM upon discovery that their bright new star was pregnant.

Luise Rainer 1935.1

Luise and Johnny pose for the press upon arrival in New York, January 1935.

She arrived in New York on 14th January 1935, met by a barrage of photographers and MGM officials. Luise Rainer had arrived in America, a star was about to be born and film history was about to be made….