No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Love

LR CLIFFORD ODETS 1

I’ve just added this article to the site, fully transcribed from a 1939 edition of Movie Mirror magazine. It is an insightful piece, written by Sonia Lee, and featuring candid extracts from an interview with Luise where she talks about her relationship with Clifford Odets, their separation and eventual reconciliation. It is one of the last interviews she gave as an MGM contract star:

The private life of Luise Rainer has been singularly her own.
     Luise Rainer, the actress, has been widely publicized. But the warm, mercurial Rainer, the woman, has remained a mystery. The crisp announcements of her marriage to Clifford Odets, the playwright; later her surprise separation from him, and more recently her dramatic reconciliation, have been the only intrinsically personal items recorded about her.
     No one, until now,  has been permitted a glimpse into her heart, into her personality, into her character. Yet the key to the things she does is in the things she is!
     To some extent, this reticence has been in the interest of the fable that Luise Rainer was a shy, frightened, lonely, isolation-seeking girl – wholly absorbed in the roles she played; too preoccupied with the business of being an actress to have time to be a woman.
     She has remained hidden, a mystery-personality, holding inviolate the secret processes of her thoughts, her emotions, her beliefs. As a result, she has been misunderstood, branded “difficult,” because no one has taken the time to search for the hidden Rainer and to disclose her completely. The conjectures, the fables, the myths about her are not by half as interesting as the truth!
     It was shortly before her departure on a six months’ absence from Hollywood that we talked at length in her studio dressing room. “Dramatic School,” her final picture until next May, was in its closing scenes. She was keenly anticipating her release from studio routine, and her reunion with Clifford Odets, to whom she had been so unexpectedly reconciled during her flying trip to New York the week before.
     Rainer is vital, emotional, human as she speaks of the past and considers her future. her incredible black eyes, which dominate her elfin face, are witness to the sincerity of her words.
     By virtue of her super-charged intensity, which she tries to mask,she has the rare ability to dominate her immediate environment – whether it be a colossal set or a roomful of people. And yet, she isn’t drowned in her own emotions. She is objective and ruthlessly honest with herself. Which is a strange, even a bewildering quality in a woman.
     She has a passionate desire to live fully., completely – and permits neither temporary disillusion nor grave hurts to distort her horizons or limit her vision.
     First and vitally, Luise Rainer is a romantic. Achievement alone is not enough for her. She must have love in her life – vivid emotion to give point and purpose to her ambitions.
     “The real genius of woman,” Luise points out, “is in her ability to love fully, completely and unselfishly.”[……continued]

Luise Rainer’s unknown Oscar dresses…

ImageDoing the rounds now for a week or so, this fantastic infographic shows the dresses worn by all the winners of the Best Actress Oscar since Janet Gaynor in 1929 (except those who didn’t attend the awards ceremony). Produced by Mediarun Digital, it has now been updated with the Armani Privé worn by Cate Blanchett on Sunday night. Many of the designers of the earlier dresses remain unknown, however, Shrimpton Couture have improved on the original with a fantastic run-down of the dresses, accompanied by photos of the actresses at the Oscars, filling in a few of those ‘unknown’ blanks too.

Luise is included twice, of course, and since the artwork appeared I’ve been asked several times if I know who the designers of Luise’s dresses were. unfortunately I don’t, but I do a little background to both outfits.

ImageLuise won her first Oscar on 4th March 1937 (it’s the 77th anniversary as I write this post). Only two months before, she had married the playwright Clifford Odets at her home on Cliffwood Avenue in Los Angeles. His wedding gift to his new wife was a floor length white ermine coat, and it is this, I believe, that Luise was wearing when she collected her first Academy Award.

ImageThe following year was a little more unconventional. Luise and Clifford had been apart for some time, he working in New York while she was filming The Toy Wife in California. On the day of the Oscar ceremony (10th March 1938) Luise drove Clifford to San Francisco for a day of sight-seeing and to spend time together away from both their work. Although Luise was nominated for her part in The Good Earth she didn’t intend to attend the Academy Awards and she didn’t expect to win. On their way back to Los Angeles they stopped in Santa Barbara from where Luise made a call home; she was astonished to find that the press had been calling all afternoon and not only was she favourite to take home her second Oscar, she was also expected to be there to do so. Odets, who always considered the giving of awards a vulgar affair (and was especially jealous if Luise received high praise), suggested they skip the whole thing, but Luise knew she could not. They raced back to what Luise has since described as a “weird nightmare of an evening”. She was upset and miserable and didn’t want Clifford to accompany her. “Why, if he thought it was so ‘nothing’, should he share this triumph with me!” But he insisted and so, wearing her jeans and sneakers, she quickly chose the nicest (and most convenient) dress in her wardrobe – it was in fact a nightgown.

Luise did attend, after a blazing row and the need to walk around the Biltmore Hotel several times in the rain as she was in tears. She made history and, in her nightgown, she looked stunning. But she recalled, “I made my thank-you speech. I smiled for the countless cameras and reporters. Here I was at dizzying heights, admired and envied: I was as low as I had ever been in my life. I did what I had to do mechanically, I hardly realised I had got the award.”

Oscars 2014 – Jennifer Lawrence vs Luise Rainer

So tonight we’ll see the 86th gathering of the lauded and beloved of Hollywood (with a few concessions to to the film world outside of that hallowed clique) at the Academy Awards. Although now just as interesting for the spectacle as the actual awards, the biggest night in the film calendar has, ironically, become one of the greatest pieces of theatre – from the traipse along the red carpet, to the after-show party, tonight is all about showing off.

It was ever so; back in 1937, when Luise Rainer won her first Academy Award, the ‘ceremony’ was only eight years old and took place at the Biltmore Hotel where a banquet was held while the awards were presented by George Jessel. By this time the Oscars were already considered the highest mark of achievement in the film world. But not for everyone. When Luise Rainer was first nominated for an Oscar she confessed to never having heard of it and didn’t understand the significance. This disinterest was only stoked by her new husband, the playwright Clifford Odets, who felt that the studios were artistically worthless and the handing out of awards a vulgarity. Luise agreed, in part, and the two were both craving the artistic ‘legitimacy’ of the stage. Odets was particularly enraged at his wife’s burgeoning stardom, especially the possibility that her achievements may outshine his own; when the press referred to him as ‘Mr. Rainer’ he was enraged, and they appeared to enjoy putting him in his place, taunting him for accepting “capitalist gold” for his “communist ideas”. But Luise agreed with Clifford; she too found herself stifled in the ‘circus’ at MGM, and within two years she had walked out of her contract but by then her marriage had irretrievably broken down. She won her second Academy Award in 1938 and says that, “for my second and third pictures I won Academy Awards. Nothing worse could have happened to me.” With his, and her subsequent abandonment of her career, she became the first victim of the ‘Oscar curse’, but Luise says that, “the real curse is that once you have an Oscar they think you can do anything.”

Over the years she has learned to embrace the Oscars and what they mean to her; one of her original statuettes has been replaced by the Academy (it simply ‘died of fatigue and keeled over’ – she had been using it as a door-stop for many years). The Oscars now stand on her bookcase, proudly.

jennifer LawrenceAs the first performer to win in consecutive years, Luise assured her place in the history books, but she also holds a number of other Oscar records. At the age of 104 can claim several longevity records: she is now the oldest Oscar winner who ever lived and she has had her awards longer than any else (77 years). She is also  the only surviving winner from the 1930s (Mickey Rooney was awarded an honorary juvenile award in 1939, but was not in competition). We need to jump forward almost ten years, to 1947, to find the next earliest surviving winner: Olivia de Havilland. These records may never be beaten, however, one achievement may be about to fall. When Luise won her second Oscar she was 28 years old, making her the youngest two-time winner in the history of the Academy Awards. The closest anyone has come to beating this record was in 1992 when a 29 year old Jodie Foster claimed her second Oscar, for The Silence of the Lambs (after 1989’s win for The Accused). Tonight, Jennifer Lawrence (23) is in the running for her third Oscar if she takes the prize Luise’s 77 year old record will have fallen (Lawrence will also join Luise and Katharine Hepburn as the only actresses to win in consecutive years).

Here at luiserainer.net we’re conflicted about the news, but let’s see what happens on the night…