Luise Rainer’s may be defined by her two Oscar winning film roles and her subsequent films at MGM in the 1930s, but, during the 1940s and 1950s she played perhaps her most significant parts on stage and television.
One of these is as the lead in this televised adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s play Rosalind. Broadcast on 9 October 1950 as part of the the Lux Video Theatre series of single dramas by CBS the play is quite forgotten but the role is an interesting one. Barrie’s play, first published in 1914, centres around a middle-aged actress with a much younger alter ego whom she uses to regale her adoring male fans. Whilst escaping from her frenetic London life in a boarding house, the real 40 year old Mrs Page is visited by one of her young amours, who believes her to be the mother of the object of his affections. Her dilemma whether to keep up the facade is further strained by a telegram offering her alter ego the role of ‘Rosalind’ in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
The play covers similar themes to Barrie’s most famous work, Peter Pan, especially those of authenticity, vulnerability and the ideas of reality. The actress, ‘Mrs. Page’ creates for herself a younger second self, one whom she feels is more her real self. Throughout the play she reveals her secrets and removes her masks, from a coquettish girl to a mature woman. It is no coincidence that Barrie wrote the play shortly after his divorce from the actress Mary Ansell who had, over the years, shaved some numbers off her age, something which Luise herself (and many others) felt necessary to avoid losing parts.
The role calls for someone who can, first of all, play across the age range and one can imagine Luise managed this with ease. She was 40 years old when she played the part but her beauty, her youthful expressiveness and wide eyes could easily convince she was much younger. More than outward appearances, however, the role calls for someone with the self-awareness to transition from the exuberance of her alter ego to an actress clinging to a past version of herself.
This was Luise’s second stab at a Barrie play; she had played ‘Miss Thing’ on stage in the Broadway production of A Kiss For Cinderella in 1942.
Producer: Cal Kuhl
Director: Larry Goldwasser
From the play by J. M. Barrie
Musical Director: Wladimir Selinsky
Casting: Harold Loeb
Cast: Luise Rainer (Mrs Page), Eddie Kramer (Messenger), Kate Tomlinson (Dame Quickly), David Wainwright (Charles Roche), Jay Jackson (Announcer)