Luise made her UK stage debut in 1939 in this light comedy by the French playwright Jacques Deval. The son of a theatre director, Deval had been writing plays since the late 1910s, but was riding high with British theatregoers in the 1930s after the huge success of his romantic comedy Tovarich, starring Cedric Hardwicke and Eugenie Leontovich which had run for over 400 performances at the Lyric between 1935 and 1936. His first play performed in London had been the 1931 production of St. Etienne, and following the success of Tovarich, Noel Coward had produced Mademoiselle in 1936 ( Luise had appeared some years earlier in a German production). Neither of these had come close to the phenomenal success of Tovarich, but his work was still in demand hoping to repeat that winning formula. Thus Behold the Bride became the fourth Deval production to hit the West End. With light comedy and elements of farce, dealing with a marital mix-up and an expectant mother, some critics weren’t kind to it, offering opinions that it was ‘sentimental claptrap’, but others were charmed by the play and the performances; Theatre World magazine included it in their recommendations for the month stating that, “[Luise Rainer’s] gifts for comedy and pathos are unrivalled”. The Spectator called the play ‘inept and inane’ and declared that Luise ‘overacts with the breathless impenitence of a puppy’.
Stanley Parker, writing in Theatre World magazine was effusive with praise:
An immobile Mongolian mask, brought to flickering life by something very near to the divine spark. Tightly drawn parchment skin, lips stained with pomegranate, hair still wet with blue-black ink, and eyes that are never nearer to weeping than when in laughter, to laughter than when in tears.
A marionette, worked by indefinable strings of her own devising, dictated by she alone knows whom.
Does she overact? Assuredly, in a world of clods and cabbages; but in that land one sees reflected in her eyes, that land of extravagance and extraversion, she stands the High Priestess of Restraint.
Let her forsake this delicious tom-foolery at the Shaftesbury, and give us Oscar Wilde’s “Salome,” “Melisande,” or some strange being yet undreamt of. Let her, in a word, have free rein for her wayward genius, and silence her critics once and for all.
Deval was a prolific author, with 40 plays and four novels to his name when he died in 1972. From the 1930s he also wrote numerous screenplays in Hollywood and contributed to many others, mostly uncredited, including some work on Dramatic School. Behold the Bride was first produced in Europe under the title Soubrette, Deval took the play with him when he emigrated to America in 1937 and sold the rights to Paramount Studios who made a film version in 1938, retitled as Say It In French, starring Olympe Bradna as the bride and Ray Milland as her leading man, with the mother-to-be storyline neatly excised. Silent movie star Irene Rich debuted in the American stage version, which was partly based on both the original play and the Paramount movie, now retitled as A Broom for the Bride, in San Francisco in March 1939.