Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Luise Rainer (1910-2014)

Rainer was the first person to win Academy Awards for acting in two consecutive years. She did this nearly 80 years ago. One of many highly-touted imports from Europe in the 1930s, she repaid Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's investment with prestige if not popularity, earning Oscars for The Great Ziegfeld in 1936 and The Good Earth (in yellowface, albeit in black & white) in 1937. The second Oscar was the peak of her career. By 1940 she was through. It was a case, she claimed, of artistic incompatibility with Hollywood. She continued to work sporadically into the 1990s. Eventually her tremendous longevity underscored her trivial level of fame. At age 100 she basked in acclaim at a TCM film festival, but was her work or her mere endurance applauded? She was a star briefly, but never a legend, for what that's worth. But she was the earliest surviving winner of an acting Oscar at the time of her death. That honor now goes to 98 year old Olivia de Havilland (for 1946's To Each His Own and 1949's The Heiress) who is now just about the last survivor of Rainer's peers from 1930s Hollywood. Rainer's death at the end of a year that saw the passing of that decade's greatest child stars virtually relegates a generation of classic film to a more distant plataeu of history.

No comments: