She really has died though we who loved her had begun to wonder if she would. At the age of 104, alert and making appearances and being interviewed until the end, LUISE RAINER is gone, leaving as legacy a handful of incomparable performances, two of them Academy Award winners, in consecutive years. (1935 Bette Davis; 1936 Luise Rainer; 1937 Luise Rainer; 1938 Bette Davis. Over four years two actresses had a monopoly on the best actress award.) She was of limited range but gave startling portrayals of sensitivity and depth. Her work in The Good Earth ranks in this blog’s top-five-of-all-time performances by actresses. I first saw it in a re-release in Mishawaka, Indiana. I sat in the dark among Hoosiers and was drawn totally into the heart and soul of a Chinese peasant by a beautiful young German woman who, the year before this film was made, had played a glamorous stage star. When I finally wrote her a fan letter, many years after her departure from Hollywood, to tell her how much her career had meant to me, she wrote me a lovely note that I treasure.
Luise Rainer is dead. Long live Luise Rainer.
Rick’s Flick’s interrupted its programming to acknowledge the end of Luise Rainer’s career. Please return next week for the promised “Vivien Leigh for Christmas.” I hope to see you then.