Today, 12th January 2015, Luise Rainer would’ve turned 105 years of age. TCM, the classic film channel, had already planned to celebrate the birthday with seven of Luise’s MGM films in succession and the schedule is going ahead as planed, now as a bittersweet tribute to her.
TCM is the only channel (that I know of) marking the day, and it’s a real treat for film fans to see these movies, some of which are not often screened. The day starts with the 1936 Best Picture winner, and the role or which Luise received her first Oscar, The Great Ziegfeld at 6.00am (EST). There follows Big City, with Spencer Tracy at 9.00am, The Emperor’s Candlesticks (10.30am), her second Oscar winning turn in The Good Earth (12noon), her final picture at MGM, Dramatic School (2.30pm), The Great Waltz (4.00pm), The Toy Wife (5.45pm); the day rounds off with the wonderful 2011 film festival interview with Robert Osborne.
Only a few years ago most of these films were rare, but thanks to Warner Archive we now have most of Luise’s MGM output available to watch at our leisure on DVD. Of especial interest in today’s schedule, aside from the interview, is 1938’s Dramatic School, which still doesn’t have an official DVD release and is rarely shown. It’s a shame as it has much to offer, including a great supporting cast featuring Lana Turner, Paulette Goddard and Gale Sondergaard and a chance to see Luise playing Joan of Arc, which she played on stage hundreds of times. It’s well worth a look.
Notable absences are Escapade (1935), her first MGM film and still mired in rights issues, and her final Hollywood picture, Hostages, made for Paramount in 1943 and also proving elusive. But, despite these two omissions, this is a superb schedule to show off her work, of varying quality, and to remember an actress who made history and walked away.