Ford Times, 1946

Magazine Ford Times Feb 1946I’ve been a little quiet with updates since the trip to New York in November, but in the meantime I have been making some cosmetic changes to the site and updating the galleries with a host of new material that has never been published online before. I’ll be publishing most of this in the next few weeks in time for Luise’s 105th birthday on 12th January.

One of the great things about putting together an archive of Luise’s life and work is that, although she left MGM in 1939 she didn’t stop working. There’s a wealth of information and material out there relating to her post-MGM years, much of which is unknown and I’m slowly piecing together these ‘missing years’. Even after collecting and researching for over 15 years I am still discovering new material, fascinating side-stories and associations.

A recent find was this 1946 issue of Ford Times magazine, a copy of which was sentscan0008 to all employees of the Ford Motor Company. This edition belonged to Mr. S. E. Schaeffler of Toppenish, WA and bears the original handwritten address and postage stamp. Luise graces the front cover and although there is no accompanying article inside, this is an image I have not seen previously; the photo credit, which could be insignificant, also tantalises with a mention of a Detroit theatre engagement – currently I know of only one such appearance in Luise’s career, for a tour performance of Maxwell Anderson’s Joan of Lorraine, however I have that dated to 1947, so some more investigation is required to clarify what production and where Luise was appearing at this time. It’s also interesting to note that, for the first time in my research, Luise is named as ‘Mrs. Robert Knittel’ an indication of her husband’s own status (and a nod to the male readership of this particular magazine, no doubt).

scan0005Luise isn’t the only Oscar winner to appear in this issue. There’s a cute pictorial section featuring ventriloquist Edgar Bergen fooling around in a Ford with his ‘partner’ Charlie McCarthy (left). In 1938 Bergen received a special Oscar at the same ceremony, in the Biltmore Bowl of the Biltmore Hotel, that Luise received her second. His, uniquely, was made out of wood to celebrate “his outstanding comedy creation, Charlie McCarthy”. Also of interest to cinephiles is a section on set with the sound men of Disney studios (below), featuring some great backstage photos of the guys at work creating otherworldly sounds to accompany Disney’s on screen characters. None of the technicians are named but these are some fantastic rare images of them at work.

One of the joys of researching and collecting pieces like this is that you uncover some real gems in the most unlikely places. Whilst film magazines or newspapers are an obvious and unbeatable source of information and interest, Luise turns up in the most unexpected places too…. the cover of a car manufacturer’s in-house magazine is a perfect example.

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Luise Rainer: recording artist?

One of the fun facts about Luise (and there are SO many), is that her first Oscar win, in 1937, was the first time any actor had won The Great Ziegfeld CDan Oscar for a musical performance. The feat still isn’t that common and the next time anyone would do so was James Cagney who won for Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1943.

Luise only made eight films for MGM in the 1930s but she managed to squeeze in quite a few genres in this short time, including two musicals: The Great Ziegfeld and The Great Waltz. In the latter picture Luise didn’t perform any musical numbers (that duty fell to her co-star Miliza Korjus, who was Oscar nominated for her role). But, in MGM’s bloated Ziegfeld bio-epic, Luise performs two numbers (plus a short burst of one in rehearsal). Alongside Luise there are performances by Budd Doyle, Dennis Morgan, Ray Bolger, Virginia Bruce and the legendary Fanny Brice (later to be immortalised on screen in another Oscar winning turn, by Barbra Streisand in 1968’s Funny Girl). These performances have been recorded for posterity and have been available over the years on various formats on The Great Ziegfeld soundtrack, from vinyl LP to CD.

 

Famous Record Series ABut Luise did have her own record out once…. in 1936 the Famous Record Company of New York released what could be considered her one and only single. As part of their ‘Five Great Stars’ series they released this one-sided 78rpm picture disc which features a melodramatic intro by radio announcer Del Sharbutt, followed, not by one of her musical numbers but by the heart-breaking telephone scene which made her name and for which many attribute her Oscar success. It’s a real novelty record, and fascinating to think that you could take this home and relive this scene over and over on your Gramophone. The scene was so famous that Luise reprised it a number of times, on the radio and also ‘in concert’ at charity events.

From a single-sided, 78 year old, 8″ cardboard disc to this: today, I discovered that Luise Rainer is now available on Spotify. It’s marvellous to consider this for a moment, that Luise singing Won’t You Come and Play With Me is now available to stream digitally, in her lifetime. The Great Ziegfeld album includes this, plus her other musical presentation, It’s Delightful To be Married (with spoken interruption from audience members as seen in the film), plus some other dialogue with Fanny Brice and William Powell. The quality is not digital, but I find that makes it all the more enchanting. The other records in the series were Franchot Tone doing the “England, My England” speech from Lives of a Bengal Lancer, John Barrymore’s rendition of Hamlet‘s “to be or not to be”, comedienne Ilka Chase and comedian Joe E. Brown.

No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Love

LR CLIFFORD ODETS 1

I’ve just added this article to the site, fully transcribed from a 1939 edition of Movie Mirror magazine. It is an insightful piece, written by Sonia Lee, and featuring candid extracts from an interview with Luise where she talks about her relationship with Clifford Odets, their separation and eventual reconciliation. It is one of the last interviews she gave as an MGM contract star:

The private life of Luise Rainer has been singularly her own.
     Luise Rainer, the actress, has been widely publicized. But the warm, mercurial Rainer, the woman, has remained a mystery. The crisp announcements of her marriage to Clifford Odets, the playwright; later her surprise separation from him, and more recently her dramatic reconciliation, have been the only intrinsically personal items recorded about her.
     No one, until now,  has been permitted a glimpse into her heart, into her personality, into her character. Yet the key to the things she does is in the things she is!
     To some extent, this reticence has been in the interest of the fable that Luise Rainer was a shy, frightened, lonely, isolation-seeking girl – wholly absorbed in the roles she played; too preoccupied with the business of being an actress to have time to be a woman.
     She has remained hidden, a mystery-personality, holding inviolate the secret processes of her thoughts, her emotions, her beliefs. As a result, she has been misunderstood, branded “difficult,” because no one has taken the time to search for the hidden Rainer and to disclose her completely. The conjectures, the fables, the myths about her are not by half as interesting as the truth!
     It was shortly before her departure on a six months’ absence from Hollywood that we talked at length in her studio dressing room. “Dramatic School,” her final picture until next May, was in its closing scenes. She was keenly anticipating her release from studio routine, and her reunion with Clifford Odets, to whom she had been so unexpectedly reconciled during her flying trip to New York the week before.
     Rainer is vital, emotional, human as she speaks of the past and considers her future. her incredible black eyes, which dominate her elfin face, are witness to the sincerity of her words.
     By virtue of her super-charged intensity, which she tries to mask,she has the rare ability to dominate her immediate environment – whether it be a colossal set or a roomful of people. And yet, she isn’t drowned in her own emotions. She is objective and ruthlessly honest with herself. Which is a strange, even a bewildering quality in a woman.
     She has a passionate desire to live fully., completely – and permits neither temporary disillusion nor grave hurts to distort her horizons or limit her vision.
     First and vitally, Luise Rainer is a romantic. Achievement alone is not enough for her. She must have love in her life – vivid emotion to give point and purpose to her ambitions.
     “The real genius of woman,” Luise points out, “is in her ability to love fully, completely and unselfishly.”[……continued]