During Luise’s heyday at MGM her name was attached to numerous productions, from Gone With The Wind (pie in the sky) to For Whom The Bell Tolls (more likely). Luise’s connections to many of these films were little more than gossip, some were never made at all and others made it to the screen with a different leading lady. The Bride Wore Red is one such film and is an example of Luise’s willingness to leave projects that she didn’t care for.
Adapted from an unproduced play by Ferenc Molnár (original title: The Bride from Trieste), The Bride Wore Red was directed by Dorothy Arzner, at the time the only female director in the USA. This is a tantalising pairing, Arzner and Luise sharing similar views about the synthetic fakery of Hollywood and the vacuity of the industry. As with most of the films which Luise didn’t make, the reasons for her departure aren’t clear. The studio line was always that she was dropped, perpetuating the myth of the ‘difficult’ diva. It was around this time that the press began to dissect the details of Luise’s fractious relationship with her husband, Clifford Odets, finding a tempestuousness that fuelled the diva caricature. What’s certain is that Molnár’s original story was watered down to appeal to a mass audience – the lead role was a prostitute seeking a new life and finding that the ‘respectable’ classes to which she aspired were as desperate and hypocritical as everyone else. In the new version she becomes a singer desperate for wealth and fame, who falls for a simple postal clerk. It becomes a light romantic comedy starring celebrity couple Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone.
In the January 1938 edition of Screen Book magazine there appears a short paragraph in the Filmland Whispers section relating to the film:
“Hollywood is watching the Luise Rainer situation with keen interest. It is no secret that the whimsical Luise has from time to time been a bit of a problem. Her refusal to do retakes on Big City cost her the role of Girl from Trieste. Then she took off for New York, where she furnished a Greenwich Village apartment for Hubby Clifford Odets. When she slipped quietly back into Hollywood to talk over future plans with her bosses, Luise discovered Hedy La Marr and Ilona Massey, two foreign importations, were being groomed for all the big roles in forthcoming productions.”
This short paragraph is a clear indication of the version of Luise being fed to the public. What is more likely is that the rewrites on the script for The Bride Wore Red didn’t chime with Luise’s desire to play more ‘important’ and dramatic roles. She left the production of her own accord, and although the film was completed Arzner herself was unhappy with the changes and did not regard it among her favourites of her own films.