A Gift for the Bride is a play with music by the Hungarian writers Andrew Solt and Stefan Bekeffi, adapted and directed by Rowland Leigh. The plot centres around a young bride who finds herself misunderstood by her husband on her wedding night; she goes out into the streets of Paris to seek justification and endures a series of bizarre encounters and characters, one of whom is a young man who convinces her that she has married the wrong man. Not a musical as such, the play did feature four songs – Charm, All the Time and Home from Home (with lyrics by the director and music by Jean Schwartz), and See You In The Morning (music and lyrics by Jay Rogers). The three songs by Leigh and Schwartz had previously appeared in the short-lived 1943 musical comedy Cocktails at 5. Although little is known about the play there was a production at the Vienna People’s Theatre in 1947 of a Solt / Bekeffi play called Es gibt kleine Zufälle (There are no Coincidences), which may be the original version; that starred Magda Schneider, André Mattoni and Benno Smytt.
The following interview was first published in the souvenir programme to accompany the play. Although it covers familiar ground and is intended to give the play’s audience a reintroduction to their star performer it is also interesting for Luise’s views on acting after the war, when she appears to have been changed by the experience with the realisation that her fame can be used for influence. The programme also features images from her most famous film roles, and the cover is one photograph of Luise, with no text.
An Interview with Luise Rainer
Luise Rainer is the only actress who ever threw Hollywood for a ninety yard loss. It was an achievement without triumph for the young performer didn’t know her “no” was loaded. Miss Rainer walked out of the film capital at the height of her renown [sic] and is only now returning to acting. She is making her first American stage tour in “A Gift For The Bride” which Jules J. Leventhal is presenting in association with the Messrs. Shubert.
Luise Rainer has the distinction of being the only actress who won the Motion Picture Academy Award for the outstanding performance in two successive years. In 1937, she carried off the palm for her performance in “The Great Ziegfeld”. The following year she repeated for her work in “The Good Earth.” At this dramatic moment, she decided to say goodbye to Hollywood and left precipitously. Her going and the manner of her leaving proved to be front page news.
“Ingratitude”, the Hollywood moguls shouted, feeling that the actress was running away just when she had become worth more than her weight in gold.
“It was not ingratitude”, Miss Rainer insists, “I was too young. I wasn’t prepared for so great a success. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have remained in Hollywood, if not happily at least content.”
Luise Rainer, born in Vienna¹, received her early training under such masters of stagecraft as Max Reinhardt.
Her first European performance was a triumph and it was not long before American film company scouts were offering her fabulous sums for her signature to a contract. She finally signed a piece of paper with a MGM seal.
“I never expected to be a motion picture actress,” she admitted. “I had never acted before a camera²; I was sure that I would be a failure. I signed the contract looking forward to a short vacation in America. It was a six month contract with a renewal clause, but I was sure that it would not be renewed. What would they want with me when they had so many beautiful and capable motion picture performers?”
Unfortunately for her plans her first picture, “Escapade”, was liked and the second, “The Great Ziegfeld”, was a prize winner. She was acclaimed by the New York Film Critics’ Circle, and won the Foreign Press Award as well as the Motion Picture Academy covered [sic] statue. The studio made haste to pick up all her options. When she repeated her triumph in “The Good Earth” she was hailed as a cinematic wonder. It was more than she could take.
Hollywood told her she was wonderful. They tried to make her believe that she was doing the most wonderful things in the world. Luise Rainer felt that she knew better.
“I was acting as best I knew how,” she confides. “It may have been good; I knew it was not wonderful. There was too much I had still to learn about acting. I was too young. There was so much I had still to learn about life before I could become a great actress. When Hollywood attempted to convince me that I was already great it was more than I could take. I ran away.”
By the time “The Good Earth” received its high honors, Miss Rainer had completed “The Emperor’s Candlesticks,” “Big City,” “The Toy Wife,” “The Great Waltz” and “Dramatic School.” There had been too many pictures, too many roles in which she felt that she was going through the motions without bringing something vital to the part. To retain the proper prospective [sic], to keep her balance, she felt she had to get away.So, she ran.
Today, she feels much differently about Hollywood. It took a war to make her realize the influence of motion pictures. Going to Hollywood as a stage actress, she had felt that the importance which the film capital placed on its activity was over rated. However, during the war, in which she exhausted her energies in attempting to help the homeless and parentless children of Europe, she found that her standing as a motion picture star was of incalculable aid. Luise Rainer, the actress, opened doors and received help where Luise Rainer, the humanitarian, would have failed.
“People were anxious to repay me for the pleasure I had brought them in my screen roles. I had not realized how much the screen meant to amusement hungry people.”
So Luise Rainer has returned to acting. She has chosen for her vehicle a romantic and amusing comedy.
“People now need laughter and gaiety,” she explains, “and I would like to help bring it to them with ‘A Gift for the Bride.’ Like a child returning to its mother’s lap. I am going back to the stage which was my early training. Next, however, I may make several pictures before playing another stage role.”
¹ Yet another example of the mistake in Luise’s birthplace, but further proof that the MGM publicity machine had done a superb job in changing her from a German to an Austrian
² Luise has consistently ignored her Austrian films made prior to Hollywood, preferring to refer to Escapade as her first film
Jules J. Levental
in association with the Messrs. Shubert presents
A Gift for the Bride
A Play with Music
by Andrew Solt & S. Bekeffi
Adapted and directed by Rowland Leigh
Settings by Watson Barrett
Music by Jean Schwartz
Lyrics by Rowland Leigh
“I’ll See You In The Morning” Words and Music by Jay Rogers
(in order of appearance)
Roy Johnson as the Head Waiter