Night of Stars (1939)
The Night of Stars was a marathon of entertainment that took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden on 15th November 1939. The event was held to benefit the United Palestine Appeal refugee effort and aid the settlement of Jews in Palestine. The evening began early and continued into the early hours with a host of stars from stage, screen, radio and music. I have been unable to pinpoint Luise’s exact contribution, although the article below, taken from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper the following day, indicates that she gave a speech, although whether this was a dramatic excerpt isn’t clear:
Night of Stars Fills Madison Sq. Garden
– Annual Benefit for Palestine Brings Out Prominent Players, by Arthur Pollock
Madison Square Garden was crowded last evening to aid the settlement of Jews in Palestine, crowded with spectators, crowded with stars from all sorts of stages, movie studios and air lanes. It was the annual “Night of Stars”. Mayor LaGuardia was there, not only making a speech put putting on an act, giving an imitation of a master of ceremonies which included something like dancing, singing and cheer-leading. He was livelier than even Jimmy Walker used to be. Robert Taylor came with Barbara Stanwyck on his arm to make a graceful little speech, a great improvement on the work of a good many men who make their living with speeches. And Luise Rainer had something sincere to say and said it movingly.
They were only a few, of course, for “Night of Stars” is a show that goes on almost forever once it starts, there are so many entertainers ready to help the United Palestine Appeal. Jascha Heifetz, for instance, whom the Mayor introduced. He cancelled his concert at Carnegie Hall last night to play at Madison Square Garden. Jay C. Flippen, most active of the masters of ceremonies, who said the Mayor’s little vaudeville act was no acting at all, merely a sample of what goes on at City Council meetings, had to go farther and correct Mr. LaGuardia, who forgot to mention that Mr. Heifetz’ concert would take place after all on Dec. 6. Jimmy Walker came himself, making a team with George Jessel, who sang a song Mr. Walker has just written, not a very good one. Each said the other was a wonderful friend. Abbott and Costelloe were funnier, doing some of their most amusing stuff from “The Streets of Paris.” Benny Goodman dropped around with his orchestra to play amazingly, Henny Youngman told quick jokes. So did Bert Wheeler. Naturally Harry Hershfield, one of the neatest of masters of ceremonies, did his share.
These are only a few of those who streamed across the stage. They were the early-evening folk. It was’t till after 11 that things really began to warm up. The theaters were getting out then and the program had places for such luminaries as Olsen and Johnson, Tallulah Bankhead, Simone Simon, Louis Armstrong, Carmen Miranda, Willie Howard and the other featured players from George White’s “Scandals,” Monty Woolley, Maxine Sullivan, Martha Raye, Eleanor Holm, Ben Blue, Dixie Dunbar, Buddy Ebsen, Judy Canova, from “Yokel Boy”; Jimmy Durante, Lou Gehrig, Mitzi Green, Paul Draper, Joan Blondell, Ben Bernie, Irving Berlin, Jim Barton, Lew Lehr, Dick Powell, Lanny Ross and almost any one else you can think of.
It was a big evening. “Night of Stars” always is. One is like another, but they are all very big.