Luise Rainer, a Hollywood star few remember today, fled Nazi Germany for Hollywood and soared to fame in the 1930s as the first star to win back-to-back Oscars. She just died in London at the ripe old age of 104. Rainer left Hollywood after fighting with Louis B. Mayer and other studio heads and lived the rest of her long, interesting lfe in London and Geneva, where she studied medicine, aided orphaned refugees of the Spanish Civil War, appeared at war bond rallies in the United States and entertained Allied troops in North Africa and Italy during WW2. After that she painted and wrote – and also rather frequently climbed mountains for the sport of it. But her exchange with the notoriously nasty Louis B. Mayer, posted below, is perhaps the classic takedown of the studio chief and a surprising nod to religion.
Above: Luise Rainer and William Powell in The Great Ziegfeld
The New York Times reports:
Luise Rainer, who left Nazi Germany for Hollywood and soared to fame in the 1930s as the first star to win back-to-back Oscars, then quit films at the peak of her career for occasional stage work and roles as a wife, mother and mountain climber, died on Tuesday at her home in London. She was 104. The cause was pneumonia, Ms. Rainer’s daughter, Francesca Knittel Bowyer, said.
Ms. Rainer was a child of middle-class Jews in Düsseldorf and Hamburg during World War I and came of age in a new Germany of depression, starvation and revolution.…
“I was one of the horses of the Louis B. Mayer stable, and I thought the films I was given after my Academy Awards were not worthy,” she said. “I couldn’t stand it anymore. Like a fire, it went to Louis B. Mayer, and I was called to him. He said, ‘We made you, and we are going to kill you.’
“And I said: ‘Mr. Mayer, you did not make me. God made me. I am now in my 20s. You are an old man,’ which of course was an insult. ‘By the time I am 40 you will be dead.’ ”
She was not quite right. She was 47 when he died. But she outlived him by more than a half-century.