Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Luise Rainer centenary

Today marks the 100th birthday of two-time Oscar winner Luise Rainer. She quit the movie business in the late 1930s, so there aren't too many of her movies to show, but TCM is showing quite a few of them this afternoon and evening, starting with her first Oscar performance, in The Great Ziegfeld, at 4:50 PM ET. The second Oscar came for The Good Earth, which is on at 10:00 PM. In between, at 8:00 PM, is The Great Waltz.

The Great Waltz is a highly fictionalized account of the life of the famous Viennese "Waltz King" Johann Strauss Jr., played here by Ferdinand Gravet. Birthday girl Rainer plays the wife, a woman who is suffering because her husband is cheating on her with opera singer Miliza Korjus. Korjus was an opera singer in real life, which meant that she had to have some acting ability, since opera isn't just about the singing. So, Louis B. Mayer brought her to Hollywood to star in this movie since they needed somebody who could sing, and she does a pretty good job with both the singing and the acting.

And that singing -- or the music in general -- is the real reason to watch this movie. The Great Waltz is a pretty formulaic Hollywood story, of the sort that we've seen a dozen times before in slightly different variations. Johann Strauss Jr., however, didn't get as much attention from Hollywood, despite the fact that his music is memorable and melodious enough that we can all hum along, just like the popular songs that were dotting the regular movie musicals of the day.

Unfortunately, The Great Waltz seems not to have made its way to DVD yet.

1 comment:

Kate Webb said...

My centenary tribute, 'Hollywood on Thames: Luise Rainer, 100' is at http://katewebb.wordpress.com/
Cheers, Kate