Your RDA of Irony

Jeopardy Loses Major Answer

Luise Rainer has died.  She was 104, her lifespan lasting fifty times longer than her film career.

She had the distinction of winning consecutive Oscars for best actress of 1936 and 1937.  Given her limited range–she basically chirped rather than acted–her talent did not justify the awards.  Nor were her victories  due to her looks.  Miss Rainer was quite cute but if the Hollywood moguls had been so infatuated with nice-looking Jewish girls, they would have married some.  Perhaps the studios were simply trying to rebel against the tyranny of Bette Davis (For you younger readers, Miss Davis had Meryl Streep’s talent but Mussolini’s disposition.)  Miss Rainer’s specialty was her ability to smile while crying.  This earned her the epithet “the Viennese Teardrop” although she actually was from Dusseldorf.

The public quickly tired of her–and she has been relegated to trivia for more than sixty years. I do pity her if only because she was married to Clifford Odets. I wonder if he was as bombastic at breakfast as he was in his writing.

“Hear the glory of the cornflakes, children of the earth, the gifts of honest toil…”

She probably wondered if she should have stayed in Germany and taken her chances with Hitler.

Miss Rainer won one of her Academy Awards in the most ludicrously cast film in history: “The Good Earth.” If you recall–and what a waste of your synapses if you do–the Japanese complained about the Chinese actresses in “Memoirs of a Geisha.” When “The Good Earth” premiered, the Chinese were somewhat preoccupied being annihilated by the Japanese. But imagine how the Chinese might have reacted to being portrayed by Paul Muni, Luise Rainer and Walter Connolly….

Wang Muni: Do you know that it is impossible to hold a bagel with chopsticks? No wonder this country has famines!

Olan Rainer: Dahling. Vould you mind putting the nightsoil on the crops? I just did mein nails.

Uncle Connolly: Top of the morning to ya! Now I want you to be remembering to vote for Tammany Tong.

No doubt, Turner Classic Movies will show it. You are free to watch, but I did warn you.

p.s.  Regarding the Hollywood moguls, in fact their first wives usually were Jewish.

  1. Stephen Katz says:

    Now, Olivia de Havilland. That’s another thing altogether. First wives Jewish? I wonder.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Welcome Steve.

      The first wife rule certainly applied to Goldwyn and Mayer. (Metro never married). B.P. Schulberg–of Paramount–also had two wives: Ada and Helena. Guess which one was the first? David O. Selnick’s first wife was the daughter of Louis B. Mayer. Irving Thalberg compromised–his only wife was Norma Shearer but she did convert.

      I wasn’t sure of Jack Warner’s marital record so I just looked it up. His first wife was Irma Solomons and his second wife was Anne Page. I guess that I won’t be making any retractions there.


  2. Leah says:

    I just saw the first third or so of “The Great Ziegfeld”. Actually, I think she wasn’t so bad; Rainer does a good job of conveying both the charming and the annoyingly neurotic behavior of Held; it doesn’t matter if it’s historically accurate, but in the context of the movie it’s clear why he marries her and clear why he strays from her. It was not a sympathetic part but she managed to make it so, which is probably why she got her Oscar. She was up against people who probably deserved it more, though.

    My (wasted) memory is that the Chinese objected much more than the Japanese to having the perfidious Japanese portrayed sympathetically by descendants of those against whom they committed so many war crimes. However, even more idiotic: Katharine Hepburn, Walter Huston, and Aline McMahon in Dragonseed.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Honorable Le-Ah,

      “Dragonseed” is so bad that it is actually funny. Katherine Hepburn was the only Chinese peasant with a Bryn Mawr accent.

      Yu Jin

  3. Rafferty Barnes says:

    So, who is the worst actress ever to win one Oscar?

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      That is an excellent question. Elizabeth Taylor is a dreadful actress; however, she is not the answer to your question because she has won two Oscars. Her performance in “Butterfield 8” was a joke. Ironically, she was very good in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” but I am not sure if she was portraying a blowsy vulgarian or just being herself.

      Jessica Lange is a very limited actress and I thought she was absurd in the pretentious trifle “Blue Sky.” I suppose that would be my answer to your question. If I may venture into a tangent–and who is going to stop me–I will offer my nomination for the most undeserved Oscar for best actress.

      Ginger Rogers was quite talented and she certainly was earnest in her performance as “Kitty Foyle”. But considering her competition that year–Katherine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story”, Bette Davis in “The Letter” and Joan Fontaine in “Rebecca”–Miss Rogers’ victory was one of the most inexplicable and unwarranted in the saga of the Oscars.


  4. kathy says:

    well, my favorite movie is “to kill a mockingbird” and those who played in it
    i prefer live stage v movies …fav is “the merchant of venice”
    1951 movie version of scrooge w alister sims..
    adore adore lesley howard ….
    casablanca- the minor characters outstanding
    a young orson wells
    i cant stand the movie “gone w the wind- ”


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