Sunday, June 27, 2010

Luise Rainer in "The Great Ziegfeld"

Luise Rainer won her first Oscar for playing French singer, Anna Held, in The Great Ziegfeld.

The Great Ziegfeld is a blown up, exhausted epic about Flo Ziegfeld, the legendary Broadway showman. His life, his success, and espeically his romances. One of those romances was Anna Held, a well known French singer, who he transported to America to become a huge star.

When it comes to film history, Luise Rainer is a star, but when it comes to lasting appeal, she comes up short. Rainer was new to film, and even newer to Hollywood when she took on the demanding role of Anna Held, and at times, you get embarrassing "obvious" acting moments. Like when she grabs her shirt and yells or when she misses the punchlines of her jokes.

But, still it's hard to deny Rainer is the sunlight in her film. She enters this stuffy movie and opens a window with her hummingbird looks and humorous persona. Anna Held is a self aware woman who wants alot, and gets little, especially from Flo. Rainer, again, portrays Anna with so much character and persona. It's those embarrassing, obvious moments that get in the way of her performance being great.

Which brings me to her last scene...the infamous telephone scene. This scene alone makes up for almost her entire rating. In this one scene, she conveys so many emotions, as she fake congratulates her ex-husband on his success. It's one of the best scenes you'll see by an Oscar winner.

But, I guess it doesn't help either that Luise Rainer barely has enough screen-time to do alot in, but her presence and humorous acting in the beginning, and sorrowful acting near the end are proof that it is a fine performance. However, I can not get past those obvious acting moments that are scattered around her performance.

14 comments:

Fritz said...

Well, you know that I love her and I think she was perfect in her part (but you are right, the lack of screentime and character development really works against her).

Zephyr said...

I know that I'm probably alone on this, but I really like The Great Ziegfeld. It is one of my favourite biopics and I really enjoyed Rainer's performance in it. It is verging on a supporting role, but that final scene is powerful stuff!

joe burns said...

Would you have given her a nom in Supporting?

Sage Slowdive said...

She would have gotten the same grade from me, had she been in supporting.

Louis Morgan said...

I agree with your view on her exactly. On the note of rating for Supporting and Leading, would you give Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way a different rating for leading or supporting since he was nominated for both for the same performance?

Sage Slowdive said...

hahaha, no. It was kind of the argument I was trying to make with Beatrice Straight. She has very little screen time, but she's still phenomenal, and much better then say, Julie Harris, who has over an hour in The Member Of The Wedding.

I would have rated Fitzgerald 3 1/2.

Malcolm said...

I guess she'll come third or fourth.

It's a performance with a very mixed consensus from the net.

Zephyr said...

It's a difficult distinction to make. I would be tempted to give the same score irrespective of whether it was nominated for leading or supporting as you are judging the performancen on its own merits. However, when ranking the performances, can you compare (for example) Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (arguably a supporting role) with something like Vivien Leigh's Gone with the Wind performance, where she is on screen for pretty much 3 and a half hours.

Sage Slowdive said...

hahaha, I can Zephyr.

For me, Hepburn's role was terribly underwritten and didn't get to shine, which is was I rated her fairly low. It's all about how well they play their roles with me. Like Hepburn could have been out of this world good in her small, substantial role, but she decided to underplay.

joe burns said...

Are all of the nominees on DVD this year?

Sage Slowdive said...

Theodora and Valiant are for sure not on DVD.

But, Theodora will be coming on TCM June 29th for anyone who hasn't seen it...

joe burns said...

I'll try to watch it.

Any other films coming up?

Sage Slowdive said...

Check your TV Guide :)

Fritz said...

I would probably give different ratings if one of the leading nominees would have been in Supporting. I simply have different standards to these categories. If a leading nominees is underwritten and doesn't get lot do to, it influences my grade but I don't expect a supporting nominee for have a big character arc.