Luise Rainer won her second Oscar for playing O-Lan in The Good Earth.
The Good Earth is sort of an epic tale of a Chinese couple who struggle throughout their marriage. No, no martial problems here, more like hell on Earth, like hunger and poverty. What starts off as a promising marriage - a poor farmer takes a wife who was a former slave, and together they learn that they could survive with each other, whether it be physically or emotionally. The Good Earth, as a film, is very good, maybe not perfect but still well made. The casting of the American actors never bothered me, because it's never apparently obvious.
But, this is a complex character, and that is surprising. When we see a key, disturbing moment involving her newborn, Rainer so mysteriously underlines her character with depth and an endless amount of vulnerability. Yes, there is some overacting in the performance, but it's not the kind that distracts you from the performance. It's wonderfully handled. And I can even say I find the performance limited these days, since O-Lan really doesn't have alot of dialogue and only opens her mouth when something is practical, but there is no denying this is a terrific performance that has to be peeled away to find all the depth that lies within it.