In her role as O-Lan Lung in 1937’s The Good Earth, Luise Rainer gave one of the most masterful, haunting performances in history. Certainly an Oscar winning performance, Luise did win the Best Actress award for the second year in a row with this performance. Talkies were only about a decade old when this was released, even though Rainier’s dialogue was limited her use of visual and vocal acting was outstanding. She refused to wear heavy makeup, and her elfin look helped her to assay a Chinese woman with results far superior to those of Myrna Loy in her Oriental vamp phase.
Though after her biggest supporter, Irving Thalberg died during the filming of this film, Luise began a battle with the studios for meatier films. Unfortunate for us she lost many of those battles with Louis B. Mayer. Luise’s frustration with Hollywood was so complete, she abandoned movie acting in the early 1940s, after making the World War II drama Hostages (1943) for Paramount. Her retirement from the movies lasted for 53 years, until her come-back in The Gambler (1997), a movie based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s eponymous story. In the film, Rainer played the role of the matriarch of an aristocratic Russian family in the 1860s who are in hock due the family members’ obsession with gambling.
Not as well remembered as Davis, Crawford, Lombard or Hepburn, Luise Rainer was one of the best to ever grace the screen and it is obvious in Pearl Buck’s, The Good Earth.