Viva Luise Rainer!


Robert Capa, [Luise Rainer outside of the Paris opera], 1939

A few days after returning to Paris he [Robert Capa] wrote his mother, referring to Cornell’s recent professional debut, “I hope that the young Capa is a great photographer, for the old one is in eclipse… I have a great desire to do films again, and there are a few meager possibilities.” Perhaps they had something to do with director Jean Renoir or documentarian Robert Flaherty, who were having dinner together in a Paris restaurant when Capa walked in on his first night back from Spain. Renoir, who had met Capa through Cartier-Bresson, invited him to join them, and soon the photographer was holding forth with an account of the horrors and the chaos he had witnessed during the past few days. But Renoir began shooting La Regle du Jeu in the middle of February (with Cartier-Bresson working as one of his assistants), and Capa did not become involved in the project.
Capa was so depressed during February that he didn’t feel like doing much of anything. (“I was not much in the mood to work,” he wrote. “For four weeks I walked around like an idiot.”) To make a little money, however, he forced himself to do some lightweight stories for Ce Soir and, to make some provision for the future, he made a brief trip to London to talk to editor Stefan Lorant about some assignments for Picture Post. By early March he was feeling somewhat better – well enough to enjoy escorting [perhaps they saw “La Flute Enchantee”] Luise Rainer [born 12 January, 1910], whom he had met through [Joris] Ivens, to a white-tie gala. “Imagine how elegant I have become,” he proudly joked in a letter to his mother. “just like a bear in tails.”

Richard Whelan, Robert Capa, A Biography, 1985, pp. 157-58

Robert Capa’s contact sheet that contains the above image reveals that they spent what appears to be a very enjoyable afternoon together. They start out at the opera and then they stop at at a table in front of a second-hand store; she spins a large top. Luise Rainer is holding what looks like a dog-eared script. In 1937, Luise Rainer (outstanding in her field– see images below) starred in three feature films: Big City, The Emperor’s Candlestick, and The Good Earth. Rainer also starred in three feature films in 1938: Dramatic School, The Great Waltz, and The Toy Wife. And one play in 1939, Behold the Bride.


Martin Munkacsi, [Luise Rainer holding hose, Hollywood], 1937


Martin Munkacsi, [Luise Rainer in field, Hollywood], 1937


Martin Munkacsi, [Luise Rainer in field, Hollywood], 1937

Perhaps Robert Capa, a Libra, born in 1913, Martin Munkacsi, a Taurus, born in 1896, both Hungarian-born photographers, were bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by Luise Rainer, a Capricorn, who recently turned 102!

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