Some sad news to round out the year: German-Jewish actress Luise Rainer died in London earlier today at the remarkable age of 104. Discovered by legendary stage director Max Reinhardt, she – like him – would later form part of the huge wave of artists exiled from Nazi Germany, preserving the vigour and experimentation of Weimar culture in the far corners of the world.
Despite her concise filmography and disdain for the Hollywood star system, Rainer became the first person to win back-to-back acting Oscars (1936 and 1937), for The Great Ziegfield and The Good Earth, respectively (and she remains the only German to have won the Best Actress gong). Recognition from her homeland came late, but thankfully not too late. I was privileged to witness Rainer unveiling her spot on Berlin’s Boulevard der Stars on a drizzly September afternoon in 2011, where she greeted the clamour with modesty, grace and an enchanting smile, apologising for her rusty German and referring to herself as an “altes Frauenzimmer” (old broad).