Among the movies TCM ran on Monday for its birthday/memorial tribute to Luise Rainer was 1938’s Dramatic School, directed by Robert B. Sinclair. The film, based on a play by Hans Székely and Zoltan Egyed, pairs Rainer with Paulette Goddard.
Rainer plays young dramatic school student Louise, who her classmates think is a narcissist because she dreams up these fantastical excuses for not hanging out with them at night. In reality, she is so poor that she has to work in a factory. One of these stories – a meeting with Marquis Andre D’Abbencourt (Alan Marshal) catches up with her. Since Nana (Goddard) meets the real Marquis, she comes up with a scheme to embarrass Louise. Unbeknownst to Nana, the Marquis actually has seen Louise before, since he visited her factory once.
Louise also struggles at school because her teacher, Madame Therese Charlot (Gale Sondergaard) also doesn’t like her.
Dramatic School seems to epitomize the reasons why Rainer hated being in Hollywood and strangled by the studio system. Even after winning two Oscars, she’s stuck in this run-of-the-mill story about a girl who wants to be a star on the stage. In her final scene playing Joan of Arc, we see what Rainer really excelled at. She enjoyed heavy drama on stage and being stuck in 80-minute fluff wasn’t for her. It’s not a great movie, but was fun to watch, mostly because seeing Goddard try to be mean is kind of hilarious.