The comet-like starring career of actress Luise Rainer began at the age of 16, when she gave a spectacular audition and was hired on the spot by famed impresario Max Reinhardt. She starred in several Reinhardt stage productions, and also appeared in a few Austro/German films. An MGM talent scout "discovered" Rainer while she was touring Europe in Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. Because she dressed in comfortable old clothes, disdained makeup, and told American reporters that she hated movies, Ms. Rainer was quickly labeled a "new Garbo" and the "next Hepburn." She won an Oscar for her second film appearance in The Great Ziegfeld (1936), in which, as Florenz Ziegfeld's castaway wife Anna Held, she enacted perhaps the most famous "telephone scene" in cinema history. Though she seemed a shoe-in for the Oscar, Rainer refused to show up at the ceremony unless she could be assured ahead of time that she'd win; when she finally did agree to make an appearance, she was several hours late and her hair was a mess. In 1937, Rainer became the first actress to win two Academy Awards in a row; this time she was being honored for her portrayal of Chinese peasant bride O-Lan in The Good Earth. Hoping to cash in on Rainer's Oscar double-header, MGM rushed her through a series of second-rate roles in forgettable films. Her husband at the time, playwright Clifford Odets, urged her to quit movies cold and confine her "brilliance" to the stage. But after several theatrical flops, Rainer was back in Hollywood in the 1943 Paramount programmer Hostages. After the failure of this film, Rainer left Hollywood for keeps, moving to England with her second husband, publisher Robert Knittel. Some 50 years after her triumphant twin-Oscar win, Luise Rainer was coaxed before the cameras once more by producer Aaron Spelling, who cast her in an episode of his TV anthology The Love Boat. She died in 2014, at age 104.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Acquired stage training as a teen in Vienna with famed director Max Reinhardt. Left for Hollywood before Hitler's threat when an MGM talent scout made her an offer. Nicknamed the Viennese Teardrop because of her emotional performances. First actor to win consecutive Academy Awards. Her rejection of Hollywood's star system and tedious filmmaking, along with a stormy marriage to playwright Clifford Odets, led to fewer prestigious roles and an early retirement. Her paintings have been featured in several solo art exhibitions. Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6300 Hollywood Blvd.