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Luise Rainer - First Back-to-Back Oscar Winner - Dead at 104: Known for Classics like 'The Great Ziegfeld' and 'The Good Earth'

By Jaime Prisco j.prisco@classicalite.com on Dec 30, 2014 05:30 PM EST

The first back-to-back Oscar winner, Luise Rainer, who was known as the star of cinema’s golden era, has died at 104.

Rainer’s only daughter, Francesca Knittel-Bowyer, reported that she died on Tuesday in here home in London from pneumonia. “She was bigger than life and can charm the birds out of the trees,” Knittel-Bowyer said. “If you saw her, you’d never forget her.”

Luise gained Hollywood immortality by becoming the first person to win an acting Academy Award in consecutive years, taking the best actress prize for The Great Ziegfeld in 1936 in and The Good Earth in 1937. Since then, only four other actors have done the same.

However, as Rainer’s career declined, many considered her an early victim of “the curse of the Oscars.” She fought with her studio over control of her career, fled Hollywood for New York and suffered through a brief, unhappy marriage to the playwright Clifford Odets. By the early 1940s, her stardom had essentially ended.

Rainer herself described the double victory as the worst thing that could have happened to her.
“When I got two Oscars, they thought, ‘Oh, they can throw me into anything,’” The Guardian reports Rainer told Associated Press in a 1999 interview.

The actress was born in Vienna, Austria and discovered in the mid-1930s by a talent scout from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who was on the lookout for new European beauties to rival Greta Garbo, and she was whisked to Hollywood. Her performance in The Great Ziegfeld made the beauty, nicknamed “Viennese Teardrop” a household name.

Rainer made several pictures in 1938, but she chafed under the studio system and clashed with MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, so she moved to New York

She made one more Hollywood film, Hostages in 1943, but spent most of her later life in England. She made occasional film and television appearances, including an episode of The Love Boat in 1984.

Her entry in Who’s Who listed her recreations as “formerly mountain climbing, now writing, painting”.

Check out the famous telephone scene from “The Great Ziegfeld” down below.

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TagsOscar Winner, Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld, The Good Earth

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