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Academy Award Winner Luise Rainer passes away at 104

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MUMBAI: The star of cinema's golden era and the first person ever to win back-to-back Oscars, Luise Rainer, 104, died of pneumonia on 30 December at her home in London.  Born on 12 January 1910 in Dusseldorf, Germany, Rainer astonished her director with a terrific audition when she was 16, and he cast her in several of his stage productions.  She was then reportedly discovered by an MGM talent scout.

Rainer will be remembered for her brilliant portrayal in films like The Emperor’s Candlesticks (1937), Big City (1937), The Toy Wife (1938), The Great Waltz (1938) and Dramatic School (1938). She had an unprecedented back-to-back Oscar wins for The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth.

The only other actress to win back-to-back Oscars was Audrey Hepburn for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and A Lion in Winter.

However, it is reported that Rainer became increasingly dissatisfied with the movie business. She had to be ordered by MGM, studio head, Louis B. Mayer to attend the Academy Awards ceremony to accept her second Oscar. She stunned reporters by claiming that she hated being molded by Hollywood. Disgruntled with the film business, she became reclusive.

In 1937, Rainer married American playwright Clifford Odets but soon, their marriage became stormy and the couple divorced after three years. She developed a friendship with Albert Einstein and broke her contract with MGM in 1938.

Her last major film was Hostages in 1943 before she left her Hollywood career behind, eventually settling in London with her second husband, publisher and England native Robert Knittel.

After her move to England, Rainer did appear occasionally on U.S. television. It took another two decades before she showed up again on TV when producer Aaron Spelling coaxed her into appearing in a 1983 episode of The Love Boat. Three years later, she performed in a Swiss telefilm titled A Dancer, and in 1997, at age 86, she had a 10-minute scene in a version of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler.

In 2010, on the year of her centenary, the British Film Institute held a tribute to Rainer at London's National Film Theater, where she was interviewed by Richard Stirling.

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