Luise Rainer, a classic Hollywood actress who was the first ever winner of back-to-back Oscars, died on Tuesday, Dec. 30 at her home in London from pneumonia, her daughter confirmed. She was 104-years-old.
"She was bigger than life and can charm the birds out of the trees," her daughter, Francesca Knittel-Bowyer said in a statement. "If you saw her, you'd never forget her."
Luise was born on Jan. 12, 1910 in Vienna, Austria (although some sources claim her birthplace was Dusseldorf, Germany) and began pursuing her dream of becoming an actress at age 16.
Luise in 'The Great Ziegfeld' in 1936. (Photo Credit: Getty)
By the time she was 18-years-old, the young star started studying drama under Austrian director Max Reinhardt and landed roles in several German films.
In the mid-1930s she was discovered by a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talent scout — who was allegedly searching for a European beauty to rival actress Greta Garbo — and moved to Hollywood where she starred in 1936's 'The Great Ziegfeld.'
That same year, Luise won her first Oscar for 'The Great Ziegfeld' before winning the "Best Actress" title again in 1937 for 'The Good Earth.' The victories made Luise the first person to win an acting Academy Award in consecutive years — a feat which has since been achieved by only four other actors: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Jason Robards and Tom Hanks.
Luise in December 1944. (Photo Credit: Getty)
The rising star continued to act throughout the 1930s and early '40s before she fled from Hollywood because she was being treated like "a machine" by film executives who controlled her work, Luise said in a 1999 interview with the 'Associated Press.'
"When I got two Oscars, they thought, 'Oh, they can throw me into anything,'" she said.
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Luise later made a brief return to the spotlight to appear in a 1984 episode of 'The Love Boat' and to star in the 1997 movie, 'The Gambler.'
Luise in September 2011. (Photo Credit: Getty)
While her acting career flourished, Luise's personal life was unfortunately far from glamorous. She married screenwriter and director Clifford Odets in 1937, but they divorced three tumultuous years later. In 1945, she happily wed publisher Robert Knittel, who died in 1989.
Luise is survived by her only child, daughter Francesca, two granddaughters, Luisa and Nicole, and two great-grandchildren, Luca and Hunter.
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