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August 4, 2019

Luise Rainer: The First Thespian to Win Back-to-Back Oscars

Born 1910 in Düsseldorf, Prussia, German-American film actress Luise Rainer started her acting career in Germany at age 16, under the tutelage of Austria's leading stage director, Max Reinhardt. Within a few years, she had become a distinguished Berlin stage actress with Reinhardt's Vienna theater ensemble. She was discovered by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talent scouts, who signed her to a three-year contract in Hollywood in 1935.

Rainer had her first American film role in Escapade in 1935. The following year she was given a supporting part in the musical biography The Great Ziegfeld, where, despite limited appearances, her emotion-filled performance so impressed audiences that she was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress.

For her next role, producer Irving Thalberg was convinced, despite the studio's disagreement, that she would also be able to play the part of a poor, plain Chinese farm wife in The Good Earth (1937). The subdued character role was such a dramatic contrast to her previous vivacious character that she again won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Rainer was the first actor to win more than one Academy Award and, with that, the first to win back-to-back; at the time of her death, thirteen days shy of her 105th birthday, she was the longest-lived Oscar recipient. Rainer died at her London home on December 30, 2014, at the age of 104 from pneumonia. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6300 Hollywood Boulevard.

Take a look at these gorgeous photos to see the charming beauty of young Luise Rainer in the 1930s.

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