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Luise Rainer's 101st Birthday
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Luise Rainer Profile
* Films in Bold Type Will Air on January 12th

Austrian-born Luise Rainer was a distinguished Berlin stage actress who had worked with Max Reinhardt's company and made a few films in Germany before moving to Hollywood in 1935. Under contract to MGM, she replaced Myrna Loy in Escapade (1935) and then achieved overnight fame as the first back-to-back Oscar® recipient, winning the Best Actress Award for her roles in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937). In the former, as Anna Held, the first, long-suffering wife of Flo Ziegfeld, Rainer was human champagne, and the abiding memory of that lavish, often tedious musical biopic is her classic four-hanky telephone scene, congratulating her former husband on his new marriage. In the latter, as O-Lan, the stoic Chinese peasant in Thalberg's last production, she again endured a husband's mistress to win a second statuette.

For a brief time Rainer's star promised to shine brightly alongside fellow MGM stars Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, but she could not survive the backlash of her sudden success. As her marriage to Clifford Odets disintegrated, so did her career, and she left MGM after only eight pictures in three and a half years, interrupting her hiatus only once to film Hostages (1943) for Paramount. Happily married to English publisher Robert Knittel until his death in 1989, Rainer made sporadic stage and TV appearances through the years and developed her talents as a painter before returning for her "second act" with 11 riveting screen minutes in Karoly Makk's The Gambler (1997). As the wealthy grandmother of a family already close to ruin, she is radiant one moment, bereft the next, so feverishly animated that you cannot take your eyes off her.

Biographical information supplied by TCMdb
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