Luise Rainer, Oscar's first back-to-back Acting winner for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937) was, for the past handful of years, perhaps better known for outliving everyone than for her brief movie stardom. She was just two weeks shy of her 105th birthday when she passed away early this morning of pneumonia. She is survived by her daughter and two granddaughters.
She was recently name-checked not so flatteringly in the Hollywood bio Hitchcock (2012) but the actress, still very much alive at the time, could surely roll with it. The outspoken import lived through tumultuous times, beginning her acting career on the German stage and screen before fleeing as Hitler consolidated power (she was Jewish) and then being sold to the American public as "The Viennesse Teardrop" because German wouldn't do back then. She quickly becoming a star while briefly marrying (unhappily) the playwright Cliff Odets who had several tumultuous affairs with famous actresses (as portrayed in Frances, 1982).
The outspoken diva was very vocal about what she thought of Hollywood, her unsatisfying career, and "The Oscar Curse" which she doesn't believe in though she admits that the back-to-back Oscars weren't at all helpful. The adulation prompted Hollywood to just throw her into anything, with no worries of miscasting or her own creative satisfaction.
Her career ended as swiftly as it began as she fought with the powers that be for more choice in her films. Soon she left Hollywood for New York and then London where she settled for good.
I had a seven-year contract that I broke and went away. I was a machine, practically, a tool in a big, big factory, and I could not do anything. I wanted to film Madame Curie, but Mayer forbade me. I wanted to do For Whom the Bell Tolls, but Selznick took Ingrid Bergman and brought her to Hemingway and I didn't know Hemingway. And so I left. I just went away. I fled; yes, I fled."
She flew away to, by all reports, a happier life outside the spotlight. Her remarkable longevity and semi-regular all smiles appearances over the years suggests that she enjoyed it.