Speed Reads


Back-to-back Oscar winner Luise Rainer dies at 104

Hollywood legend Luise Rainer, best remembered for winning consecutive Best Actress Oscars in 1936 and 1937, has died of pneumonia. She was 104.

Rainer, a German-born actress, was a stage star in Vienna before migrating to Hollywood under contract with MGM's Louis B. Mayer. She made her Hollywood debut in 1935's Escapade; just a year later, she starred in The Great Ziegfeld, a Best Picture-winning musical drama that netted Rainer her first Best Actress Oscar. The following year, she won Best Actress again for her starring role in an adaptation of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth — the first actor in history to win back-to-back acting Oscars. (Only four others have managed the feat since.)

Despite her unprecedented early successes, Rainer's career fizzled when she walked away from a seven-year contract after the studio pushed her into roles in what she considered to be lesser films. She appeared sporadically in film and television roles for the rest of her life, with a final performance in a 1998 adaptation of Dostoyevsky's The Gambler.

"The Oscar is not a curse," she said later. "The curse is that once you have an Oscar, they think you can do anything. They give you bad scripts that are hard to act." She used her second Oscar as a doorstop. --Scott Meslow