Luise Rainer, the oldest living Oscar winner, has died aged 104.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in consecutive years , the first actress to achieve that feat, and only since equalled by Katharine Hepburn.
Her first Oscar came for her performance as Anna Held in ‘The Great Ziegfeld’ (1936).
In the film she played the wife of William Powell’s Florenz Ziegfeld Jnr – the famed American Broadway impresario. It was a huge success for MGM in the 1930s and contained a stellar supporting cast of Myrna Loy, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Nat Pendleton and Reginald Owen. She was the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination. The film won the Best Picture award.
In her acceptance speech before newsreel cameras she simply said: ‘Thank you very much, I’m very happy that I got it’
The following year she won again in the same category, as O-Lan the Chinese peasant farmer’s wife who struggles with her husband (Paul Muni) through drought and famine in ‘The Good Earth’ (1937). Again she was the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination. The statuette was later used as a door stop, and bent, she gave it to removalists who helped her moved from Switzerland to London. The Academy later presented her with a replacement.
Her failure to rise to any stardom again, let alone another Oscar nomination, began what many called the ‘Oscar curse’. Those who careers never hit the high points after winning an Oscar. Her film career all but ended after, amongst many things, becoming disenchanted with the roles offered to her, along with personal decisions she made in her life. However she did continue to act on stage and television.
Despite only making one film in 54 years (‘The Gambler’ in 1997) , The Academy continued to embraces her for its heritage.
At the 70th and 75th Academy Award ceremonies, she appeared on stage with previous acting recipients in a retrospective tribute.
But her return to Hollywood on that night opened old wounds. “I resented myself very much; there were many things that I should have done. I feel it today, at nearly 100 years old: God, or whoever it is, gave so much into my cradle and I have not lived up to it.” she told a journalist shortly after.
Upon her death she was the last surviving Oscar winner from the 1930s.