Rainer appeared in several German language films before going to Hollywood in 1935. Two years later, she had won two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actress, for The Great Ziegfeld in 1936 and The Good Earth in 1937. Refusing to be stereotyped, and to knuckle under to the studio system, she married playwright Clifford Odets in 1937, but divorced him three years later after a stormy relationship. She stopped making films altogether after Hostages in 1943, although she did appear in a single episode of the World War II television series Combat, and even took a dual role in an episode of The Love Boat. Later in life she took a role in The Gambler (1997).
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6300 Hollywood Blvd.