One of these great character actors . A face you would recognise in many films,severe looking,intense,sinister. That was the Hollywood character of Rafaela Ottiano who is probably best known as Garbo’s faithful maid in GRAND HOTEL
Rafaela was born in Italy and emigrated with her parents to America in 1910. They were processed at Ellis Island.
She died at the Boston home of her parents , of cancer, age 54.
She was in the stage play of GRAND HOTEL in 1930 and was also in Mae West’s DIAMOND LIL in 1928, reprising her roles in the film versions.(Diamond Lil becoming SHE DONE HIM WRONG.)
Her character in She Done Him Wrong was ‘Russian Rita’, maybe the only time Rafaela got to ‘dress up’!
She was with Garbo in AS YOU DESIRE ME, Irene Dunne in ANN VICKERS, and Shirley Temple in CURLY TOP.
I recently saw Rafaela in ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT, a good ‘old dark house’ film in which she is yet again, a maid.
One of her biggest roles was as Lionel Barrymore’s costar in DEVIL DOLL – which is a film I enjoyed a lot. In this, she may be demented but still sympathetic. Devil Doll showed casting directors missed out, not using Rafaela in bigger roles.
One of her films I’d love to see is THE LAST GENTLEMAN, with Edna May Oliver.
Her last film was I MARRIED AN ANGEL in 1942.
One story I love about Rafaela happened in 1989 when the musical version of Grand Hotel opened on Broadway and her character of the maid was renamed Rafaela Ottiano in her honour .