Born in Venice, Italy, on March 4, 1888, Raffaella Ottiano, known by most as Rafaela, was an Italian-American stage and film actress who appeared in approximately 45 motion pictures opposite actors as Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Barbara Stanwyck, Tyrone Power, Mae West, Peter Lorre, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. She moved to New York and appeared on Broadway in Sweeney Todd (1924), and the play version of Grand Hotel (1930).
Rafaela's first Hollywood film was in the John L. McCutcheon-directed drama The Law and the Lady (1924) with Len Leo, Alice Lake, and Tyrone Power, Sr.
She was part of the original 1928 Broadway cast of the hit play Diamond Lil, written by and starring Mae West, and the cast of the movie adaptation titled She Done Him Wrong (1933), directed by Lowell Sherman.
Throughout the 1930s, Rafaela often played sinister, malevolent, or spiteful women, such as her role in the Tod Browning-directed horror film The Devil-Doll (1936), opposite Lionel Barrymore and Maureen O'Sullivan. Other notable film roles include “Lena” in As You Desire Me (1932) with Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Erich von Stroheim, Owen Moore, and Hedda Hopper; "Mrs. Higgins" in the Shirley Temple musical-comedy Curly Top (1935); as a matron in the crime-drama Riffraff (1936), starring Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy; and as "Suzette", Greta Garbo's devoted maid in the Edmund Goulding-directed drama Grand Hotel (1932).
When Grand Hotel was turned into a Broadway Musical in 1989, her character was renamed Rafaela Ottiano in honor of the actress, who had appeared on Broadway in 1930, in the original play version of the Vicki Baum novel. Ottiano's last film was the musical comedy I Married an Angel (1942), starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald.
Rafaela lived in the Times Square area during the Prohibition Era and never married. She died in 18 August 1942, in the Boston home of her late parents, of intestinal cancer at the age of 54. She is buried at St. Michael's Cemetery in the Roslindale section of Boston, Massachusetts.