Born Ottilie Godeffroy, the daughter of the Austrian chemist Richard Godeffroy (1847–1895), she trained as an actress in Vienna, her native town, and gave her debut at the Moravian Theatre in Olmütz (Olomouc) in 1901/02.
The next season she got an engagement in Breslau (Wrocław). From 1903 she worked with Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and with a group of expressionist artists around Kurt Hiller and Jakob van Hoddis.
In 1911 Durieux entered the stage of the Lessing Theater where, on November 1, 1913, she became the second actress to perform the role Eliza Doolittle in a German language production of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, half a year before its English premiere on April 11, 1914. From 1915 she performed at the Royal Schauspielhaus Berlin.[ In 1904, Durieux married the Berlin Secession painter Eugen Spiro, and after their divorce, she remarried in 1910 the successful art dealer and editor Paul Cassirer, who committed suicide in a room next to the court room that pronounced their divorce. Soon after, Durieux married general director Ludwig Katzenellenbogen. In 1927 they were the main financiers of Erwin Piscator’s Neues Schauspielhaus project. Durieux was a public character of 1920s Berlin and associated with numerous celebrities like the famous photographer Frieda Riess.
In 1933, Durieux and her husband left Germany for Switzerland to escape Nazi rule. She continued to perform at the Vienna Theater in der Josefstadt and in Prague.
In 1937 she moved to Zagreb, Croatia (then in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) where she became a member of the International Red Aid. Durieux unsuccessfully tried to obtain visa for the United States; in 1941 Ludwig Katzenellenbogen was arrested by Gestapo agents in Thessaloniki and deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was killed in 1944.
Durieux returned to West Germany in 1952, appearing on stages in Berlin, Hamburg and Münster.