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Rains in Now, Voyager (1942)
|Born||William Claude Rains
10 November 1889
Camberwell, London, United Kingdom
|Died||30 May 1967
Laconia, New Hampshire, U.S.
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
|Spouse(s)||Rosemary Clark Schrode (m. 1960; wid. 1964)|
|Parents||Fred Rains (father)|
William Claude Rains (10 November 1889 – 30 May 1967) was an English stage and film actor whose career spanned 46 years. He was known for many roles in Hollywood films, including the title role in The Invisible Man (1933), scientists, corrupt kings, and senators in The Wolf Man (1941), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Mr. Dryden in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942).
Rains was born in Camberwell, London. He grew up, according to his daughter, with "a very serious Cockney accent and a speech impediment". His parents were Emily Eliza (née Cox) and the stage and film actor Frederick William Rains. Rains made his stage debut at the age of 11 in the play Nell of Old Drury.
His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree paid for the elocution lessons that Rains needed to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at RADA, where his students included John Gielgud. Many years later, after Rains had gone to Hollywood and become a well-known film actor, Gielgud commented: "He was a great influence on me. I don't know what happened to him. I think he failed and went to America."
Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment, alongside fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. At one time, he was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life. By the end of the war, he had risen from the rank of Private to that of Captain.
Rains began his career in London theatre, achieving success in the title role of John Drinkwater's play Ulysses S. Grant, the follow-up to the same playwright's Abraham Lincoln. He moved to Broadway in the late 1920s to act in leading roles in such plays as Bernard Shaw's The Apple Cart, and the dramatisations of The Constant Nymph and Pearl S. Buck's novel The Good Earth (as a Chinese farmer).
Rains came relatively late to film acting. His first screen test was a failure, but his distinctive voice earned him the title role in James Whale's The Invisible Man (1933) after his screen test was inadvertently overheard from the next room. Rains later credited the director Michael Curtiz with teaching him the more understated requirements of film acting, or "what not to do in front of a camera".
Following The Invisible Man, Universal Studios attempted to typecast him in horror films; however, Rains went on to play the villainous role of Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), gave an Academy Award-nominated performance as the corrupt US senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and portrayed the flexible police officer Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942). In 1943, Rains played the title character in Universal's remake of Phantom of the Opera. Bette Davis named him her favourite co-star, and they made four films together, including Now, Voyager (1942) and Mr. Skeffington (1944). Rains became the first actor to receive a million-dollar salary, when he portrayed Julius Caesar in Gabriel Pascal's high-budget but unsuccessful version of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), filmed in Britain. In 1946, he played a refugee Nazi agent opposite Cary Grant and Casablanca co-star Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. In 1949, he appeared in David Lean's The Passionate Friends.
His only singing and dancing role was in a 1957 television musical version of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with Van Johnson as the Piper. The NBC colour special, broadcast as a film rather than a live or videotaped programme, was highly successful with the public. Sold into syndication after its first telecast, it was repeated annually by many local US TV stations.
Rains remained a popular character actor in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in many films. Two of his well-known later screen roles were as Dryden, a cynical British diplomat in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and King Herod in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). The latter was his final film role.
He additionally made several audio recordings, narrating some Bible stories for children on Capitol Records, and reciting Richard Strauss's setting for narrator and piano of Tennyson's poem Enoch Arden, with the piano solos performed by Glenn Gould. He starred in The Jeffersonian Heritage, a 1952 series of 13 half-hour radio programmes recorded by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and syndicated for commercial broadcast on a sustaining (i.e., commercial-free) basis.
Rains became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939. He married six times, and was divorced from the first five of his wives: Isabel Jeans (married 1913–1915); Marie Hemingway (to whom Rains was married for less than a year in 1920); Beatrix Thomson (1924–8 April 1935); Frances Propper (9 April 1935–1956); and the classical pianist Agi Jambor (4 November 1959–1960). In 1960, he married Rosemary Clark Schrode, to whom he was married until her death on 31 December 1964. His only child, Jessica Rains, was born to him and Propper on 24 January 1938.
He acquired the 380-acre (1.5 km2) Stock Grange Farm in West Bradford Township, Pennsylvania (just outside Coatesville) in 1941, and spent much of his time between film takes reading up on agricultural techniques. He sold the farm when his marriage to Propper ended in 1956. Rains spent his final years in Sandwich, New Hampshire. He died from an abdominal haemorrhage in Laconia on 30 May 1967, aged 77. He was buried at the Red Hill Cemetery in Moultonborough.
Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, a biography by David J. Skal and Rains' daughter Jessica, was published in 2008.
Awards and nominations
In 1951, Rains won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Darkness at Noon. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on four occasions: for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944) and Notorious (1946). Rains has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6400 Hollywood Boulevard.
- Harmetz p. 147.
-  International Stars at War
- "The Sublime Claude Rains". meredy.com. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- Harmetz p. 190.
- "The Jeffersonian Heritage," Broadcasting-Telecasting, 8 September 1952, 36 (trade advertisement).
- Duckler, Ray (31 March 2012). "A Star's Last Act: The great Claude Rains spent his final years in New Hampshire". Concord Monitor. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Harmetz, Aljean, Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of "Casablanca" (New York: Hyperion, 1992).
- Skal, David J. and Rains, Jessica: Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (University Press of Kentucky, 2008).
- Rothwell-Smith, Paul: Silent Films! the Performers (2011). ISBN 9781907540325.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Claude Rains.|
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- Claude Rains at the Internet Movie Database
- Claude Rains at the Internet Broadway Database
- Claude Rains at AllRovi
- Claude Rains at the TCM Movie Database
- Claude Rains at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Performances listed in Theatre Archive of the University of Bristol