Silver Screen Standards: Claude Rains
I couldn’t decide between several of the films I had in mind for this month’s column, and then I realized they all had something in common – Claude Rains.
Rains is one of those actors whose presence makes any movie better, whether it’s in melodrama, horror, historical adventure, or film noir. Although seldom the lead actor, Rains is so proficient at the screen that he can always assert himself and sometimes even steal his scenes from the supposed lead actors. His great voice and acting breadth serve him well in many of the most iconic images of classic Hollywood, from The adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Mr. Smith is going to Washington (1939), and Casablanca (1942) too Well, Voyager (1942) and Notorious (1946). It’s no surprise that he received four Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, but it’s pretty incredible that he never actually won, especially since it’s so hard to imagine that these enduring classics would be anywhere near as great without him.
Claude Rains was born into an acting family in London on November 10, 1889 and made his own stage debut at the age of 11. His service in World War I left him almost blind in one eye from a gas attack, but after the war he was able to resume his acting career and relocate to the United States, where he worked on Broadway until the movie star made his groundbreaking debut performance in James Whales Called horror masterpiece from 1933. The invisible man. Though he returned in horror on occasion and with great effect, especially in The wolf man (1942). Having arrived in Hollywood quite late in his career, and in his mid-forties, Rains still managed to star in nearly 80 films and television programs before he died in 1967 at the age of 77 (he also made it through six marriages and five to fit). Divorces). His last film appearance came in 1965 with the role of King Herod in The greatest story ever.
Rain’s voice made him a star as he was literally invisible during his first lead role, but his later pictures proved that his talents went well beyond his voice. He could ponder, stare, and grin with equal brilliance; he could kill with kindness or with a wolf-headed stick. He turned into a puttering Prince John, almost unrecognizable in a pageboy wig The adventures of Robin Hood (1938) but he just needed a uniform and a cheeky amorality to get Captain Louis Renault in. to become Casablanca (1942).
His ability to slide back and forth between personable and villainous modes has done him particularly well in Mr. Smith is going to Washington (1939), Notorious (1946), and The unexpected (1947), although he could and did play morally upright guys, especially in his films with Bette Davis. In Well, Voyager (1942) his kind, paternal doctor led Bettes heroine through emotional upheavals while in Mr. Skeffington (1944) he played the long-suffering title character opposite Bettes vain, tragic celebrity. It was hardly too far to cast him as the devil Angel on my shoulder (1946), because so many of his best characters have a devilish charisma, despite his angelic role in Here comes Mr. Jordan (1941) is more surprising. He played the Earl of Hertford in various characters in costume dramas and historical films The prince and the beggar (1937), Napoleon III. in Juarez (1939), Julius Caesar to Vivien Leigh’s Cleopatra in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and finally King Herod in the star-studded biblical epic.
Personally, I prefer a wicked Claude Rains to a virtuous one, and my favorite actor performances are his title role in The invisible man and his duplicitous Nazi in Notorious. In the first role, Rains starts with murderous devotion and also underlines his talent for a darkly comical twist, while in the second he plays a much more hidden murderer, whose facial expression suggests the dangerous edge under his smooth facade. His Prince John in The adventures of Robin Hood is delightfully horrific, but he has to share the villain spotlight with Basil Rathbone, and his tormented title character in Phantom of the opera (1943) actually gets far too little screen time to make enough impact on the audience, especially when compared to other adaptations of the story. Rains gets a meatier role The unexpectedwhere his great voice fits in perfectly with his role as host of a crime radio show.
When you’ve seen all of his most memorable pictures and want more, The unexpected is definitely a top pick, but Rains is also making notable appearances in Kings Row (1942), Moon flood (1942), and Where there is danger (1950). If you’re just starting to appreciate Rains’ career, check out his four Oscar-nominated appearances in. at Mr. Smith is going to Washington, Casablanca, Mr. Skeffington, and Notorious, and then switch to other major roles in The wolf man, Well, Voyager, and illusion (1946). For a really deep look into Rains’ life and work, check out the 2008 biography, Claude Rains: The Voice of an Actor, by horror film historian David J. Skal and Rain’s daughter Jessica Rains.
– Jennifer Garlen for Classic Movie Hub
Jennifer Garlen writes our monthly column on Silver Screen Standards. You can read all of the articles on Jennifer’s Silver Screen Standards here.
Jennifer is a former college professor with a PhD in English literature and a lifelong obsession with film. She writes about classic films on her blog Virtual Virago and presents classic film programs for lifelong learning groups and retirement communities. She is the author of Beyond Casablanca: 100 film classics worth seeing and its continuation, Beyond Casablanca II: 101 film classics worth seeing, and she is also the co-editor of two books on the work of Jim Henson.