Claude Rains (1889-1967)

Claude Rains
Claude Rains
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Claude Rains was a versatile character actor who had an immensely successful career of over 47 years on both stage and screen and who is remembered for outstanding performances in many well known movies including 'The Invisible Man' and, particularly, 'Casablanca'.

He was nominated on four occasions for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington', 'Casablanca', 'Mr. Skeffington', and 'Notorious', but, surprisingly, never won an Oscar.


Claude Rains was born William Claude Rains on 10 November, 1889, in Camberwell, London, the son of British stage actor Frederick Rains. Claude chose to follow in the family tradition and first appeared onstage at the age of eleven in 'Nell of Old Drury'. He grew up in the theatrical world and worked his way up from call boy to stage manager. His knowledge of every aspect of the business would serve him in good stead throughout his career.

He first went to the United States in 1913, but returned to England to serve with the London Scottish Regiment in World War 1. He started the war as a private and rose to the rank of captain He also almost lost the sight in one eye following a gas attack.

After the war Rains began his acting career in the London theatre where he was actively encouraged by the founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Rains had a naturally rich voice but a pronounced cockney accent and Beerbohm Tree gave him elocution lessons to develop the cultivated tones which later became so well known. Rains also worked at the Academy as a stage actor and teacher, his most famous pupils being Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud.

Rains returned to the United States and Broadway in 1927, and soon became one of the leading members of New York's Theatre Guild with leading roles in such plays as 'The Apple Cart' and 'The Constant Nymph'. His movie career began as a direct result of his unique, rich voice. Universal Studios were looking for a 'voice' for the 'Invisible Man' in 1933 and Rains's was perfect. His face emerged only in the finale, but his abrasive voice and demented laugh gave 'The Invisible Man' a chillingly solid presence.

Rains stuck around Hollywood as a character actor who could carry a film by himself if needed, but was most often outstanding amid strong ensemble casts. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939 and in the same year appeared in one of his most unforgettable roles as the corrupt senator in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'. In 1943, he played the title character in Phantom of the Opera.

He made four films with Bette Davis including 'Now, Voyager' in 1942, and 'Mr. Skeffington' in 1944 and she named him her favorite co-star. Rains became the first actor to receive a salary of a million dollars, playing Julius Caesar in Gabriel Pascal's lavish version of Shaw's 'Caesar and Cleopatra' in 1945. The following year he played a child-like, subtly sympathetic Nazi in Hitchcock's 'Notorious' but he is perhaps best known for his role as the opportunistic and dapper French policeman, Captain Louis Renault in 'Casablanca' in 1942. His line 'Round up the usual suspects' has gone down in movie history, as has his memorable exit at the end of the film with Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine.

Rains remained a busy and popular actor for the next two decades, appearing in many films and making a very successful transition into television. Two of his best-known later film roles were as Dryden in 'Lawrence of Arabia' in 1962 and, in his final movie, as King Herod in 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' in 1965. His television appearances were many and included many roles in the TV playhouse series and numerous episodes of the extremely successful Alfred Hitchcock Presents" suspense dramas from 1955 into the early 1960's.

Claude Rains married six times, all ending in divorce except his last, to Rosemary Clark Schrode in 1960, which ended with her death in 1964. His only child, Jessica Rains, was born to him and his fourth wife, Frances Propper, in 1938.

Claude Rains died on May 30, 1967 in Laconia, New Hampshire. He was 77.

Claude Rains Academy Awards

No Wins:

Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Supporting Actor ... Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Best Supporting Actor ... Casablanca (1942)
Best Supporting Actor ... Mr. Skeffington (1944)
Best Supporting Actor ... Notorious (1946)


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Claude Rains Filmography

Build Thy House
The Invisible Man
Crime Without Passion
The Man Who Reclaimed His Head
The Clairvoyant
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
The Last Outpost
Hearts Divided
Anthony Adverse
Stolen Holiday
The Prince and the Pauper
They Won't Forget
White Banners
Gold Is Where You Find It
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Four Daughters
They Made Me a Criminal
Sons of Liberty (short)
Daughters Courageous
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Four Wives
Saturday's Children
The Sea Hawk
Lady with Red Hair
Four Mothers
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
The Wolf Man
Forever and a Day
Phantom of the Opera
Passage to Marseille
Mr. Skeffington
Strange Holiday
This Love of Ours
Caesar and Cleopatra
Angel on My Shoulder
The Unsuspected
The Passionate Friends
Rope of Sand
Song of Surrender