A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Homestead Fire

November 10, 1889 was the birthdate of British actor Claude Rains.

William Claude Rains was a British film and stage actor known for his smooth, distinguished voice; polished, ironic style; and intelligent portrayal of a variety of roles, ranging from villains to sympathetic gentlemen. He began his acting career at the age of eleven working backstage jobs before making his adult stage debut. He enjoyed a successful stage career in London and taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; two of his students were John Gielgud and Charles Laughton.

Claude Rains toured the United States in the 1926 play “The Constant Nymph” and made a name for himself on Broadway. He came relatively late in his career to film acting and, while working for the Theater Guild in New York City, was given a screen test for a role in the 1932 “A Bill of Divorcement” by RKO. Rains did not get that role but was cast in the title role, partly because of his voice, in James Whale’s 1933 “The Invisible Man”. Although Rains’s face is hidden behind bandages throughout most of the film, his ominous voice effectively reflects the heightening madness of the megalomaniacal scientist he portrays.

Claude Rains went on to play a variety of leading and supporting roles, including criminals, aristocrats, politicians, spies, learned professionals, and family men, all with equal charm and finesse. He displayed great chemistry with Bette Davis as her sympathetic psychiatrist in the 1942 “Now, Voyager” and as her patient, loving husband in the 1944 “Mr. Skeffington”, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Rains was also nominated for Oscars as best supporting actor for his work in three much-loved American film classics: as the corrupt senator in the 1939 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” by Frank Capra; as the charming, opportunistic police chief in the 1942 “Casablanca”, one of his most famous roles; and as the likable, sensitive Nazi agent in love with costar Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 “Notorious”.

In 1951 Claude Rains won a Tony Award for his lead role in the play “Darkness at Noon”. He was nominated for four Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in his career: “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”, “Casablanca”, “Mr. Skeffington”, and “Notorious”. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.

Leave a Reply