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Claude Rains

in the Mr. Skeffington trailer (1944)
Born William Claude Rains
10 November 1889(1889-11-10)
Camberwell, London, England, UK
Died 30 May 1967 (aged 77)
Laconia, New Hampshire, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1920 – 1966
Spouse(s) Isabel Jeans (1913-1915)
Marie Hemingway (1920-1920)
Beatriz Thomas (1924-1935)
Frances Propper (1935-1956)
Agi Jambor (1959-1960)
Rosemary Clark Schrode (1960-1964)

Claude Rains (10 November 1889 – 30 May 1967) was a British-American stage and film actor whose career spanned 47 years; he later held American citizenship. He was known for many roles in Hollywood films, among them the title role in The Invisible Man (1933), a corrupt senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and, perhaps his most famous performance, Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942).


Early life

Rains was born William Claude Rains in Camberwell, London on November 10, 1889. He grew up, according to his daughter, with "a very serious cockney accent and a speech impediment".[1]

His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, founder of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree paid for the elocution lessons Rains needed in order to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at the institution, teaching John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, among others.

Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment,[2] with fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. Rains was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life. However, the war did aid his social advancement and, by its end, he had risen from the rank of Private to Captain.


Rains began his career in the London theatre, having a success in the title role of John Drinkwater's play Ulysses S. Grant, the follow-up to the playwright's major hit Abraham Lincoln, and traveled to Broadway in the late 1920s to act in leading roles in such plays as Shaw's The Apple Cart and in the dramatizations of The Constant Nymph, and Pearl S. Buck's novel The Good Earth, as a Chinese farmer.

Rains came relatively late to film acting and his first screen test was a failure, but his distinctive voice won him the title role in James Whale's The Invisible Man (1933) when someone accidentally overheard his screen test being played in the next room.[1] Rains later credited director Michael Curtiz with teaching him the more understated requirements of film acting, or "what not to do in front of a camera".[3]

Claude Rains in Notorious (1946)

Following The Invisible Man, Universal Studios tried to typecast him in horror films, but he broke free, starting with the role of Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), then with his Academy Award-nominated performance as the conflicted corrupt senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and followed with probably his most famous role, the flexible French police Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942). In 1943, Rains played the title character in Universal's full-color remake of Phantom of the Opera. Bette Davis named him her favorite co-star, and they made four films together, including Mr. Skeffington and Now, Voyager. Rains became the first actor to receive a million dollar salary, playing Julius Caesar in Gabriel Pascal's lavish and unsuccessful version of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), made 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 television musical version of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with Van Johnson as the Piper. This 1957 NBC color special, shown as a film rather than a live or videotaped program, was highly successful with the public. Sold into syndication after its first telecast, it was repeated annually by many local 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.


Rains made several audio recordings, narrating a few Bible stories for children on Capitol Records, and reciting Richard Strauss's setting for narrator and piano accompaniment of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Enoch Arden, with the piano solos played by Glenn Gould. This recording was made by Columbia Masterworks Records.

Personal life

Rains became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939. He married six times, the first five of which ended in divorce: Isabel Jeans (1913-1915); Marie Hemingway (1920, for less than a year); Beatriz Thomas (1924 –April 8, 1935); Frances Propper (April 9, 1935–1956); and to classic pianist Agi Jambor (November 4, 1959–1960). He married Rosemary Clark Schrode in 1960, and stayed with her until her death on December 31, 1964. His only child, Jessica Rains, was born to him and Propper on January 24, 1938.

He acquired the 380 acre Stock Grange Farm in West Bradford Township, Pennsylvania just outside West Chester in 1941, and spent much of his time between takes reading up on agricultural techniques. He eventually sold the farm when his marriage to Propper ended in 1956.

Rains died from an abdominal hemorrhage in Laconia, New Hampshire on May 30, 1967 at the age of 77. He is interred in the Red Hill Cemetery, Moultonborough, New Hampshire.

Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, a biography by David J. Skal and Rains' daughter Jessica Rains, 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 also nominated four times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), and Notorious (1946).

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6400 Hollywood Boulevard.


Year Title Role Director Other cast members Notes
1920 Build Thy House Clarkis Fred Goodwins Henry Ainley
1933 The Invisible Man Dr. Jack Griffin/The Invisible Man James Whale Gloria Stuart, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor
1934 The Clairvoyant Maximus Maurice Elvey Fay Wray
Crime Without Passion Lee Gentry Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur Margo, Whitney Bourne
The Man Who Reclaimed His Head Paul Verin Edward Ludwig Lionel Atwill, Joan Bennett
1935 The Last Outpost John Stevenson Louis Gasnier, Charles Barton Cary Grant
The Mystery of Edwin Drood John Jasper Stuart Walker Douglass Montgomery, Heather Angel, David Manners
1936 Hearts Divided Napoleon Bonaparte Frank Borzage Marion Davies, Dick Powell, Charlie Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton
Anthony Adverse Marquis Don Luis Mervyn LeRoy Fredric March, Olivia de Havilland, Gale Sondergaard
1937 Stolen Holiday Stefan Orloff Michael Curtiz Kay Francis, Ian Hunter
The Prince and the Pauper Earl of Hertford William Keighley Errol Flynn, Billy and Bobby Mauch
They Won't Forget Dist. Atty. Andrew J. "Andy" Griffin Mervyn LeRoy Gloria Dickson, Lana Turner
1938 White Banners Paul Ward Edmund Goulding Fay Bainter, Jackie Cooper, Bonita Granville, Henry O'Neill, Kay Johnson
Gold is Where You Find It Colonel Christopher "Chris" Ferris Michael Curtiz George Brent, Olivia de Havilland, Tim Holt Technicolor
The Adventures of Robin Hood Prince John Michael Curtiz, William Keighley Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone Technicolor
Four Daughters Adam Lemp Michael Curtiz Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page, John Garfield
1939 They Made Me a Criminal Det. Monty Phelan Busby Berkeley John Garfield, Gloria Dickson, May Robson
Juarez Emperor Louis Napoleon III William Dieterle Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Brian Aherne, John Garfield
Sons of Liberty
(Two-reel short)
Haym Salomon Michael Curtiz Gale Sondergaard Technicolor
Daughters Courageous Jim Masters Michael Curtiz Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page, John Garfield
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine Frank Capra Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Thomas Mitchell Nomination — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Four Wives Adam Lemp Michael Curtiz Eddie Albert, Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page, John Garfield
1940 Saturday's Children Mr. Henry Halevy Vincent Sherman John Garfield, Anne Shirley
The Sea Hawk Don José Alvarez de Cordoba Michael Curtiz Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Henry Daniell, Flora Robson, Alan Hale Sepiatone (sequence)
Lady with Red Hair David Belasco Curtis Bernhardt Miriam Hopkins, Laura Hope Crews
1941 Four Mothers Adam Lemp William Keighley Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page
Here Comes Mr. Jordan Mr. Jordan Alexander Hall Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes, Edward Everett Horton
The Wolf Man Sir John Talbot George Waggner Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Patric Knowles, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya
1942 Kings Row Dr. Alexander Tower Sam Wood Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Betty Field, Charles Coburn
Moontide Nutsy Archie Mayo Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell
Now, Voyager Dr. Jaquith Irving Rapper Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Gladys Cooper
Casablanca Capt. Louis Renault Michael Curtiz Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, S.Z. Sakall, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Dooley Wilson Nomination — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1943 Forever and a Day Ambrose Pomfret Herbert Wilcox
(sequence with Rains)
Anna Neagle, Ray Milland, C. Aubrey Smith
Phantom of the Opera Erique Claudin/The Phantom of the Opera Arthur Lubin Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster Technicolor
1944 Passage to Marseille Captain Freycinet Michael Curtiz Humphrey Bogart, Michèle Morgan, Philip Dorn, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Helmut Dantine
Mr. Skeffington Job Skeffington Vincent Sherman Bette Davis, Walter Abel, George Coulouris, Richard Waring Nomination — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1945 Strange Holiday John Stevenson Julien Duvivier Jean Gabin, Richard Whorf, Allyn Joslyn, Ellen Drew
This Love of Ours Joseph Targel William Dieterle Merle Oberon
Caesar and Cleopatra Julius Caesar Gabriel Pascal Vivien Leigh, Stewart Granger, Flora Robson Technicolor
1946 Notorious Alex Sebastian Alfred Hitchcock Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Louis Calhern Nomination — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Angel on My Shoulder Nick Archie Mayo Paul Muni, Anne Baxter
Deception Alexander Hollenius Irving Rapper Bette Davis, Paul Henreid
1947 The Unsuspected Victor Grandison Michael Curtiz Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield
1949 The Passionate Friends Howard Justin David Lean Ann Todd, Trevor Howard
Rope of Sand Arthur "Fred" Martingale William Dieterle Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre
Song of Surrender Elisha Hunt Mitchell Leisen Wanda Hendrix, Macdonald Carey
1950 The White Tower Paul DeLambre Ted Tetzlaff Glenn Ford, Alida Valli, Oskar Homolka, Cedric Hardwicke, Lloyd Bridges Technicolor
Where Danger Lives Frederick Lannington John Farrow Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, Maureen O'Sullivan
1951 Sealed Cargo Captain Skalder Alfred L. Werker Dana Andrews, Lloyd Bridges
1953 The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By Kees Popinga Harold French Marta Toren, Marius Goring Technicolor
1956 Lisbon Aristides Mavros Ray Milland Ray Milland, Maureen O'Hara Trucolor
1959 This Earth Is Mine Philippe Rambeau Henry King Rock Hudson, Jean Simmons, Dorothy McGuire Technicolor
1960 The Lost World Professor George Edward Challenger Irwin Allen Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Richard Haydn Deluxe color
1961 Battle of the Worlds Professor Benson Antonio Margheriti Bill Carter Color
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Mr. Dryden David Lean Peter O'Toole, Alec Guiness, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, Jose Ferrer Technicolor
Super Panavision 70
1963 Twilight of Honor Art Harper Boris Sagal Richard Chamberlain, Nick Adams, Joey Heatherton, Linda Evans
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Herod the Great George Stevens Max von Sydow, plus many cameos Technicolor
Ultra Panavision 70


  1. ^ a b Harmetz p. 147.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Harmetz p. 190.


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