Wednesday, November 10, 2010
London born and stage trained, Claude Rains was an exceptional actor equally adept at whimsical roles as he was in heavy drama. He made his mark in his very first Hollywood film, The Invisible Man (1933), his unmistakable voice doing most of the work. He signed on with Warner Brothers studio where his performances graced many of Hollywood’s greatest and best known classics. Warners cast him with its biggest stars at the peak of their careers and in many of their definitive films; The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn, Now, Voyager (1942) with Bette Davis and Casablanca (1943) with Humphrey Bogart.
Although rarely the lead, his characters were pivotal and always unforgettable. As Prince John in Flynn’s Robin Hood, he created one of the screen’s great villains. Wearing a heavily banged page boy bob, Rains preening prince planned and plotted only to be foiled in the end by the Prince of Thieves. Along with his role as the wise and knowing Dr. Jackwith in Now, Voyager, he also starred with Davis in Mr. Skeffington (1944) and Deception (1946). The two actors complemented one another perfectly and Rains was one of the actress’ favorite co-stars. The grande dame of the Warners’ lot even went as far to say he was “He was a pip! The best!”
The actor gave a powerful performance as a corrupt senator opposite James Stewart in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and yet another as a sinister Fascist leader in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946), although it’s debatable whether he or his characters mother is more evil in the latter.
He continued working into the 1960’s and also continued his stage work, winning a Tony Award in 1951. Well respected by his peers, Rains was nominated for the Academy Award four times, though never winning the coveted prize.