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Claude Rains Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (6) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (47) | Personal Quotes (2) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 10 November 1889Camberwell, London, England, UK
Date of Death 30 May 1967Laconia, New Hampshire, USA  (intestinal hemorrhage)
Birth NameWilliam Claude Rains
Nickname 'Willy Wains'
Height 5' 6½" (1.69 m)

Mini Bio (1)

William Claude Rains, born in the Camberwell area of London, was the son of the British stage actor Frederick Rains. The younger Rains followed, making his stage debut at the age of eleven in "Nell of Old Drury." Growing up in the world of theater, he saw not only acting up close but the down-to-earth business end as well, progressing from a page boy to a stage manager during his well-rounded learning experience. Rains decided to come to America in 1913 and the New York theater, but with the outbreak of World War I the next year, he returned to serve with a Scottish regiment in Europe. He remained in England, honing his acting talents, bolstered with instruction patronized by the founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Herbert Beerbohm Tree. It was not long before his talent garnered him acknowledgment as one of the leading stage actors on the London scene. His one and only silent film venture was British with a small part for him, the forgettable -- Build Thy House (1920).

In the meantime, Rains was in demand as acting teacher as well, and he taught at the Royal Academy. Young and eager Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud were perhaps his best known students. Rains did return to New York in 1927 to begin what would be nearly 20 Broadway roles. While working for the Theater Guild, he was offered a screen test with Universal Pictures in 1932. Rains had a unique and solid British voice-deep, slightly rasping -- but richly dynamic. And as a man of small stature, the combination was immediately intriguing. Universal was embarking on its new-found role as horror film factory, and they were looking for someone unique for their next outing, The Invisible Man (1933). Rains was the very man. He took the role by the ears, churning up a rasping malice and volume in his voice to achieve a bone chilling persona of the disembodied mad doctor. He could also throw out a high-pitched maniac laugh that would make you leave the lights on before going to bed. True to Universal's formula mentality, it cast him in similar roles through 1934 with some respite in more diverse film roles -- and further relieved by Broadway roles (1933, 1934) for the remainder of his contract. By 1936, he was at Warner Bros. with its ambitious laundry list of literary epics in full swing. His acting was superb, and his eyes could say as much as his voice. And his mouth could take on both a forbidding scowl and the warmest of smiles in an instant. His malicious, gouty Don Luis in Anthony Adverse (1936) was inspired. After a shear lucky opportunity to dispatch his young wife's lover, Louis Hayward, in a duel, he triumphs over her in a scene with derisive, bulging eyes and that high pitched laugh -- with appropriate shadow and light backdrop -- that is unforgettable.

He was kept very busy through the remainder of the 1930s with a mix of benign and devious historical, literary, and contemporary characters always adapting a different nuance -- from murmur to growl -- of that voice to become the person. He culminated the decade with his complex, ethics-tortured Senator "Joe" Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). That year he became an American citizen. Into the 1940s, Rains had risen to perhaps unique stature: a supporting actor who had achieved A-list stardom -- almost in a category by himself. His some 40 films during that period ranged from subtle comedy to psychological drama with a bit of horror revisited; many would be golden era classics. He was the firm but thoroughly sympathetic Dr. Jaquith in Now, Voyager (1942) and the smoothly sardonic but engaging Capt. Louis Renault -- perhaps his best known role -- in Casablanca (1942). He was the surreptitiously nervous and malignant Alexander Sebastian in Notorious (1946) and the egotistical and domineering conductor Alexander Hollenius in Deception (1946). He was the disfigured Phantom of the Opera (1943) as well. He played opposite the challenging Bette Davis in three movies through the decade and came out her equal in acting virtuosity. He was nominated four times for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar -- but incredibly never won. With the 1950s the few movies left to an older Rains were countered by venturing into new acting territory -- television. His haunted, suicidal writer Paul DeLambre in the mountaineering adventure The White Tower (1950), though a modest part, was perhaps the most vigorously memorable film role of his last years. He made a triumphant Broadway return in 1951's "Darkness at Noon."

Rains embraced the innovative TV playhouse circuit with nearly 20 roles. As a favored 'Alfred Hitchcock' alumnus, he starred in five Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) suspense dramas into the 1960s. And he did not shy away from episodic TV either with some memorable roles that still reflected the power of Claude Rains as consummate actor -- for many, first among peers with that hallowed title.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (6)

Rosemary McGroarty Clark (August 1960 - 31 December 1964) (her death)
Agi Jambor (4 November 1959 - 29 July 1960) (divorced)
Frances Propper (8 April 1935 - 1956) (divorced) (1 child)
Beatrix Thomson (November 1924 - 8 April 1935) (divorced)
Marie Hemingway (1920 - 1920) (divorced)
Isabel Jeans (1913 - 1918) (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Acted with his eyes, unmistakable voice

Trivia (47)

Herbert Beerbohm Tree recognized Rains' acting talent and paid for the elocution books and lessons he needed due to his poor diction.
Rains was almost blind in one eye due to injury received in a gas attack during WWI.
Father of Jessica Rains.
Interred at Red Hill Cemetery, Moultonborough, New Hampshire, USA
Originally cast as the Duke de Lorca in Adventures of Don Juan (1948).
Won Broadway's 1951 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "Darkness at Noon."
Son of Fred Rains.
His memorable role as The Invisible Man (1933) was referenced in the opening song to the cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
Was a teacher at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before coming to Hollywood, whose students included John Gielgud.
He would recite bedtime stories to his daughter Jessica in Cockney, an English dialect that was essentially his mother tongue.
His daughter Jennifer was born on January 24, 1938. Her screen name is Jessica Rains', as there was already a Jennifer Rains registered in the Actors' Equity.
His wife Rosemary died from pancreatic cancer. Rains and his doctor kept the diagnosis from Rosemary until one day she said, "Please don't do that to me any longer. I know what I've got.".
His wife Rosemary had been a Catholic but was not in good standing with the church as she had divorced and remarried. Claude Rains pushed the church to reinstate her, which they did at her funeral.
He separated from wife Isabel Jeans three times, reuniting two of those times. He finally filed for divorce on grounds of adultery when she miscarried Gilbert Wakefield's baby. She admitted the adultery during the divorce and later married "Gilly" Wakefield.
His first wife, Isabel Jeans, always wore a wig because her natural hair was so thin.
His marriage to Marie Hemingway only lasted months. Rains and Hemingway did not know each other well before marrying, and it was not until after they were married that he found out she was an alcoholic.
He starred in Richard B. Sheridan's "The Rivals" on stage in 1925. His then wife, Beatrix Thomson as well as his two former wives were also in the cast.
He and wife Beatrix Thomson separated in 1928. It took almost seven years to finalize.
His fifth wife, Agi Jambor, was born in 1908. She was a pianist-composer and Bach expert who taught music at Bryn Mawr.
His fifth wife, Agi, was a Hungarian Jew who had escaped the holocaust. She later composed the piano solo "Sonata for the Victims of Auschwitz.".
His fifth wife, Agi, was a widow who had lost her husband in 1949.
On the way to their wedding, Rains' soon-to-be-fifth wife Agi made him turn around and go back. She had forgotten to put on the underwear she had worn at her first wedding, which she insisted she wear for luck at her second.
It bothered him that his fifth wife, Agi, would practice piano on a silent keyboard. He couldn't stand to see her hands flying around with no music to listen to.
Rains would throw things when he was angry.
Rains was so stingy with money that constantly complained he was broke, although this was never truly the case.
When he had had enough of his fifth marriage to wife Agi, he had the locks changed on their house while she was out shopping.
His fourth wife, Frances, was born around 1909.
While living with, but before their marriage, his fourth wife, Frances, their house burned down. The official cause of fire was a lightning strike. Rains later found out from a neighbor that it was arson -- his groundskeeper had burned it down.
His fourth wife, Frances, was named as corespondent in his divorce from third wife Beatrix.
After he divorced his third wife and married his fourth, his third wife charged him with bigamy, challenging the legality of their divorce.
Joan Crawford invited his daughter Jennifer to her daughter Christina's birthday party. She told Jennifer's mother, Claude's wife, that Jennifer could wear jeans. Jennifer showed up to the party the only little girl not dressed up. When Christina introduced Jennifer to her mother, Crawford said to Jennifer, "It was very nice to meet you. And now you may leave." Jennifer was also shown Christina's extensive doll collection, which Christina explained to her that no one was ever allowed to touch or play with. Jennifer never returned to the Crawford home.
When his daughter Jennifer was 17, her mother, Frances Proppper, woke her up in the middle of the night, said she was leaving her father, and wanted to know if Jennifer wanted to come with her. Jennifer declined.
Rains and fourth wife Frances divorced after Francis began a relationship with a woman's dress shop owner whom she later married.
On the day his divorce from Frances Propper was final, he drank and drove his Bentley into a ditch, totaling it. When they found him he was passed out drunk on the ground and the car was upside down and on fire.
While filming Notorious (1946) with Alfred Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman, Hitchcock suggested Rains wear platforms in his shoes as Bergman was very tall. Although embarrassed, Rains agreed to this. One day while Rains was talking to Bergman, Hitchcock came by, lifting Rains' pant leg and revealing his platforms, commenting "The shame of Rains".
When his daughter informed him she was divorcing her husband, Edward Brash, Rains said, "Tell me, was it sex?".
He designed his own tombstone. It reads: "All things once/Are things forever,/Soul, once living,/lives forever.".
Left $25,000 to the Actors Fund of America.
He never attended a premiere.
Rains, his wife Frances, and daughter Jennifer lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. When people asked Jennifer what her father did for a living, she would tell them he was a farmer.
The first time his daughter ever saw Rains in a film was in 1950 when he took her to see The Invisible Man (1933) in a small theater in Pennsylvania. They sat in the back, and Rains told her all about the making of the film as it played. The other people in the theater were not watching the movie, but rather watching Claude Rains explain to his daughter how he made the film.
He didn't just memorize his own lines, but the entire script.
Although they lived in Pennsylvania, Rains did not want his daughter to have a Pennsylvanian accent. He taught her to pronounce words the way he did, and he was successful. Also, as a young child, she stuttered and Rains' cure for this was for everyone in the house to sing everything they wanted to say, which worked.
Played the devil who brought a criminal back to life in Angel on My Shoulder (1946) and played an angel who brought a Boxer back to life in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941).
Claude Rains was offered numerous parts which would have undoubtedly changed his career path, but one way or another he did not play the parts. These parts include Dr Gogol in Mad Love (1935), Dr Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Frollo or Qasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Wolf Frankenstein in Son of Frankenstein (1941), Pr Higgins in Pygmalion (1938), Mr Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964), Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), De Lorca in the Adventures of Don Juan (1948) and Henry Potter in It's A Wonderful Life (1946).
Along with Vanessa Redgrave (for Julia (1977)), Kate Winslet (for Iris (2000), Mare Winningham (for Georgia (1995)) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (for _The Master (2012)), he is one of the few performers to be nominated for an Supporting Oscar (for Mr. Skeffington (1944)) for playing the title role in a movie. As of 2013, Redgrave is the only one to win.
According to "Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice", he was friends with Helen Westley from the time they were in the Theatre Guild together in New York. When James Whale ordered him to watch movies to observe film acting in preparation for his role in "The Invisible Man", Helen Westley was his film watching companion.

Personal Quotes (2)

Often we'd secretly like to do the very things we discipline ourselves against. Isn't that true? Well, here in the movies I can be as mean, as wicked as I want to - and all without hurting anybody. Look at that lovely girl I've just shot!
I learn the lines and pray to God.

Salary (1)

Casablanca (1942) $4,000 /week

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