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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).
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".
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, 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. 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".
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.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia