Claude Rains

For the Heroes character, see Claude (Heroes).
Claude Rains

Rains in the trailer for Now, Voyager (1942)
Born William Claude Rains
(1889-11-10)10 November 1889
Camberwell, London, England, UK
Died 30 May 1967(1967-05-30) (aged 77)
Laconia, New Hampshire, U.S.
Alma mater Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor
Years active 1901–1966
Spouse(s) Isabel Jeans (m. 1913; div. 1915)
Marie Hemingway (m. 1920; div. 1920)
Beatriz Thomas (m. 1924; div. 1935)
Frances Propper (m. 1935; div. 1956)
Agi Jambor (m. 1959; div. 1960)
Rosemary Clark Schrode (m. 1960; d. 1964)
Children Jessica Rains (b. 1938)
Parent(s) Fred Rains (father)
Emily Rains (nee Cox) (mother)

William Claude Rains (10 November 1889  30 May 1967) was an English film and stage actor whose career spanned 46 years. After his American film debut with The Invisible Man (1933) he played in classic films like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Wolf Man (1941), Casablanca (1942, as Captain Renault), Notorious (1946), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He was a four-time nominee for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, but never won. Rains was considered to be "one of the screen's great character stars"[1] with an extraordinary voice who was, according to the All-Movie Guide, "at his best when playing cultured villains".[2]

Early life

Rains was born in Camberwell, London. According to his daughter, he grew up with "a very serious Cockney accent and a speech impediment".[3] His parents were Emily Eliza (née Cox) and the actor Frederick William Rains.[4] Rains made his stage debut at the age of 11 in the play Nell of Old Drury.[5]

His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree paid for the elocution lessons that Rains needed to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at RADA, where his students included John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier. Many years later, after Rains had gone to Hollywood and become a well-known film actor, Gielgud commented: "He was a great influence on me. I don't know what happened to him. I think he failed and went to America."[6]

Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment,[7] alongside fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. At one time, he was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life.[8] By the end of the war, he had risen from the rank of Private to that of Captain.


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

Rains in Camel through the Eye's Needle on Broadway, New York, 1929

Although he had played a single supporting role in a silent, Build Thy House (1920),[1] Rains came relatively late to film acting, His screen test for A Bill of Divorcement (1932) for a New York representative of RKO was a failure but, according to some accounts, led to him being cast in the title role of James Whale's The Invisible Man (1933) after his screen test was inadvertently overheard from the next room.[3][9] His agent though, Harold Freedman, had a strong connection with the Laemmle family, who controlled Universal Studios at the time, and Whale himself had been acquainted with Rains in London and was keen to cast him in the role.[10][11]

Rains signed a long term contract with Warner Bros. on 27 November 1935 with Warner able to exercise the right to loan him to other studios and Rains having a potential income of up to $750,000 over 7 years.[12] He played the villainous role of Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Rains later credited the film's co-director Michael Curtiz with teaching him the more understated requirements of film acting, or "what not to do in front of a camera."[13] On loan to Columbia Pictures, he performed the role of the corrupt American senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) for which he received his first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. For his home studio, Warner Bros, he played the murderer Dr. Alexander Tower in Kings Row (1942) and the cynical police chief Captain Renault in Casablanca (also 1942). On loan again, Rains played the title character in Universal's remake of Phantom of the Opera (1943).

Bette Davis named him her favourite co-star, and they made four films together, including Now, Voyager (1942) and Mr. Skeffington (1944). Rains became the first actor to receive a million-dollar salary, when he portrayed Julius Caesar in a large budget but unsuccessful version of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), filmed in Britain. Shaw apparently chose him for the part, although Rains intensely disliked Gabriel Pascal, the film's director and producer.[14] He followed it with Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) as a refugee Nazi agent opposite Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Back in Britain, he appeared in David Lean's The Passionate Friends (1949).

Rains in Notorious (1946)

His only singing and dancing role was in a 1957 television musical version of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with Van Johnson as the Piper. The NBC colour special, broadcast as a film rather than a live or videotaped programme, was highly successful with the public. Sold into syndication after its first telecast, it was repeated annually by many local US TV stations.

Rains remained active as a character actor in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in films and as a guest in television series. Two of his late screen roles were as Dryden, a cynical British diplomat in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and King Herod in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), his last film. In CBS's Rawhide, he portrayed Alexander Langford, an attorney in a ghost town, in the episode "Incident of Judgement Day" (1963)

He additionally made several audio recordings, narrating some Bible stories for children on Capitol Records, and reciting Richard Strauss's setting for narrator and piano of Tennyson's poem Enoch Arden, with the piano solos performed by Glenn Gould. He starred in The Jeffersonian Heritage, a 1952 series of 13 half-hour radio programmes recorded by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and syndicated for commercial broadcast on a sustaining (i.e., commercial-free) basis.[15]

Personal life and death

Rains became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939. He married six times, and was divorced from the first five of his wives: Isabel Jeans (married 1913–1915); Marie Hemingway (to whom Rains was married for less than a year in 1920); Beatrix Thomson (1924–8 April 1935); Frances Propper (9 April 1935 – 1956); and the classical pianist Agi Jambor (4 November 1959 – 1960). In 1960, he married Rosemary Clark Schrode, to whom he was married until her death on 31 December 1964. His only child, Jennifer, was born on 24 January 1938, the daughter of Frances Propper. As an actress, she is known as Jessica Rains.[16]

He acquired the 380-acre (1.5 km2) Stock Grange Farm in West Bradford Township, Pennsylvania (just outside Coatesville) in 1941, and spent much of his time between film takes reading up on agricultural techniques. He sold the farm when his marriage to Propper ended in 1956. Rains spent his final years in Sandwich, New Hampshire.[17] He died from an abdominal haemorrhage in Laconia on 30 May 1967, aged 77. He was buried at the Red Hill Cemetery in Moultonborough, New Hampshire.

Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, a biography by David J. Skal and Rains' daughter Jessica, 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 nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on four occasions: for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1943), Mr. Skeffington (1944) and Notorious (1946). Rains 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 Goodwins, FredFred Goodwins Henry Ainley
1933 The Invisible Man Dr. Jack Griffin/The Invisible Man Whale, JamesJames Whale Gloria Stuart, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor
1934 Crime Without Passion Lee Gentry Hecht, BenBen Hecht, Charles MacArthur Margo, Whitney Bourne
1934 The Man Who Reclaimed His Head Paul Verin Ludwig, EdwardEdward Ludwig Lionel Atwill, Joan Bennett
1935 The Mystery of Edwin Drood John Jasper Walker, StuartStuart Walker Douglass Montgomery, Heather Angel, David Manners
1935 The Clairvoyant Maximus Elvey, MauriceMaurice Elvey Fay Wray
1935 The Last Outpost John Stevenson Gasnier, LouisLouis Gasnier, Charles Barton Cary Grant
1935 Scrooge Jacob Marley Henry Edwards Sir Seymour Hicks, Donald Calthrop Uncredited
1936 Hearts Divided Napoleon Bonaparte Borzage, FrankFrank Borzage Marion Davies, Dick Powell, Charlie Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton
1936 Anthony Adverse Marquis Don Luis LeRoy, MervynMervyn LeRoy Fredric March, Olivia de Havilland, Gale Sondergaard
1937 Stolen Holiday Stefan Orloff Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Kay Francis, Ian Hunter
1937 The Prince and the Pauper Earl of Hertford Keighley, WilliamWilliam Keighley Errol Flynn, Billy and Bobby Mauch
1937 They Won't Forget Dist. Atty. Andrew J. "Andy" Griffin LeRoy, MervynMervyn LeRoy Gloria Dickson, Lana Turner
1938 White Banners Paul Ward Goulding, EdmundEdmund Goulding Fay Bainter, Jackie Cooper, Bonita Granville, Henry O'Neill, Kay Johnson
1938 Gold is Where You Find It Colonel Christopher "Chris" Ferris Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz George Brent, Olivia de Havilland, Tim Holt Technicolor
1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood Prince John Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz, William Keighley Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone Technicolor
1938 Four Daughters Adam Lemp Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page, John Garfield
1939 They Made Me a Criminal Det. Monty Phelan Berkeley, BusbyBusby Berkeley John Garfield, Gloria Dickson, May Robson
1939 Juarez Emperor Louis Napoleon III Dieterle, WilliamWilliam Dieterle Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Brian Aherne, John Garfield
1939 Sons of Liberty Haym Salomon Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Gale Sondergaard Technicolor; two-reel short
1939 Daughters Courageous Jim Masters Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page, John Garfield
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine Capra, FrankFrank Capra Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Thomas Mitchell Nomination—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1939 Four Wives Adam Lemp Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Eddie Albert, Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page, John Garfield
1940 Saturday's Children Mr. Henry Halevy Sherman, VincentVincent Sherman John Garfield, Anne Shirley
1940 The Sea Hawk Don José Alvarez de Córdoba Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Henry Daniell, Flora Robson, Alan Hale Sepia tone (sequence)
1940 Lady with Red Hair David Belasco Bernhardt, CurtisCurtis Bernhardt Miriam Hopkins, Laura Hope Crews
1941 Four Mothers Adam Lemp Keighley, WilliamWilliam Keighley Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane, Gale Page
1941 Here Comes Mr. Jordan Mr. Jordan Hall, AlexanderAlexander Hall Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes, Edward Everett Horton
1941 The Wolf Man Sir John Talbot Waggner, GeorgeGeorge Waggner Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Patric Knowles, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya
1942 Kings Row Dr. Alexander Tower Wood, SamSam Wood Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Betty Field, Charles Coburn
1942 Moontide Nutsy Mayo, ArchieArchie Mayo Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell
1942 Now, Voyager Dr. Jaquith Rapper, IrvingIrving Rapper Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Gladys Cooper
1942 Casablanca Capt. Louis Renault Curtiz, MichaelMichael 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 Wilcox, HerbertHerbert Wilcox
(sequence with Rains)
Anna Neagle, Ray Milland, C. Aubrey Smith
1943 Phantom of the Opera Erique Claudin/The Phantom of the Opera Lubin, ArthurArthur Lubin Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster Technicolor
1944 Passage to Marseille Captain Freycinet Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Humphrey Bogart, Michèle Morgan, Philip Dorn, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Helmut Dantine
1944 Mr. Skeffington Job Skeffington Sherman, VincentVincent Sherman Bette Davis, Walter Abel, George Coulouris, Richard Waring Nomination—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1945 Strange Holiday John Stevenson Duvivier, JulienJulien Duvivier Jean Gabin, Richard Whorf, Allyn Joslyn, Ellen Drew
1945 This Love of Ours Joseph Targel Dieterle, WilliamWilliam Dieterle Merle Oberon
1945 Caesar and Cleopatra Julius Caesar Pascal, GabrielGabriel Pascal Vivien Leigh, Stewart Granger, Flora Robson Technicolor
1946 Notorious Alex Sebastian Hitchcock, AlfredAlfred Hitchcock Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Louis Calhern Nomination—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1946 Angel on My Shoulder Nick Mayo, ArchieArchie Mayo Paul Muni, Anne Baxter
1946 Deception Alexander Hollenius Rapper, IrvingIrving Rapper Bette Davis, Paul Henreid
1947 The Unsuspected Victor Grandison Curtiz, MichaelMichael Curtiz Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield
1949 The Passionate Friends Howard Justin Lean, DavidDavid Lean Ann Todd, Trevor Howard
1949 Rope of Sand Arthur "Fred" Martingale Dieterle, WilliamWilliam Dieterle Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre
1949 Song of Surrender Elisha Hunt Leisen, MitchellMitchell Leisen Wanda Hendrix, Macdonald Carey
1950 The White Tower Paul DeLambre Tetzlaff, TedTed Tetzlaff Glenn Ford, Alida Valli, Oskar Homolka, Cedric Hardwicke, Lloyd Bridges Technicolor
1950 Where Danger Lives Frederick Lannington Farrow, JohnJohn Farrow Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, Maureen O'Sullivan
1951 Sealed Cargo Captain Skalder Werker, Alfred L.Alfred L. Werker Dana Andrews, Lloyd Bridges
1953 The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By Kees Popinga French, HaroldHarold French Märta Torén, Marius Goring Technicolor
1956 Lisbon Aristides Mavros Milland, RayRay Milland Ray Milland, Maureen O'Hara Trucolor
1957 The Pied Piper of Hamelin The Mayor of Hamelin Windust, BretaigneBretaigne Windust Van Johnson, Lori Nelson Technicolor
1959 This Earth Is Mine Philippe Rambeau King, HenryHenry King Rock Hudson, Jean Simmons, Dorothy McGuire Technicolor
1960 The Lost World Professor George Edward Challenger Allen, IrwinIrwin Allen Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Richard Haydn Deluxe color
1961 Battle of the Worlds Professor Benson Margheriti, AntonioAntonio Margheriti Bill Carter Colour
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Mr. Dryden Lean, DavidDavid Lean Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, José Ferrer Technicolor
Super Panavision 70
1963 Twilight of Honor Art Harper Sagal, BorisBoris Sagal Richard Chamberlain, Nick Adams, Joey Heatherton, Linda Evans
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Herod the Great Stevens, GeorgeGeorge Stevens Max von Sydow, plus many cameos Technicolor
Ultra Panavision 70

Radio appearances

Year Programme Episode/source
1952 Cavalcade of America Three Words[18]

See also


  1. 1 2 McFarlane, Brian. "Rains, Claude (1889-1967)". BFI screenoline. Retrieved 30 December 2015. From McFarlane's Encyclopedia of British Film, London: Methuen/BFI, 2003, p.545
  2. Erickson, Hal. "Claude Rains". The New York Times/All-Movie Guide. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  3. 1 2 Harmetz p. 147.
  4. "International Stars at War".
  5. "The Sublime Claude Rains". Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  6. "John Gielgud - Quotes - IMDb".
  7. Default Admin User. "Welcome to The London Scottish Regiment Website".
  8. "Remembering Claude Rains". Den of Geek.
  9. Tom Weaver,, Michael Brunas, John Brunas Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007. p.102
  10. Skal and Rains Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, p.48-9
  11. Tom Weaver,, Michael Brunas, John Brunas Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946, p.79
  12. David J. Skal, with Jessica Rains Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2008, p.61-62
  13. Harmetz p. 190.
  14. David Shipman The Great Movie Stars: 1, The Golden Years, London: Macdonald, 1989, p.487
  15. "The Jeffersonian Heritage," Broadcasting-Telecasting, 8 September 1952, 36 (trade advertisement).
  16. Skal and Rains, p.104
  17. Duckler, Ray (31 March 2012). "A Star's Last Act: The great Claude Rains spent his final years in New Hampshire". Concord Monitor. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  18. Kirby, Walter (February 17, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 1, 2015 via


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