Claude Rains: The Virtuoso

It was 1932 and Claude Rains was disenchanted.

Above: Claude Rains in the 1930s

He was at a crossroads in his life and his career. He’d tried his best to find work in the new fad, the Talkies, but the camera apparently disliked him. A recent screen test for RKO to play the part of Hilary Farfield in a film adaptation of Clemence Dane‘s A Bill of Divorcement had seemed promising. In his effort to show the extent of what he could do, Rains had pulled out all the stops for the test by performing scenes from two of his tour de force stage performances from The Man Who Reclaimed His Head and Shaw’s Man of Destiny. In retrospect, Rains knew that he’d made “the worst screen test in the history of movie-making.” The dramatically flamboyant part in the movie of Dane’s play went to John Barrymore.

If his own assessment had been the last word on his career, who would have supplied the Machiavellian skill and cunning to his Don Jose scheming against Flora Robson‘s Queen Elizabeth in The Sea Hawk (1940), or brought a spark of lively warmth and humanity to what might have been a stock character in White Banners (1938) or Daughters Courageous (1939)? In the mid-forties, he would even flex his finely honed Shavian muscles to good effect on screen in very high style in Caesar and Cleopatra (1946), playing a worldly wise Julius Caesar to Vivien Leigh‘s kittenish Cleopatra. Chosen by George Bernard Shaw himself, (who would say that Rains and Sir Cedric Hardwicke were his favorite interpreters of his work), it must have been heartening for Rains–for once–to get the girl.

Above: Claude Rains with Vivien Leigh in Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945)

Few other actors could have inspired bemused sympathy for the devil as well as a chill of recognition in his character in Angel on My Shoulder (1946). In a part that could easily have slipped into melodrama, his tragic, pedantic doctor in Kings Row (1942) blended a troubling mixture of the watchfully paternal with a distinctly Old Testament sense of order, (seeing his performance in this film as a youngster gave me one of my first hints that the bland surface of life should not be taken at face value). Even his most floridly theatrical parts, such as the protean composer Hollenius in Deception(1946), his imperious David Belasco in Lady With Red Hair (1940), and his nervously snickering, slightly effeminate King John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) benefited from his ability to endear his fairly insufferable characters to an audience while seemingly relishing playing them with true gusto.

Above: Claude Rains as King John in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938).

Despite this remarkable ability to wear the changing expressive face of a range of men, when given the opportunity by a good role and perceptive director, he cut through the artifice on a movie screen, and could produce work of such subtlety and complexity that I see something new each time I see the film. In one of Claude Rains‘ least known movies, Saturday’s Children (1940), based on a Maxwell Anderson play about the struggles of a young Depression era couple, (John Garfield & Anne Shirley), he plays a small man living a narrow life, in “quiet desperation” redeemed by his muted love for his family, particularly his daughter. When she turns to him for help in a bleak moment, his face sags, even as he smiles wanly. Realizing how little he can offer her, he confesses to her: “Do you know when I stopped living? When I was 43. I realized then what the end of my life would be–exactly what it had been up to then: repetitious, dull, and completely worthless to anyone…But at least there was one thing left to me; I could see to it that it didn’t happen to you.”Delivered as a soft-spoken realization on the part of Rains‘ character, this speech is devastating and pitiless in opening up a vein of briefly glimpsed despair in an otherwise earthbound film.

In several better known movies, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and Notorious (1946) I will watch them long after other details of their masterfully-constructed surfaces have paled for me simply because Claude Rains is there. Watch his pained expression as he listens to the filibustering Jimmy Stewart in the hall of Congress. Every idealistic syllable the youthful Senator utters pierces his calloused conscience, reminding him of what he was and might have been. Rains really doesn’t speak much in his role in the Capra film, and most of his part is played in his face.

In Notorious, his Nazi sympathizer seems the most truly guileless and recognizably and tragically human of the central characters. He’s riddled with flaws, too in love with his wife (Ingrid Bergman), dominated by his icy mother (Leopoldine Konstantin), cowed by his fellow conspirators, but like so many of Rains‘ most complex and vivid characters, painfully self-aware in a way that transcends the story.

Yet, all these and more of the achievements remained in Mr. Rains‘ future in 1932.

What did he have to offer films back then? Claude Rains was on the shady side of forty, short, a bit stocky, had trouble pronouncing his “r” s, (according to no less an authority than John Gielgud), came from the wrong side of London, and, was not, he knew, the “arrow collar” type favored by films. What he did have, ironically, was what movies needed then: a voice, as well as over three decades of stage experience.

That voice of his had led to this business, but as the Depression deepened and theaters darkened, it didn’t look as though even this facility could sustain him now. The future four time Oscar nominee had been working away at his job of actor for over three decades, and he’d begun to wonder if he’d made a mistake. At first it was his singing voice that had brought him from the Dickensian poverty he’d been born into as one of 12 siblings on the wrong side of London. He’d gone to work almost as soon as he could walk, and eventually found that singing in a choir could earn him a few pennies to contribute to his family’s coffers. His father, a man who seems to have had some gifts and considerable difficulty keeping a steady job, despite stints as a teacher and even a pioneer film director, would be of little help in Claude’s ascent in life. That climb was made more difficult by the fact that when young Claude wasn’t singing, the slight boy had a pronounced stutter and a Cockney accent as thick as a London fog in November.
<i>Above: a portrait of Claude Rains at 18</i>
Granted, from 1900, when, as a ten year old call boy, he had been asked to appear on the London stage as a singing street urchin in something called Nell of Old Drury, he’d found considerable success. The generosity of his employer at His Majesty’s Theatre also helped. One of the great actor-managers of the English theater, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who took the lad under his wing, fostered a love of books in him and lent him money to buy them. Tree, who was a real father figure in one sense, also encouraged him to have his speech impediment corrected and to acquire a more acceptable accent if he really wanted a future in acting. Soon Rains was inspired to become the prompter for the actors, then he became an assistant stage manager, and eventually a working actor and an instructor of Gielgud and later Charles Laughton at RADA , among others. All the girl students at the Royal Academy, btw, were said to be in love with him. He married at least two of them.
With the outbreak of the Great War, Claude Rains had interrupted his career long enough to join one of the toughest British outfits, the London Scottish Regiment , becoming, for a time, one of Britain’s legendary kilt-wearing soldiers known as the “Ladies from Hell”. Still, he would later say that “I didn’t want to get killed or kill anyone else.” An additional toll was paid at Vimy Ridge in northern France in 1917 when under heavy bombardment and a gas attack, he lost most of the vision in his right eye and for a time, his voice. Perhaps the experience and the resultant near blindness may have contributed to a lifetime of looking at his fellow actors with a characteristically cocked right eyebrow and a tilt of his head. Thankfully, his voice had returned eventually, though it now had a not unappealing velvety raspiness, a quality that Rains learned to use to great effect.

Above: A youthful Claude Rains while on stage tour in Australia in 1912.

Seeking a challenge and better pay, Claude had explained his decision to emigrate to the states in the 1920s with a verbal shrug, saying that he “couldn’t eat his notices.” Now, with theaters darkened by the Depression across the country, even that field seems less remunerative than he’d hoped when you came across the Atlantic to the New World, where he would become an enthusiastic American citizen.

What did he have to show for it all? Some clippings, a few lasting friendships, two divorces, and one more rather shaky third long distance marriage (there would be six marriages in all) to a woman who was apparently not interested in living in the colonies, much less in the “wilds” of Lambertville, New Jersey.

Claude Rains away from the stage and screen in a rural setting early in his American career.

As unlikely as it may seem, Claude Rains, born in one of the world’s largest cities and a stage actor best known in the cosmopolitan theatrical world, longed to be a farmer. Enchanted with the idea of living in the historic Delaware Valley area , Rains had sunk his nest egg into a small homestead in the region, thinking, he thought, that if things got really tough as the economy worsened, he could at least grow his own food. In a gesture that would probably have been rejected by Belasco or De Mille as too melodramatic, however, Nature stepped in with a shattering thunderstorm, and a well-placed lightning bolt incinerated the farmhouse, sending Claude’s dream of living off the land up in smoke for the time being. This made the actor very much available for a call from Hollywood to appear in an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

Agronomy’s loss was cinema’s gain.

Fortunately for filmgoers everywhere, Frankenstein director James Whale was working on pre-production of his next film at Universal around this same time. Somewhere, he heard, and then saw that “terrible” screen test that Claude Rains had made. He knew immediately that the actor for perfect for the role. In 1940, a modest Rains would explain said that he “spurned [Hollywood's] offers. They told me they wanted to take me away from my art, from the stage, to play in their beastly movies. I wouldn’t listen; I resented the mere suggestion! Then they cable me to say how much they would pay me and you couldn’t see me for dust. I had my bags packed and was in Hollywood the next morning.”

The beginning of the film career had begun. That first starring role as the addled scientist in The Invisible Man blended many of the artful qualities that Claude Rains would later beguile audiences with to this day: Humor, (though wildly manic in much of this film) informs nearly every role he played, beneath the surface of his characters if not overtly expressed in a script.

Above: Claude Rains “seen” in “The Invisible Man” (1933) doing all he can to steal a scene from Gloria Stuart.

There’s always a sense of ironic detachment, a quality which seems to separate Rains from his fellow players while also allowing his characters to maintain the upper hand, (at least until the production code rights that imbalance in most films). An underlying longing for friendship and a hope for love is also in evidence here as it is in each of his more serious roles as well as his lighter ones. It’s no wonder The Invisible Man(1933) was so popular–despite the fact that we only see Rains for a moment at the end of the film. How apt that his wonderfully modulated voice should carry the story along and add so much to his character!

And fortunately for Mr. Rains, in 1935 he was comfortable enough financially to buy a 40 acre farm in Pennsylvania where he and his third wife and cherished daughter Jessica would live throughout the forties and much of the fifties. While Claude Rains raised the level of the character actor to new artistic heights on screen, he never won an Academy Award, despite nominations for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1944), Mr. Skeffington (1945) and Notorious (1947). I’m only surprised that he wasn’t nominated more often.

Above: Claude Rains in “Deception” (1946) striking a characteristic pose in one of the many roles for which he should have won an Oscar.

The reasons for his failure to win the Academy Award may be one of those Oscar season unanswerable debates. I suspect that two reasons are behind the conundrum: He rarely spent time shmoozing in Hollywood when he wasn’t working, much preferring to work on the farm in Pennsylvania. A guarded man, even director Vincent Sherman, who first met him in the ’20s in the New York Theatre and worked with him over a period of twenty years once said, “Most of our conversations, then and later, were about theater and films–he was a man of mystery otherwise, who guarded his privacy even in those early years.” The other reason he may not have been awarded the Oscar? He made it look too easy.

____________________________

Sources:

Behlmer, Rudy, Inside Warner Brothers (1935-1951), Viking Press, 1985.
Curtis, James, James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters, University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Sherman, Vincent, Studio Affairs: My Life As a Film Director, University Press of Kentucky, 1996.
Soister, John, Joanna Wioskowski, Claude Rains: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference to His Work in Film, Stage, Radio, Television and Recordings, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006.

76 Responses Claude Rains: The Virtuoso
Posted By MDR : February 14, 2008 4:13 pm

Great article on one of the best character actors to ever play the lead.  Having just seen Caesar and Cleopatra (1946) on TCM, I feel much the way I did after I saw him in They Won't Forget (1937); he always gave even his leading roles so much more than his peers.  Plus, any man who can hold his own and give it back to Bette Davis (in four films) vs. just taking up space (George Brent, at times) deserves the utmost respect.

Posted By MDR : February 14, 2008 4:13 pm

Great article on one of the best character actors to ever play the lead.  Having just seen Caesar and Cleopatra (1946) on TCM, I feel much the way I did after I saw him in They Won't Forget (1937); he always gave even his leading roles so much more than his peers.  Plus, any man who can hold his own and give it back to Bette Davis (in four films) vs. just taking up space (George Brent, at times) deserves the utmost respect.

Posted By Medusa : February 14, 2008 10:33 pm

Wonderful, Moira!  And I had no idea he was such a Romeo!  And I also love that he was so in tune with the land.  What an enigma!Your articles always make us want to sit down and watch about a million films!  Thanks for this great look into Claude Rains! 

Posted By Medusa : February 14, 2008 10:33 pm

Wonderful, Moira!  And I had no idea he was such a Romeo!  And I also love that he was so in tune with the land.  What an enigma!Your articles always make us want to sit down and watch about a million films!  Thanks for this great look into Claude Rains! 

Posted By Derek : February 15, 2008 12:49 am

Claude is completely worthy of some recognition, can they not give posthumous academy achievement awards? They should. I found out a few years ago that Mr. Rains is buried in my state up north which I found bizarre, could be the only big movie actor to die in NH.

Posted By Derek : February 15, 2008 12:49 am

Claude is completely worthy of some recognition, can they not give posthumous academy achievement awards? They should. I found out a few years ago that Mr. Rains is buried in my state up north which I found bizarre, could be the only big movie actor to die in NH.

Posted By Jenni : February 15, 2008 10:15 am

While I loved his performance in The Invisible Man, I always loved his part in Casablanca.  Love that line  that he's "…shocked!  Shocked that gambling is going on…." in Bogart's nightclub.  Great line!!  Thanks for the article on a great actor.

Posted By Jenni : February 15, 2008 10:15 am

While I loved his performance in The Invisible Man, I always loved his part in Casablanca.  Love that line  that he's "…shocked!  Shocked that gambling is going on…." in Bogart's nightclub.  Great line!!  Thanks for the article on a great actor.

Posted By chris : February 15, 2008 12:39 pm

As an avid classic film lover  Claude Rains was always one of my favorites.What sold me on his abilities is still his somewhat smokey voice that was as smooth as silk.Ican`t think of any film that was not under a 3star rating in my book.One of my favorite roles is Dr.Jackworth in Now Voyager with Bette Davis.I love the  character in The Invisible Man.His abilties ranged far and wide.

Posted By chris : February 15, 2008 12:39 pm

As an avid classic film lover  Claude Rains was always one of my favorites.What sold me on his abilities is still his somewhat smokey voice that was as smooth as silk.Ican`t think of any film that was not under a 3star rating in my book.One of my favorite roles is Dr.Jackworth in Now Voyager with Bette Davis.I love the  character in The Invisible Man.His abilties ranged far and wide.

Posted By Joe aka Mongo : February 15, 2008 5:27 pm

As usual Moira, another top quality profile. Mr. Raines was/is  the cream of the crop and excelled in just about everything he did. Of course I have my favorites, and he should have won that Oscar for "Notorious".  Always a pleasure to watch.

Posted By Joe aka Mongo : February 15, 2008 5:27 pm

As usual Moira, another top quality profile. Mr. Raines was/is  the cream of the crop and excelled in just about everything he did. Of course I have my favorites, and he should have won that Oscar for "Notorious".  Always a pleasure to watch.

Posted By Violet AKA rainingviolets21 : February 16, 2008 2:25 pm

I regard Claude Rains as the best actor to ever grace the silver screenand I think he should have won an Oscar for his performance in Deception as the composer Hollenius…he was superb ! And i am amazed at the output of this remarkable actor.. so many films, it seems he was never idle…

Posted By Violet AKA rainingviolets21 : February 16, 2008 2:25 pm

I regard Claude Rains as the best actor to ever grace the silver screenand I think he should have won an Oscar for his performance in Deception as the composer Hollenius…he was superb ! And i am amazed at the output of this remarkable actor.. so many films, it seems he was never idle…

Posted By Jeff : February 16, 2008 9:24 pm

For me Claude Rains will always be the father who murdered his son in THE WOLF MAN. It was my first impression of him and a crude introduction to Greek tragedy for a five year old but unforgettable. Then, of course, I discovered THE INVISIBLE MAN so imagine my surprise years later as a teenager encountering him in supporting roles in CASABLANCA, NOW, VOYAGER, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and HERE COMES MR. JORDAN. I only knew about the horror films…and then there was this other whole world of Claude Rains films. A wonderful tribute. Is it too late for the Academy to honor and award this supreme actor?

Posted By Jeff : February 16, 2008 9:24 pm

For me Claude Rains will always be the father who murdered his son in THE WOLF MAN. It was my first impression of him and a crude introduction to Greek tragedy for a five year old but unforgettable. Then, of course, I discovered THE INVISIBLE MAN so imagine my surprise years later as a teenager encountering him in supporting roles in CASABLANCA, NOW, VOYAGER, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and HERE COMES MR. JORDAN. I only knew about the horror films…and then there was this other whole world of Claude Rains films. A wonderful tribute. Is it too late for the Academy to honor and award this supreme actor?

Posted By Christy : February 17, 2008 7:41 pm

Moira, what a lush homage to a man who carried away my heart the first time I was subjected to his "ironic detachment."  Claude Rains always made me perk up and listen more closely to anything he said, mumbled or whispered. I'm glad "agronomy's loss" was the American film-going public's gain! Maybe he's lucky that Oscar never came formally knocking. Claude Rains is still in a class all by himself. Even George Bernard Shaw had him on his short list!

Posted By Christy : February 17, 2008 7:41 pm

Moira, what a lush homage to a man who carried away my heart the first time I was subjected to his "ironic detachment."  Claude Rains always made me perk up and listen more closely to anything he said, mumbled or whispered. I'm glad "agronomy's loss" was the American film-going public's gain! Maybe he's lucky that Oscar never came formally knocking. Claude Rains is still in a class all by himself. Even George Bernard Shaw had him on his short list!

Posted By YancySkancy : February 18, 2008 5:41 pm

I'm with Derek: the Academy should add a Hall of Fame type category (doesn't the Grammys do something like that?), and Rains should be one of the first posthumous inductees.Great, informative article, Moira!

Posted By YancySkancy : February 18, 2008 5:41 pm

I'm with Derek: the Academy should add a Hall of Fame type category (doesn't the Grammys do something like that?), and Rains should be one of the first posthumous inductees.Great, informative article, Moira!

Posted By klondike : February 19, 2008 8:37 pm

Great review of a unique career, Madame M!The first four or five or six times we find ourselves captivated by Claude Rains, we put it down to fascination, or admiration, or even a sort of compulsion . . but shortly thereafter, we realize we've become involved . . and over the next dozen viewings, we recognize that just as with an old friend long-away, our involvement is unfolding, and enriching, as we spend more time with this unassuming little Master Thespian.Why does he affect so many of us, individually, in so strong a way?The answers for each one of us are doubtless different; but thanks to the insights of this blog, we can now begin to examine that powerful polarity.

Posted By klondike : February 19, 2008 8:37 pm

Great review of a unique career, Madame M!The first four or five or six times we find ourselves captivated by Claude Rains, we put it down to fascination, or admiration, or even a sort of compulsion . . but shortly thereafter, we realize we've become involved . . and over the next dozen viewings, we recognize that just as with an old friend long-away, our involvement is unfolding, and enriching, as we spend more time with this unassuming little Master Thespian.Why does he affect so many of us, individually, in so strong a way?The answers for each one of us are doubtless different; but thanks to the insights of this blog, we can now begin to examine that powerful polarity.

Posted By moira : February 22, 2008 11:24 am

Thanks to all of my fellow Claude Rains fans for their kind words! To those who were surprised by the swath that Mr. Rains seems to have cut with the ladies, it is said that when he was teaching at RADA, just about all the girls in the school seemed to foster a crush on their instructor with the "dreamy" voice.  Even Bette Davis, who respected, and more shockingly, was even a bit intimidated by Mr. Rains, (especially when he played Emperor Louis Napoleon opposite her in Juarez), when she was asked about him many years later, claimed that she would've made a pass at him, but she knew she was too old for him (Ms. Davis was 19 years his junior!).Btw, Bette also claimed that her character and Claude Rains' understanding Dr. Jacquith in Now, Voyager should have gotten together after the inevitable fade-out between Charlotte Vale (Bette) and Jerry (Paul Henreid). After all, Charlotte and the good doctor had much more in common than just appreciating the stars and the moon.;) Given your avowed appreciation for the gentleman, I hope that many of you might enjoy the following list of upcoming Claude sightings on TCM, and, if possible, introduce him to the uninitiated! All times listed are Eastern Standard Time:NotoriousFeb 23, 9:30AMMarch 30, 10:00PMKings RowFeb 26, 11:45AMLawrence of ArabiaMar 2, 1:00PMNow, VoyagerMar 04, 1:45AMApr. 5, 4:30PMFour MothersMar 21, 05:00PMThe Prince And The PauperMar 29, 6:30AMCasablancaApr 14, 12:00PMThe Adventures of Robin HoodApr 14, 06:00PM

Posted By moira : February 22, 2008 11:24 am

Thanks to all of my fellow Claude Rains fans for their kind words! To those who were surprised by the swath that Mr. Rains seems to have cut with the ladies, it is said that when he was teaching at RADA, just about all the girls in the school seemed to foster a crush on their instructor with the "dreamy" voice.  Even Bette Davis, who respected, and more shockingly, was even a bit intimidated by Mr. Rains, (especially when he played Emperor Louis Napoleon opposite her in Juarez), when she was asked about him many years later, claimed that she would've made a pass at him, but she knew she was too old for him (Ms. Davis was 19 years his junior!).Btw, Bette also claimed that her character and Claude Rains' understanding Dr. Jacquith in Now, Voyager should have gotten together after the inevitable fade-out between Charlotte Vale (Bette) and Jerry (Paul Henreid). After all, Charlotte and the good doctor had much more in common than just appreciating the stars and the moon.;) Given your avowed appreciation for the gentleman, I hope that many of you might enjoy the following list of upcoming Claude sightings on TCM, and, if possible, introduce him to the uninitiated! All times listed are Eastern Standard Time:NotoriousFeb 23, 9:30AMMarch 30, 10:00PMKings RowFeb 26, 11:45AMLawrence of ArabiaMar 2, 1:00PMNow, VoyagerMar 04, 1:45AMApr. 5, 4:30PMFour MothersMar 21, 05:00PMThe Prince And The PauperMar 29, 6:30AMCasablancaApr 14, 12:00PMThe Adventures of Robin HoodApr 14, 06:00PM

Posted By Rick J : February 24, 2008 5:41 pm

I agree with all the above comments, regarding Claude Rains.  Character actors have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid in the later 1940's.  Mr. Rains voice was untra cool, no matter the part.  Whenever he is on the screen, your eyes and ears are on him.As for famous lines, of which there are many, mine will always be, "Col. Strasser has been shot.  Round up the usual suspects."

Posted By Rick J : February 24, 2008 5:41 pm

I agree with all the above comments, regarding Claude Rains.  Character actors have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid in the later 1940's.  Mr. Rains voice was untra cool, no matter the part.  Whenever he is on the screen, your eyes and ears are on him.As for famous lines, of which there are many, mine will always be, "Col. Strasser has been shot.  Round up the usual suspects."

Posted By MechanicalGirl : March 4, 2008 5:51 pm

I just came across this YouTube clip from Dick Cavett's program in which Bette Davis discussed Claude Rains (among others), with great affection, describing him as not a necessarily happy person (whatever that is), but "witty, charming and brilliant" to work with in several films . Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wsgpF-InEYIf you like Claude Rains, you'll enjoy this appreciation.  

Posted By MechanicalGirl : March 4, 2008 5:51 pm

I just came across this YouTube clip from Dick Cavett's program in which Bette Davis discussed Claude Rains (among others), with great affection, describing him as not a necessarily happy person (whatever that is), but "witty, charming and brilliant" to work with in several films . Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wsgpF-InEYIf you like Claude Rains, you'll enjoy this appreciation.  

Posted By DebC : March 4, 2008 8:12 pm

What a fabulous article about the GREAT Claude Rains.  One of the best I've ever read.  Everything you said about him is true.  Mr. Skeffington just bowls me over everytime I see it, and I've watched movies countless times just to see him.  Who could tire of that beautiful voice?  Just the other day, watching him in Lawrence of Arabia, I was taken by they way an inflection, a facial expression, could say it all. Bravo, Moira!

Posted By DebC : March 4, 2008 8:12 pm

What a fabulous article about the GREAT Claude Rains.  One of the best I've ever read.  Everything you said about him is true.  Mr. Skeffington just bowls me over everytime I see it, and I've watched movies countless times just to see him.  Who could tire of that beautiful voice?  Just the other day, watching him in Lawrence of Arabia, I was taken by they way an inflection, a facial expression, could say it all. Bravo, Moira!

Posted By John Soister : March 16, 2008 7:39 pm

Beautifully done, Moira.  A lovely site and a wonderfully-crafted piece on Rains.  Kudos.

Posted By John Soister : March 16, 2008 7:39 pm

Beautifully done, Moira.  A lovely site and a wonderfully-crafted piece on Rains.  Kudos.

Posted By Kathy : April 16, 2008 9:00 pm

Thank you for this well-written an entertaining article about my favorite actor, Claude Rains. He still has an adoring army of fans, most of them female. I personally find him incredibly attractive, sexy and absolutely the most dominating personality in any movie in which he played. My favorite Claude performance is Deception, from 1946. There are several clips of this on Youtube and they're well worth watching. The restaurant scene in this film is positively hilarious.  For some inexplicable reason, men don't seem to realize the deadly effect Claude still has on females. There are multiple fan clubs, fanlistings and websites devoted to this adorable man and all of them are run by women. We can see the smouldering sexuality of this lethally attractive man.

Posted By Kathy : April 16, 2008 9:00 pm

Thank you for this well-written an entertaining article about my favorite actor, Claude Rains. He still has an adoring army of fans, most of them female. I personally find him incredibly attractive, sexy and absolutely the most dominating personality in any movie in which he played. My favorite Claude performance is Deception, from 1946. There are several clips of this on Youtube and they're well worth watching. The restaurant scene in this film is positively hilarious.  For some inexplicable reason, men don't seem to realize the deadly effect Claude still has on females. There are multiple fan clubs, fanlistings and websites devoted to this adorable man and all of them are run by women. We can see the smouldering sexuality of this lethally attractive man.

Posted By Kathy : April 16, 2008 9:15 pm

Moira, one slight bit of info. Bette Davis *did* make a pass at Claude Rains, apparently more than once. She disclosed this in a 1978 interview I have when she was publicizing her movie "Death on the Nile." I treasured this interview and saved it ever since, a lengthy and unexpurgated look at Bette's past. Most of the interview was taken up with her gushings over former lovers George Brett and Willy Wyler. Also a small diatribe towards Gary Merrill.On Claude she said, "Oh, that man. You know, he was the best, the absolute best. He was old-fashioned in wanting to rehearse, something no one ever thinks about doing nowadays. For instance, someone like Faye Dunaway… so you think you could get this new crop to rehearse? Perish the thought! (then a diatribe on Dunaway)…But Claude was lovely, he was just a lovely, gorgeous man. By the time we made [Now], Voyager I knew him well enough to tease him and ask why he had never shown a romantic interest in me. He did towards plenty of others, let me be the first to tell you. I doubt he ever got a rejection from any woman, at least not at Warners. Half of the women wanted to mother him, the other half wanted something much more [Laughter].Well, Claude was a gentleman in his rejection of me. He didn't say anything, he just blushed a little and smiled. Very much Mr. Raines for you! Sadly, I understood. I think we revisited this subject once more during Skeffington and it was the same sly smile and looking down. I always assumed I was too old for him since most of Claude's lady friends were ten years or more younger than me. You know he married many times, once he got married to two women in the same year. But I have nothing but respect for him and get a little wistful when I see Voyager or Deception now. I have to giggle when I was frumpy Charlotte in Voyager and said to him, 'You're the least clumsy man I've ever seen,' or something like that. If you watch my face you can see I meant every word."

Posted By Kathy : April 16, 2008 9:15 pm

Moira, one slight bit of info. Bette Davis *did* make a pass at Claude Rains, apparently more than once. She disclosed this in a 1978 interview I have when she was publicizing her movie "Death on the Nile." I treasured this interview and saved it ever since, a lengthy and unexpurgated look at Bette's past. Most of the interview was taken up with her gushings over former lovers George Brett and Willy Wyler. Also a small diatribe towards Gary Merrill.On Claude she said, "Oh, that man. You know, he was the best, the absolute best. He was old-fashioned in wanting to rehearse, something no one ever thinks about doing nowadays. For instance, someone like Faye Dunaway… so you think you could get this new crop to rehearse? Perish the thought! (then a diatribe on Dunaway)…But Claude was lovely, he was just a lovely, gorgeous man. By the time we made [Now], Voyager I knew him well enough to tease him and ask why he had never shown a romantic interest in me. He did towards plenty of others, let me be the first to tell you. I doubt he ever got a rejection from any woman, at least not at Warners. Half of the women wanted to mother him, the other half wanted something much more [Laughter].Well, Claude was a gentleman in his rejection of me. He didn't say anything, he just blushed a little and smiled. Very much Mr. Raines for you! Sadly, I understood. I think we revisited this subject once more during Skeffington and it was the same sly smile and looking down. I always assumed I was too old for him since most of Claude's lady friends were ten years or more younger than me. You know he married many times, once he got married to two women in the same year. But I have nothing but respect for him and get a little wistful when I see Voyager or Deception now. I have to giggle when I was frumpy Charlotte in Voyager and said to him, 'You're the least clumsy man I've ever seen,' or something like that. If you watch my face you can see I meant every word."

Posted By moira : April 17, 2008 10:35 am

Hi Kathy, Thank you so much for both of your comments and especially for the extended portions of Bette Davis' interview and her more detailed comments about Mr. Rains and her. I suspect that you're correct about many women finding Claude Rains pretty devastating to this day. In Now, Voyager it always struck me that Charlotte's comment about Dr. Jaquith being "the least clumsy" man she'd ever seen was indicative of the unspoken attraction his liberating presence held for her character throughout the film. Now, if only we could have a sequel with all the remarkable players still engaged in setting things to right for Bette & Claude's characters. Heigh-ho, we can dream a bit. As you may probably be aware, Deception (1946) has just been issued on dvd at last. Alexander Hollenius rides again! 

Posted By moira : April 17, 2008 10:35 am

Hi Kathy, Thank you so much for both of your comments and especially for the extended portions of Bette Davis' interview and her more detailed comments about Mr. Rains and her. I suspect that you're correct about many women finding Claude Rains pretty devastating to this day. In Now, Voyager it always struck me that Charlotte's comment about Dr. Jaquith being "the least clumsy" man she'd ever seen was indicative of the unspoken attraction his liberating presence held for her character throughout the film. Now, if only we could have a sequel with all the remarkable players still engaged in setting things to right for Bette & Claude's characters. Heigh-ho, we can dream a bit. As you may probably be aware, Deception (1946) has just been issued on dvd at last. Alexander Hollenius rides again! 

Posted By Bridget : April 18, 2008 12:37 am

Moira: I want to thank you for this article. It was so refreshing to see that Mr. Rains has so many other admirers and you captured himi so well. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who saw the beauty in this adorable man, but I see from other internet sites that I was mistaken. You mentioned that Deception has been released on DVD. I grabbed it up immediately even though I saw it on TCM a few years back. I think it's Claude's greatest-ever performance. He is masterful, he is unbelievably charming, he is, in essence, the Claudester I adore. I love him lounging in his bed with his glasses eating grapes. And the sexual remarks he makes in the film are way, way, ahead of their time. I can tell you another women who adored him and that was Bonita Granville. My best friend throughout my teen years and 20's was Bonita's daughter, and I got to know Bonita herself quite well. Alas, at that time, I was not a huge fan of Claude, though I admired him as an actor. Bonita told some fascinating stories about him. She never actually slept with him but according to her, he was "very popular" with the ladies. He once kissed her on the hand and told her she was like a divine piece of chocolate, something to "savor." If that's not a come on line, what is? What charm from this shy devil!

Posted By Bridget : April 18, 2008 12:37 am

Moira: I want to thank you for this article. It was so refreshing to see that Mr. Rains has so many other admirers and you captured himi so well. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who saw the beauty in this adorable man, but I see from other internet sites that I was mistaken. You mentioned that Deception has been released on DVD. I grabbed it up immediately even though I saw it on TCM a few years back. I think it's Claude's greatest-ever performance. He is masterful, he is unbelievably charming, he is, in essence, the Claudester I adore. I love him lounging in his bed with his glasses eating grapes. And the sexual remarks he makes in the film are way, way, ahead of their time. I can tell you another women who adored him and that was Bonita Granville. My best friend throughout my teen years and 20's was Bonita's daughter, and I got to know Bonita herself quite well. Alas, at that time, I was not a huge fan of Claude, though I admired him as an actor. Bonita told some fascinating stories about him. She never actually slept with him but according to her, he was "very popular" with the ladies. He once kissed her on the hand and told her she was like a divine piece of chocolate, something to "savor." If that's not a come on line, what is? What charm from this shy devil!

Posted By moira : April 18, 2008 8:19 am

"He once kissed her on the hand and told her she was like a divine piece of chocolate, something to "savor." If that's not a come on line, what is? What charm from this shy devil!" ~Bridget (Tucson, AZ)Holy Molley, Bridget,If the talented Ms. Granville didn't melt like a "divine piece of chocolate" when Mr. R. said that to her, she must've been made of sterner stuff than most girls. Thanks so much for the appreciative comments. It's such fun to find others have some interest in this fine actor. I think that Claude's performance in Deception is almost operatic in quality. In one account of the film's production, I have read that the original script did not have much dialogue or bits of business for the part of Hollenius, but, when Rains accepted the project many of the flourishes were added by him, in collaboration with the screenwriters and director. It's hard to imagine this movie working on any level without Claude Rains. I like the scene when he hosts Bette Davis & Paul Henreid for a gourmet supper, toying with their roiling emotions beneath the surface "conviviality."  How fortunate that you knew the gifted Bonita Granville–how I'd love to have been able to ask her about her memories of everything from These Three to The Mortal Storm to Lassie!Thanks so much,moira P.S. Here's a link to the dinner scene mentioned above from Deception: http://tinyurl.com/6lzhgzHere's one to Claude Rains' amusingly haughty wedding crasher routine in the same film: http://tinyurl.com/4ymjqo &nbsp;

Posted By moira : April 18, 2008 8:19 am

"He once kissed her on the hand and told her she was like a divine piece of chocolate, something to "savor." If that's not a come on line, what is? What charm from this shy devil!" ~Bridget (Tucson, AZ)Holy Molley, Bridget,If the talented Ms. Granville didn't melt like a "divine piece of chocolate" when Mr. R. said that to her, she must've been made of sterner stuff than most girls. Thanks so much for the appreciative comments. It's such fun to find others have some interest in this fine actor. I think that Claude's performance in Deception is almost operatic in quality. In one account of the film's production, I have read that the original script did not have much dialogue or bits of business for the part of Hollenius, but, when Rains accepted the project many of the flourishes were added by him, in collaboration with the screenwriters and director. It's hard to imagine this movie working on any level without Claude Rains. I like the scene when he hosts Bette Davis & Paul Henreid for a gourmet supper, toying with their roiling emotions beneath the surface "conviviality."  How fortunate that you knew the gifted Bonita Granville–how I'd love to have been able to ask her about her memories of everything from These Three to The Mortal Storm to Lassie!Thanks so much,moira P.S. Here's a link to the dinner scene mentioned above from Deception: http://tinyurl.com/6lzhgzHere's one to Claude Rains' amusingly haughty wedding crasher routine in the same film: http://tinyurl.com/4ymjqo &nbsp;

Posted By Bridget : April 18, 2008 11:13 am

Moira, This whole discussion prompted me to call Linda early this morning, who was Jack and Bonita's daughter, and my dear friend since childhood. She asked what I had been up to and I said, "Talking about Claude Rains on the Internet." She thought that was a constructive use of time and chuckled over this. She herself is not internet-savvy and I had to explain to her about this "new" medium.I asked Linda many questions about Mr. Rains. She never met him. She said he lived in Brentwood in the 40's and 50's and she met his daughter, Jennifer, once or twice. I told her his daughter was named Jessica and she was adament that she was called "Jennifer" back then. Can anyone confirm this? Linda has a memory like a steel trap, so I tend to trust her recollections. When I have talked about Mr. Rains with Linda in the past, we usually focused on Now, Voyager, but Linda reminded me that her mom first worked with Claude on a movie called White Banners. Now I confess I've never seen or heard of this one. She said her mom was very nervous about meeting him because she heard he was very serious, very punctual and looked down on people goofing around on set. Some people around Warners called him "The Headmaster" because he was like a stern teacher. But apparently Bonita liked him and he was friendly and pleasant with her. She was just a teenager then and thought he was "an old man," but a handsome and pleasant "old man." She said he sometimes smoked a pipe and would always go outside to do it which she thought was very peculiar.But the one thing Linda told me that her mom said made me laugh out loud. Jackie Cooper was either in the movie or hanging around the set. He was another teen and had a lot of girls coming around to make calf eyes at him. According to Linda, Claude made himself very at home with these girls, flirting and talking to them and because his voice and manner were so attractive, these girls soon started coming to visit Claude and lost all interest in little Jackie Cooper. Bonita only got to know Claude a little better in Now, Voyager. Linda says her mom got him to blush when she reminded him of the teenage girls who clustered about him in that earlier movie. He said something like, "Well, I can scarcely remember last week, much less something than happened in a prior decade." Then he quickly changed the subject. Claude didn't socialize much after hours, he would leave right when the shooting was over for the day. Bette adored him and made no bones about it and he was friendly with her, but also sometimes aloof.  Bonita never thought there was anything between them at all, though Bette would have given her right arm for more than an elbow squeeze and wink, which is all she ever got.  She said her mother said Bette would sometimes proclaim to no one in particular, "If I ever get that man drunk enough, then a pleasant time would certainly be had." Linda did mention that Claude did drink, though apparently he wasn't doing it while working in the earlier days.  Bonita saw him once in the east in the 50's sometime and thought he looked very tired, much aged and she smelled liquor on his breath and it was in the mid-morning.So many stories! I could have talked to her for another hour but she had to go. I wish now I would have asked her more, but I can call anytime. Just thought I would share these stories, which I found interesting.

Posted By Bridget : April 18, 2008 11:13 am

Moira, This whole discussion prompted me to call Linda early this morning, who was Jack and Bonita's daughter, and my dear friend since childhood. She asked what I had been up to and I said, "Talking about Claude Rains on the Internet." She thought that was a constructive use of time and chuckled over this. She herself is not internet-savvy and I had to explain to her about this "new" medium.I asked Linda many questions about Mr. Rains. She never met him. She said he lived in Brentwood in the 40's and 50's and she met his daughter, Jennifer, once or twice. I told her his daughter was named Jessica and she was adament that she was called "Jennifer" back then. Can anyone confirm this? Linda has a memory like a steel trap, so I tend to trust her recollections. When I have talked about Mr. Rains with Linda in the past, we usually focused on Now, Voyager, but Linda reminded me that her mom first worked with Claude on a movie called White Banners. Now I confess I've never seen or heard of this one. She said her mom was very nervous about meeting him because she heard he was very serious, very punctual and looked down on people goofing around on set. Some people around Warners called him "The Headmaster" because he was like a stern teacher. But apparently Bonita liked him and he was friendly and pleasant with her. She was just a teenager then and thought he was "an old man," but a handsome and pleasant "old man." She said he sometimes smoked a pipe and would always go outside to do it which she thought was very peculiar.But the one thing Linda told me that her mom said made me laugh out loud. Jackie Cooper was either in the movie or hanging around the set. He was another teen and had a lot of girls coming around to make calf eyes at him. According to Linda, Claude made himself very at home with these girls, flirting and talking to them and because his voice and manner were so attractive, these girls soon started coming to visit Claude and lost all interest in little Jackie Cooper. Bonita only got to know Claude a little better in Now, Voyager. Linda says her mom got him to blush when she reminded him of the teenage girls who clustered about him in that earlier movie. He said something like, "Well, I can scarcely remember last week, much less something than happened in a prior decade." Then he quickly changed the subject. Claude didn't socialize much after hours, he would leave right when the shooting was over for the day. Bette adored him and made no bones about it and he was friendly with her, but also sometimes aloof.  Bonita never thought there was anything between them at all, though Bette would have given her right arm for more than an elbow squeeze and wink, which is all she ever got.  She said her mother said Bette would sometimes proclaim to no one in particular, "If I ever get that man drunk enough, then a pleasant time would certainly be had." Linda did mention that Claude did drink, though apparently he wasn't doing it while working in the earlier days.  Bonita saw him once in the east in the 50's sometime and thought he looked very tired, much aged and she smelled liquor on his breath and it was in the mid-morning.So many stories! I could have talked to her for another hour but she had to go. I wish now I would have asked her more, but I can call anytime. Just thought I would share these stories, which I found interesting.

Posted By moira : April 18, 2008 1:57 pm

Wow, Bridget! Please tell your friend Linda Wrather that you and she made my day, and, I suspect that of everyone else who happens upon this post. First, yes, according to all records, Claude and Frances Rains christened their daughter Jennifer, but she later changed it to Jessica. I have read in the past that she may be writing a memoir about her father, but I've no idea if and when it might be published. Jessica Rains has acted in films and television, which you can read about via the link below. Ms. Rains also contributed an affectionate forward and many pictures to the best book I've found about her father, written by John Soister & JoAnna Wioskowski, called Claude Rains: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference (McFarland).Here's the link to Jessica Rains info:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0707149/Second, White Banners (1938) is an excellent movie with a sympathetic part for Claude Rains as a harried teacher/inventor married to the lovely actress in the movie, Kay Johnson. A vivacious Bonita Granville gave a lively performance as their daughter and Jackie Cooper was one of Claude's students and Bonita's suitor, as well as an important figure in the overall story. Fay Bainter, who was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress for this film, appears as a mysterious woman. All the actors help to make this quiet, nearly forgotten film something memorable and quite moving, transforming what might have been a trite story into something special, thanks to the underrated direction of  Edmund Goulding. Though this film has been on TCM several times, (or I wouldn't know how appealing it is), it is not, as far as I know, currently available as a dvd or vhs, (unless one can find a dvd-r).  Third, I've read before that Claude kept to himself quite often and that he liked a drop or two–though considering his work load on film, on stage, (I'd love to have seen him in his celebrated performance in Arnold Koestler's Darkness at Noon on Broadway in the early 50s!), and in live and filmed television, (which included the creation of the original role that was later played by Spencer Tracy in Abby Mann's Judgment at Nuremberg on live tv in 1959 at age 70), it doesn't seem to have affected the excellent quality of his work.  Fourth, I think it was wise of Claude Rains NOT to have become involved with Bette Davis, a very talented woman who might have been a bit of a handful emotionally.The underlying appeal and respect that each of them seemed to convey for one another on screen might have been diminished otherwise. Lastly, how lovely that your friend and you connected at this time over such a happy topic. I hope that you'll stay in touch. I truly appreciate your posts here.  Thank you so much!

Posted By moira : April 18, 2008 1:57 pm

Wow, Bridget! Please tell your friend Linda Wrather that you and she made my day, and, I suspect that of everyone else who happens upon this post. First, yes, according to all records, Claude and Frances Rains christened their daughter Jennifer, but she later changed it to Jessica. I have read in the past that she may be writing a memoir about her father, but I've no idea if and when it might be published. Jessica Rains has acted in films and television, which you can read about via the link below. Ms. Rains also contributed an affectionate forward and many pictures to the best book I've found about her father, written by John Soister & JoAnna Wioskowski, called Claude Rains: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference (McFarland).Here's the link to Jessica Rains info:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0707149/Second, White Banners (1938) is an excellent movie with a sympathetic part for Claude Rains as a harried teacher/inventor married to the lovely actress in the movie, Kay Johnson. A vivacious Bonita Granville gave a lively performance as their daughter and Jackie Cooper was one of Claude's students and Bonita's suitor, as well as an important figure in the overall story. Fay Bainter, who was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress for this film, appears as a mysterious woman. All the actors help to make this quiet, nearly forgotten film something memorable and quite moving, transforming what might have been a trite story into something special, thanks to the underrated direction of  Edmund Goulding. Though this film has been on TCM several times, (or I wouldn't know how appealing it is), it is not, as far as I know, currently available as a dvd or vhs, (unless one can find a dvd-r).  Third, I've read before that Claude kept to himself quite often and that he liked a drop or two–though considering his work load on film, on stage, (I'd love to have seen him in his celebrated performance in Arnold Koestler's Darkness at Noon on Broadway in the early 50s!), and in live and filmed television, (which included the creation of the original role that was later played by Spencer Tracy in Abby Mann's Judgment at Nuremberg on live tv in 1959 at age 70), it doesn't seem to have affected the excellent quality of his work.  Fourth, I think it was wise of Claude Rains NOT to have become involved with Bette Davis, a very talented woman who might have been a bit of a handful emotionally.The underlying appeal and respect that each of them seemed to convey for one another on screen might have been diminished otherwise. Lastly, how lovely that your friend and you connected at this time over such a happy topic. I hope that you'll stay in touch. I truly appreciate your posts here.  Thank you so much!

Posted By Lester McCallum : April 18, 2008 3:14 pm

I stumbled upon this site after reading an informative Blog you did on Mark Hellinger. It's wonderful that classic movies are still cherished as they should be. I always wished I could have met Claude Rains. My two favorite actors as a boy were Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone, though Rains won out by a big margin. I still watch his movies, pwn quite a few of the DVD's and marvel at what great technique he had. He stole every scene he was ever in, except maybe his very early movies where he's still a bit theatrical. He is always worth watching on screen, isn't he?I grew up in LA and when I was attending USC, I worked part time at Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd. What a fun first job that was. I was surrounded all day by stills, lobby cards, movies and memorabilia from the 30's. I very well remember the day Claude Rains died. I was 18 or 19 and working at the shop and so many people came in to said, "Did you hear Claude Rains passed away yesterday? He was the best." There wasn't a single person that I recall saying anything except positive things about his impact and talent. So understated in what he did, but so lasting the impact.There was a still photographer from Warners named Nathan who would visit the bookshop. He was a widower and, I think, lonely. The stories he would tell. He had health problems and went to the Motion Picture House, an industry retirement home in Woodland Hills. I visited him there when I was in grad school and tape recorded his memories. I have a whole audio cassette of what he said about Claude Rains, as well as a cassette with his recollections on Ronald Reagan, John Garfield, Cagney and of course the divine Miss Davis. He gave me this chat in 1970 or '71. [I also met Larry Fine at the Motion Picture Home, he was one of the Three Stooges and what an amazingly kind gentleman he was].It's been awhile since I've listened to the tape and much of it is about posing Rains for stills, something he didn't much care for and was impatient about. Mr. Rains was polite and professional to Nathan, but aloof. You never asked him personal questions, he was moody a lot of the time and lost in thought. Very mercurial and saturnine. But Nathan told one very amusing story. There was Rains in the mid-40's posing for Nathan and quite grouchy. Then a young script girl came in. In an instant, Rains changed, jumped out of his seat, pushed the key lights awat and said, "Oh Carol [or whatever her name was], you look particularly ravishing this afternoon, what are you carrying, my dear?" Then Rains broke off for a while, huddled and whispered with the young lady, showered her with compliments and showed her every bit of attention.After she left, he sat down again, was instantly gloomy and drabby. Nathan said, "Yes, Mr. Rains was a totally different person around a pretty girl. But not so great with men." He contrasted this with Errol Flynn who was a raconteur with both men and women. I must say I am paraphrasing this as I said, I have not listened to the cassette in a number of years, but this is essentially verbatim what he told me.Some others here have mentioned Bette Davis and Nathan also shot photos of her. He thought she was very brassy, very determined but very fair. He actually liked her very much and said she had a good heart and was not especially imperious unless she had one of her moods.He spoke about her total adoration for Rains and how she always deferred to him and allowed him to do whatever he wanted, similar to the relationship between Tracy/Hepburn. He never shot stills of them together, but Bette would always perk up when Rains came by or was mentioned "Oh, that man!" she would say while puffing on her cigarette. And then smile.

Posted By Lester McCallum : April 18, 2008 3:14 pm

I stumbled upon this site after reading an informative Blog you did on Mark Hellinger. It's wonderful that classic movies are still cherished as they should be. I always wished I could have met Claude Rains. My two favorite actors as a boy were Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone, though Rains won out by a big margin. I still watch his movies, pwn quite a few of the DVD's and marvel at what great technique he had. He stole every scene he was ever in, except maybe his very early movies where he's still a bit theatrical. He is always worth watching on screen, isn't he?I grew up in LA and when I was attending USC, I worked part time at Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd. What a fun first job that was. I was surrounded all day by stills, lobby cards, movies and memorabilia from the 30's. I very well remember the day Claude Rains died. I was 18 or 19 and working at the shop and so many people came in to said, "Did you hear Claude Rains passed away yesterday? He was the best." There wasn't a single person that I recall saying anything except positive things about his impact and talent. So understated in what he did, but so lasting the impact.There was a still photographer from Warners named Nathan who would visit the bookshop. He was a widower and, I think, lonely. The stories he would tell. He had health problems and went to the Motion Picture House, an industry retirement home in Woodland Hills. I visited him there when I was in grad school and tape recorded his memories. I have a whole audio cassette of what he said about Claude Rains, as well as a cassette with his recollections on Ronald Reagan, John Garfield, Cagney and of course the divine Miss Davis. He gave me this chat in 1970 or '71. [I also met Larry Fine at the Motion Picture Home, he was one of the Three Stooges and what an amazingly kind gentleman he was].It's been awhile since I've listened to the tape and much of it is about posing Rains for stills, something he didn't much care for and was impatient about. Mr. Rains was polite and professional to Nathan, but aloof. You never asked him personal questions, he was moody a lot of the time and lost in thought. Very mercurial and saturnine. But Nathan told one very amusing story. There was Rains in the mid-40's posing for Nathan and quite grouchy. Then a young script girl came in. In an instant, Rains changed, jumped out of his seat, pushed the key lights awat and said, "Oh Carol [or whatever her name was], you look particularly ravishing this afternoon, what are you carrying, my dear?" Then Rains broke off for a while, huddled and whispered with the young lady, showered her with compliments and showed her every bit of attention.After she left, he sat down again, was instantly gloomy and drabby. Nathan said, "Yes, Mr. Rains was a totally different person around a pretty girl. But not so great with men." He contrasted this with Errol Flynn who was a raconteur with both men and women. I must say I am paraphrasing this as I said, I have not listened to the cassette in a number of years, but this is essentially verbatim what he told me.Some others here have mentioned Bette Davis and Nathan also shot photos of her. He thought she was very brassy, very determined but very fair. He actually liked her very much and said she had a good heart and was not especially imperious unless she had one of her moods.He spoke about her total adoration for Rains and how she always deferred to him and allowed him to do whatever he wanted, similar to the relationship between Tracy/Hepburn. He never shot stills of them together, but Bette would always perk up when Rains came by or was mentioned "Oh, that man!" she would say while puffing on her cigarette. And then smile.

Posted By Amber : April 20, 2008 12:53 pm

These stories are wonderful. Thank you for sharing.One of my favorite Rains performances is the David Lean movie The Passionate Friends. It's similar to tone to the Hitchcock movie Mr. Rains made several years earlier. He always seem to be cast as the also-ran, the husband the wife cheated on. I think had women been in control of the studio system in that time, Mr. Rains would have been cast as a leading man in all his movies.

Posted By Amber : April 20, 2008 12:53 pm

These stories are wonderful. Thank you for sharing.One of my favorite Rains performances is the David Lean movie The Passionate Friends. It's similar to tone to the Hitchcock movie Mr. Rains made several years earlier. He always seem to be cast as the also-ran, the husband the wife cheated on. I think had women been in control of the studio system in that time, Mr. Rains would have been cast as a leading man in all his movies.

Posted By moira : April 20, 2008 2:49 pm

Hi Lester & Amber,Thank you so much for your generous replies. Lester, I really appreciate hearing about your appreciation for Claude Rains, your memories of the day he passed away, and your friend Nathan's impressions of some of the greats he worked with during his career. I love the description of the change in Claude's manner as soon as a young cupcake came through the door. What a scamp! No wonder he was married so often. I often wish that I lived nearer LA to meet those who still remember the studio era, (and to have access to some of the marvelous research material at places like AMPAS and USC, among other resources).I'd also love to explore the legendary Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop. Amber, The Passionate Friends (1949) is one of the few Claude Rains movies that I haven't seen, along with Crime Without Passion (1934). I hope to see it someday soon, since I'm always interested in any movie featuring Trevor Howard, I was deeply impressed by Ann Todd's work in another film that her then-husband, David Lean made with her a year after the Claude movie, called Madeleine (1950). This is a bit off-topic, but I hope that you have had a chance to see the latter movie. It is exceptionally well done, and one of the last Lean movies before he went big and colorful with those heralded, landmark epics, (though to tell the truth, I like his smaller, b & w movies more).I think it's great that Claude Rains keeps bringing so many varied posters here to celebrate that indefinable gift he gives each moviegoer to this day. He blended colorful characterizations with an underlying truth about human nature in a unique way in his movies.

Posted By moira : April 20, 2008 2:49 pm

Hi Lester & Amber,Thank you so much for your generous replies. Lester, I really appreciate hearing about your appreciation for Claude Rains, your memories of the day he passed away, and your friend Nathan's impressions of some of the greats he worked with during his career. I love the description of the change in Claude's manner as soon as a young cupcake came through the door. What a scamp! No wonder he was married so often. I often wish that I lived nearer LA to meet those who still remember the studio era, (and to have access to some of the marvelous research material at places like AMPAS and USC, among other resources).I'd also love to explore the legendary Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop. Amber, The Passionate Friends (1949) is one of the few Claude Rains movies that I haven't seen, along with Crime Without Passion (1934). I hope to see it someday soon, since I'm always interested in any movie featuring Trevor Howard, I was deeply impressed by Ann Todd's work in another film that her then-husband, David Lean made with her a year after the Claude movie, called Madeleine (1950). This is a bit off-topic, but I hope that you have had a chance to see the latter movie. It is exceptionally well done, and one of the last Lean movies before he went big and colorful with those heralded, landmark epics, (though to tell the truth, I like his smaller, b & w movies more).I think it's great that Claude Rains keeps bringing so many varied posters here to celebrate that indefinable gift he gives each moviegoer to this day. He blended colorful characterizations with an underlying truth about human nature in a unique way in his movies.

Posted By john auust : April 20, 2008 5:06 pm

i believe this story is true. it seems that john guilgud wasbeing interviewed on the radio. the subject of rada came up and guilgud said he had a fine teacher there named claude rains, i wonder what ever happened to him. i guess he did not get to the movies very often.

Posted By john auust : April 20, 2008 5:06 pm

i believe this story is true. it seems that john guilgud wasbeing interviewed on the radio. the subject of rada came up and guilgud said he had a fine teacher there named claude rains, i wonder what ever happened to him. i guess he did not get to the movies very often.

Posted By Ernie Weckbaugh : April 20, 2008 7:15 pm

Hi everyone,I am proud to say that I actually worked with Claude on a short film called The Sons of Liberty where he played a Rabbi. I guess no one knows it now, it's never on. I played his son, along with Gale Sondegaard as mom. I have to say that my grandson found this site and showed me where I can leave some memories. Here's a photo of Mr. R. and myself:http://www.casagraphics.com/images/ewchild.jpgI have so many memories of him, most of them pleasant. He was pretty nice to me and after the first day, never scared me at all. His voice was rich and so beautiful. Even as a kid I loved it. There were some great voices in Hollywood: Gregory Peck, James Mason, Orson Welles. But I think Mr. Rains used his voice so well and meaningfully. His voice was deeper in person, more of a baritone and a little raspy. I can still close my eyes and hear that magnificent voice. That was his ticket to fame and fortune at Warners I think.I am amused at the people who posting about him being a ladies man. You know as a boy I didn't pick up on this, but my tutor and my mom did. He was a little vain about his looks. He was always brushing his hair, after they took the make up off and the attached hairpiece to make him appear Revolutionary War period. He had thick hair, he had a lot of hair for a man his age. Everyone was wanting to do things for him, like get an ashtray, get his script, get his glasses. That's one thing I didn't see mentioned. Mr. Rains wore black horn-rimmed glasses when not on camera. They made him look distinguished I think, but he didn't like to be with them when people were around. When a lady came by, those glasses were ripped off. I still remember stuff like that.Oh boy yes, the ladies loved him. My mom loved him, her favorite was George Brett but after she met Mr. Rains he was #1. He signed an autograph for her on a copy of some old magazine, Modern Screen, I think. I know he had a little girl, I don't know if he was married then or not but I think every woman wanted to wait on him hand and foot and he loved it. When I grew up that's what I tried to take from him. He liked pretty women, they loved him, what's not to like? Life's short, live it up. He was responsible about that though. He wasn't a boozer like Spencer Tracy or wild like Flynn or late or not a pro. This man knew his lines, knew his mark and got it done.Another thing I remember is that before the still shots for publicity he was very fussy about his hair and wardrobe. He dressed swanky. Always with cufflinks, cuffs, leather shoes, the whole 9 yards. Real nicely dressed.I don't know if I'd call Mr. Rains nice, but he was serious, smart and took an interest in me. He read me a little kids book once between takes. I look back with fondness on him because his reputation has just grown and grown. I'm proud to have played him son way back 70 years ago.

Posted By Ernie Weckbaugh : April 20, 2008 7:15 pm

Hi everyone,I am proud to say that I actually worked with Claude on a short film called The Sons of Liberty where he played a Rabbi. I guess no one knows it now, it's never on. I played his son, along with Gale Sondegaard as mom. I have to say that my grandson found this site and showed me where I can leave some memories. Here's a photo of Mr. R. and myself:http://www.casagraphics.com/images/ewchild.jpgI have so many memories of him, most of them pleasant. He was pretty nice to me and after the first day, never scared me at all. His voice was rich and so beautiful. Even as a kid I loved it. There were some great voices in Hollywood: Gregory Peck, James Mason, Orson Welles. But I think Mr. Rains used his voice so well and meaningfully. His voice was deeper in person, more of a baritone and a little raspy. I can still close my eyes and hear that magnificent voice. That was his ticket to fame and fortune at Warners I think.I am amused at the people who posting about him being a ladies man. You know as a boy I didn't pick up on this, but my tutor and my mom did. He was a little vain about his looks. He was always brushing his hair, after they took the make up off and the attached hairpiece to make him appear Revolutionary War period. He had thick hair, he had a lot of hair for a man his age. Everyone was wanting to do things for him, like get an ashtray, get his script, get his glasses. That's one thing I didn't see mentioned. Mr. Rains wore black horn-rimmed glasses when not on camera. They made him look distinguished I think, but he didn't like to be with them when people were around. When a lady came by, those glasses were ripped off. I still remember stuff like that.Oh boy yes, the ladies loved him. My mom loved him, her favorite was George Brett but after she met Mr. Rains he was #1. He signed an autograph for her on a copy of some old magazine, Modern Screen, I think. I know he had a little girl, I don't know if he was married then or not but I think every woman wanted to wait on him hand and foot and he loved it. When I grew up that's what I tried to take from him. He liked pretty women, they loved him, what's not to like? Life's short, live it up. He was responsible about that though. He wasn't a boozer like Spencer Tracy or wild like Flynn or late or not a pro. This man knew his lines, knew his mark and got it done.Another thing I remember is that before the still shots for publicity he was very fussy about his hair and wardrobe. He dressed swanky. Always with cufflinks, cuffs, leather shoes, the whole 9 yards. Real nicely dressed.I don't know if I'd call Mr. Rains nice, but he was serious, smart and took an interest in me. He read me a little kids book once between takes. I look back with fondness on him because his reputation has just grown and grown. I'm proud to have played him son way back 70 years ago.

Posted By Helen T. : April 20, 2008 10:29 pm

I read most of the Blogs on TCM and have to say, these responses are the most interesting I've ever read by far. Please keep them coming. I've always adored Claude Rains. A superb actor. I've spent the last hour reading and re-reading these little tid bits. Thank you to all.Helen TerecyMontvale, New Jersey

Posted By Helen T. : April 20, 2008 10:29 pm

I read most of the Blogs on TCM and have to say, these responses are the most interesting I've ever read by far. Please keep them coming. I've always adored Claude Rains. A superb actor. I've spent the last hour reading and re-reading these little tid bits. Thank you to all.Helen TerecyMontvale, New Jersey

Posted By Jim Reston : April 23, 2008 12:25 pm

Mr. Weckbaugh mentioned that Rains liked women to wait on him. This is fairly well known and Paul Henreid harped on this in many interviews. Though he agreed Rains was a brilliant talent, he resented that he always played helpless and attracted the attention of women in this manipulative way. At  least Henreid thought it was manipulative, I always thought it smacked of jealousy. I worked on the set of Ironside (Raymond Burr)- in the 70's and Kim Hunter appeared a couple of times as a guest. She had starred with Rains in a play in the 50's – I don't recall the name. Burr spent much time asked her about Rains whom he admired, as most do. Hunter had said at that point in his life Rains was monogamous and devoted to his wife who attended rehearsals and was with him a lot. Earlier in his life, in Hollywood, the problems with infidelity on his part were legendary, at least among people in the industry.

Posted By Jim Reston : April 23, 2008 12:25 pm

Mr. Weckbaugh mentioned that Rains liked women to wait on him. This is fairly well known and Paul Henreid harped on this in many interviews. Though he agreed Rains was a brilliant talent, he resented that he always played helpless and attracted the attention of women in this manipulative way. At  least Henreid thought it was manipulative, I always thought it smacked of jealousy. I worked on the set of Ironside (Raymond Burr)- in the 70's and Kim Hunter appeared a couple of times as a guest. She had starred with Rains in a play in the 50's – I don't recall the name. Burr spent much time asked her about Rains whom he admired, as most do. Hunter had said at that point in his life Rains was monogamous and devoted to his wife who attended rehearsals and was with him a lot. Earlier in his life, in Hollywood, the problems with infidelity on his part were legendary, at least among people in the industry.

Posted By JoAnna : April 26, 2008 1:56 am

Very nice read, Moira! Well written and very informative. An excellent tribute article to our man Claude! Bravo!See you on the boards!  JoAnna

Posted By JoAnna : April 26, 2008 1:56 am

Very nice read, Moira! Well written and very informative. An excellent tribute article to our man Claude! Bravo!See you on the boards!  JoAnna

Posted By Jeff Thorson : April 27, 2008 4:53 pm

Thanks for some very interesting info on Claude Rains. I've been a fan for at least 25 years and my wife is an even bigger admirer. It's tough to get info about him off-set. Thanks to all for their contributions and to Moira for a great article. Now I hope they remaster Claude's other early films as they did to The Invisible Man. I'd like to see The Man Who Reclaimed his Head and Crimes w/o Passion remastered.My favorite Rains movie is The Man Who Reclaimed His Head, followed by Notorious.

Posted By Jeff Thorson : April 27, 2008 4:53 pm

Thanks for some very interesting info on Claude Rains. I've been a fan for at least 25 years and my wife is an even bigger admirer. It's tough to get info about him off-set. Thanks to all for their contributions and to Moira for a great article. Now I hope they remaster Claude's other early films as they did to The Invisible Man. I'd like to see The Man Who Reclaimed his Head and Crimes w/o Passion remastered.My favorite Rains movie is The Man Who Reclaimed His Head, followed by Notorious.

Posted By moira : April 29, 2008 2:01 pm

I'm continuously delighted to keep encountering fellow "Claudites" in the kind and informative replies to this entry about Mr. Rains. Thank you John of Ft. Meyers, Helen T., Jeff of Danbury (I'm hoping for a reissue of The Man Who Reclaimed His Head too), generous JoAnna (who I believe may be one of the co-authors of the great book about Mr. Rains mentioned under Sources above), and especially for your memories, Jim Reston & Ernie Weckbaugh. Ernie, are you aware that the film you appeared in, The Sons of Liberty (1939), the excellent, (and rather lavishly produced) short about a true life forgotten founding father, Haym Salomon, has been issued on dvd as part of the package with the Errol Flynn movie Dodge City (1939)? In the film, an imprisoned Claude Rains' recitation of the 23rd Psalm to a doomed Nathan Hale (Larry Williams) was particularly well done and reminded me of similarly effective moments in A Tale of Two Cities. Btw, you were a very cute little boy, as evidenced by the picture link you shared with us!Thanks again, everyone.  

Posted By moira : April 29, 2008 2:01 pm

I'm continuously delighted to keep encountering fellow "Claudites" in the kind and informative replies to this entry about Mr. Rains. Thank you John of Ft. Meyers, Helen T., Jeff of Danbury (I'm hoping for a reissue of The Man Who Reclaimed His Head too), generous JoAnna (who I believe may be one of the co-authors of the great book about Mr. Rains mentioned under Sources above), and especially for your memories, Jim Reston & Ernie Weckbaugh. Ernie, are you aware that the film you appeared in, The Sons of Liberty (1939), the excellent, (and rather lavishly produced) short about a true life forgotten founding father, Haym Salomon, has been issued on dvd as part of the package with the Errol Flynn movie Dodge City (1939)? In the film, an imprisoned Claude Rains' recitation of the 23rd Psalm to a doomed Nathan Hale (Larry Williams) was particularly well done and reminded me of similarly effective moments in A Tale of Two Cities. Btw, you were a very cute little boy, as evidenced by the picture link you shared with us!Thanks again, everyone.  

Posted By TCM’s Movie Blog : July 31, 2008 2:11 am

[...] costly) Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Though the leading character actor Claude Rains was said to be Wise’s first casting choice for the beloved classic science fiction film, [...]

Posted By TCM’s Movie Blog : July 31, 2008 2:11 am

[...] costly) Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Though the leading character actor Claude Rains was said to be Wise’s first casting choice for the beloved classic science fiction film, [...]

Posted By TCM's Classic Movie Blog : September 23, 2010 9:33 am

[...] birthday tribute on September 22nd – check out Angel on my Shoulder (1946) with Anne Baxter and Claude Rains or The Last Angry Man (1959), the actor’s sixth Oscar nominated performance and his final film [...]

Posted By TCM's Classic Movie Blog : September 23, 2010 9:33 am

[...] birthday tribute on September 22nd – check out Angel on my Shoulder (1946) with Anne Baxter and Claude Rains or The Last Angry Man (1959), the actor’s sixth Oscar nominated performance and his final film [...]

Posted By Denise Holland : May 18, 2011 4:41 pm

I absolutely adore Claude Rains! For me he is one of the greatest actors that has ever lived! The world of cinema was graced by his presence. I know there will never be anyone that can compete with his genius. I so wish more of his early films would be more available, and that the ones that are would be re-mastered.

Posted By Denise Holland : May 18, 2011 4:41 pm

I absolutely adore Claude Rains! For me he is one of the greatest actors that has ever lived! The world of cinema was graced by his presence. I know there will never be anyone that can compete with his genius. I so wish more of his early films would be more available, and that the ones that are would be re-mastered.

Posted By Madeleine : December 6, 2011 5:10 pm

This blog is a better source of great Rains stories than any of his biographies. Belated thanks Moira, for starting it. I only wish I had discovered it earlier. I would love to ask Bridget for more of those inside stories from Bonita Granville.

Posted By Madeleine : December 6, 2011 5:10 pm

This blog is a better source of great Rains stories than any of his biographies. Belated thanks Moira, for starting it. I only wish I had discovered it earlier. I would love to ask Bridget for more of those inside stories from Bonita Granville.

Posted By shomangaka : February 18, 2015 5:35 am

I found this article over a year ago and today I decided to leave a reply. I enjoyed reading all these wonderful and informative comments. Presently all I want to do is learn more and more about Mr. Rains. This is a great article and the comments are equally delightful.

Posted By Marjorie J. Birch : February 21, 2016 10:44 pm

Lost count of how many times I’ve re-read this article. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

We regret to inform you that FilmStruck is now closed.  Our last day of service was November 29, 2018.

Please visit tcm.com/help for more information.

We would like to thank our many fans and loyal customers who supported us.  FilmStruck was truly a labor of love, and in a world with an abundance of entertainment options – THANK YOU for choosing us.