Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series: Claude Rains

5

The next cinematically artistic individual that I’m paying a genuine homage to is someone whom have delivered memorable, indelible, magnificent, captivating and awe-inspiring performances on the stage/silver screen; his classic films have become a picturesque fixture in the classic film world and yet he’s not remembered as often as he should be, especially with the rising of familiar faces from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant and many others. The person that I’m referring to is none other than the consummate, masterful, vastly talented and indelible English character film/TV actor Claude Rains (b. William Claude Rains on November 10th, 1889-d. May 30th, 1967)1

One of my personal favorites from Hollywood’s Golden Age who delivered sheer cinematic brilliance through such compelling, powerful yet cinematically awe-inspiring Oscar worthy performances….absolutely stellar, poignant and exceptional in any role that he emulates onscreen. In my honest opinion, an actor whose immense gifts on the silver screen were more than worthy of being recognized, respected, admired, appreciated and remembered greatly for his vast selfless contributions to the classic film world. In a film career that spanned more than 20 years, Claude Rains has become so much more than a distinguished actor of the theatre/silver screen; the heart, soul, love and passion that emanated from this multi-talented, consummate, prolific, gifted cinematic genius is continuously felt through so many of his films6

I was deeply honored & grateful to view 24 of his brilliant classic films, which have become personal favorites of mine including: The Invisible Man (1933) with Gloria Stuart, The Clairvoyant (1934) co-starring Fay Wray, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1934) an underrated mystery classic starring Heather Angel and David Manners, They Won’t Forget (1937) with Lana Turner in her feature film debut, Anthony Adverse (1936) starring Fredric March, Olivia de Havilland & Gale Sondergaard, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) w/ Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Thomas Mitchell, Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) starring Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes & Edward Everett Horton, The Wolf Man (1941) w/ Lon Chaney Jr, Evelyn Ankers and Ralph Bellamy, Kings Row (1942) starring the future candidate for the President of the United States of America Ronald Regan along with Ann Sheridan & Robert Cummings, Now Voyager (1942) w/ Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Gladys Cooper, the romantic war time drama Casablanca (also from 1942) starring again Paul Henreid along with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre & Conrad Veidt, Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) w/Vivien Leigh, Stewart Granger and Flora Robson, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn, Four Daughters (1938) starring Priscilla Lane, They Made Me a Criminal (1939) with John Garfield-who co-starred with Rains in the previous film alongside Lane, The Sea Hawk (1940) with Flora Robson and Brenda Marshall, Lady with Red Hair (1940) starring Miriam Hopkins, Moontide (1942) with Ida Lupino and Jean Gabin, Deception (1946) co-starring both Henreid and Davis, The Passionate Friends (1949) with Ann Todd and Trevor Howard, Rope of Sand (also from 1949) starring Burt Lancaster as well as Paul Henreid, Where Danger Lives (1950) with Robert Mitchum and Faith Domergue, Notorious (1946) starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman (co-starring with Rains 4 years after Casablanca) as well as the immensely talented character actor Louis Calhern & finally the David Lean classic epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) starring Peter O’Toole in the title role. Claude Rains acted with such precision, depth, maturity, personality and cinematic ingenuity via his eyes & captivated audiences with his unmistakable English accent and impeccable diction; though he won a Tony Award in 1951 for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a play for Darkness Moon, it saddens me that he didn’t receive an Oscar win for his stunning, emblematic and profoundly awe-inspiring portrayals onscreen–let alone an Honorary Academy Award. I truly believed that he gave his finest performances in so many of his classic films like The Invisible Man w/Gloria Stuart, Casablanca, Notorious, Mr. Smith goes to Washington and Now Voyager among others3

He was nominated 4 times for the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor during his film career in the 1930s & 40s: the 1st nomination was for 1939s Mr. Smith goes to Washington (he lost to Thomas Mitchell for Stagecoach during the 12th Annual Academy Awards held on February 29th, 1940); the 2nd Oscar nod was for 1942s Casablanca portraying Capt. Louis Renault (he lost to Charles Coburn for The More the Merrier during the 16th Annual Academy Awards held on March 2nd, 1944); the 3rd Oscar nomination was for the titular character Job Skeffington in 1944s Mr. Skeffington (the winner was Barry Fitzgerald for Going My Way during the 17th Annual Academy Awards held on March 15th, 1945); and the 4th & final Academy Award nomination for Claude Rains was as Alexander Sebastian in the 1946 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Notorious (he lost to Harold Russell for his memorable portrayal as Homer Parrish in The Best Years of Our Lives during the 19th Annual Academy Awards held on March 13th, 1947). Despite not winning an Academy Award for his performances, Claude Rains became a living legend in his own right; like so many of my previous inductees into my Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series, his stellar masterful performances were constantly overshadowed by the obscure usage of being labeled “underrated”– some people will never forget a face like Cary Grant, William Holden, Gary Cooper, Paul Newman or Steve McQueen; but unfortunately Claude Rains wasn’t able to gain the cinematic accolades, respect, love and ardent appreciation that many of his latter contemporaries gained…with a touch of, in a sense, matinee adulation! Though he may have emanated unconventional good looks (depending on an individual’s personal taste), he displayed a deep, raw, passionate, heartfelt, soulful and emotional side to his alluring persona that’s quite unique, charismatic and enigmatic2

I say that because he generated something through his classic films that illuminated a cinematic sparkle, depth, range and picturesque craftsmanship that was within his grasp–I’ve witnessed so many lost and sometimes forgotten actors/actresses who were never truly given credit to where it was due; Claude Rain’s memory exists solely and deeply in the classic films that are shown on TCM and the countless classic movie lovers who share an arduous love, appreciation, respect and passion for classic films/stars like Mr. Rains. Watching him onscreen in such films like Now Voyager (where he gives his heart and soul in order to bring out the life, heart and soul that Bette Davis’ character wasn’t able to attain due to the constant overprotection and abuse from her aristocratic but overwhelmingly domineering mother portrayed by Gladys Cooper) and Notorious (in which the past truly comes back to haunt Claude Rains’ Alexander with a looming, malevolent and foreboding menace) gave me an even greater reason to fully appreciate his talents. The Oscar winning silver screen icon Bette Davis (April 5th, 1915-October 6th, 1989) stated that Rains was her favorite person to work with onscreen; Whether portraying heroes, villains or in between, Claude Rains has provided the classic film generation with a cinematic versatility, sheer profound brilliance on the stage/silver screen and a venerated image depicting the resplendent, candid and benevolent aura of an empathetic, compassionate, humbled and immensely talented human being!7

 

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