On this day in 1889, the great actor Claude Rains was born. Most people know him from Casablanca where he was, “Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Or you know him as the corrupt but ultimately decent Senator in Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Or maybe you are a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and you know that, “Claude Rains was The Invisible Man.” That last one was Rains’ first real film role in the James Whale classic.
Rains was well into his forties by the time he made it to Hollywood. By the early 1920s, he was a successful stage actor as well as an acting teacher at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In fact, he taught two of the greatest actors of the century: John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier. By the late 1920s, he had moved to New York, where he was a star on Broadway. He came to Hollywood in 1933 to make The Invisible Man and the rest, as they say, is history.
But maybe not. I think people tend to under-appreciate how important Rains was. He had major parts in 50 feature films, in addition to an active later career in television. And he was the first actor to receive a million dollars for a film, in George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra with Vivien Leigh. Of course, the film was a flop. But I don’t know why. I haven’t ever seen it. (But I’ve requested it; I’ll let you know.)
Let’s watch a little of Rains’ work. First, here is the trailer for The Invisible Man:
Here is a wonderful scene from Caesar and Cleopatra:
And since I can’t find anything from Notorious, let’s just go with a little Casablanca:
Happy birthday Claude Rains!