CLAUDE RAINS Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: William Claude Rains                                                           
Born: 10 November 1889 London, England                                               
Died: 30 May 1967 Laconia, New Hampshire, USA (Intestinal hemorrhage)                 
William Claude Rains (10 November 1889 – 30 May 1967) was an award-winning         
English actor and film star between the 1920s and 60s.                               
He later held American citizenship and was best known for his many roles in           
Hollywood films.                                                                     
Rains was born William Claude Rains (known as 'Willie') in Camberwell, London on     
November 10, 1889. He grew up with, according to his daughter, "a very serious       
cockney accent and a speech impediment".                                             
His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, founder of The       
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Tree paid for the elocution lessons that       
Rains would need to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at the institution,     
working with John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, among others.                         
Rains served in the First World War with the London Scottish Regiment,               
alongside fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall.           
Rains was involved in a gas attack that left him almost blind in one eye for the     
rest of his life. However, the war did aid his social advancement, and by its         
end, he had risen from the rank of Private to Captain.                               
Having made his name in the theatre, Rains came late to film acting. His first       
screen test was a failure, but his voice won him the title role in James Whale's     
The Invisible Man (1933) when someone accidentally overheard his screen test         
being played in the next room. Rains later credited director Michael Curtiz           
with teaching him the more understated requirements of film acting, or, "what         
not to do in front of a camera".                                                     
Following The Invisible Man, Universal Studios tried to typecast him in horror       
films, but he broke free, starting with the role of Prince John in The               
Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), then with his Academy Award-nominated role as       
the conflicted corrupt senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and           
followed with probably his most famous role, the suave French police Captain         
Renault in Casablanca (1942). In 1945, Rains became the first actor to receive a     
million dollar salary for his role as Julius Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra.         
He appeared in his only singing and dancing role, as the Mayor in a television       
musical version of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin, opposite Van         
Johnson as the Piper. This 1957 NBC colour special, shown 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 TV       
Rains remained a popular character actor in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in         
many films. Two of his well-known later screen roles were as Dryden, a cynical       
British diplomat in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and King Herod in The Greatest         
Story Ever Told (1965). The latter was his final film role.                           
Rains became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939. He married six       
times, the first five of which ended in divorce: Isabel Jeans (1913-1915); Marie     
Hemingway (1920-1920); Beatriz Thomas (1924 –April 8, 1935); Frances Propper (April 
9, 1935 –1956); and Agi Jambor (November 4, 1959 –1960). He married Rosemary     
Clark Schrode in 1960, and stayed with her until her death on December 31, 1964.     
He acquired the 380-acre Stock Grange Farm in West Bradford Township,                 
Pennsylvania just outside West Chester in 1941, and spent much of his time           
between takes reading up on agricultural techniques. He eventually sold the farm     
when his marriage to Propper ended in 1956.                                           
Rains died from an internal haemorrhage, in Laconia, New Hampshire at the age of     
77. He is interred in the Red Hill Cemetery, Moultonborough, New Hampshire.