Birthday: November 10, 1889
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: William Claude Rains
Born in: Camberwell, London
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Agi Jambor (1959-1960), Beatriz Thomas (1924-1935), Frances Propper (1935-1956), Isabel Jeans (1913-1915), Marie Hemingway (1920-1920), Rosemary Clark Schrode (1960-1964)
father: Fred Rains
mother: Emily Rains
Died on: May 30, 1967
City: London, England
William Claude Rains was an English American film actor whose acting career spanned several decades. He was a Tony Award recipient and a four-time Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actor. Regarded as one of the greatest character actors of his time, he was best at playing “cultured villains.” He was greatly admired by his contemporaries Vincent Sherman, Albert Dekker, Ronald Neame and Bette Davis, all of whom eventually became close family friends. The son of stage actor Frederick William Rains, Claude Rains spent most of his childhood in the slums of London alongside his siblings. Because his father was an actor, he would spend time in theatres as a child and made his stage debut at the age of ten in Haymarket Theatre’s ‘Sweet Nell of Old Drury’. He then went on to appear in numerous movies, including ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’, ‘Notorious’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, to name a few. At one time, Rains also served in the military during the First World War. By the end of the war, he had ascended from the position of a private to that of a captain. The legendary actor married six times in his lifetime. His last marriage was to Rosemary Clark Schrode in 1960.
Childhood & Early Life
William Claude Rains was born on November 10, 1889, in Clapham, London, to Emily Eliza and Frederick William Rains, a stage actor, as one of their twelve children. Most of his siblings died in their infancy.
His family lived in the slums in extreme poverty. His mother took in boarders to support the family.
At the age of ten, Rains made his stage debut in ‘Sweet Nell of Old Drury’. He later become a call boy at His Majesty's Theatre and then went on to serve as the prompter and the stage manager. He eventually moved on from minor acting parts to larger, better parts.
During the World War I, he served in the London Scottish Regiment. At one time, he got involved in a gas attack which led to permanent loss of vision in his right eye. By the end of the war, he had emerged as a captain.
The actor had a Cockney accent and suffered from a speech impediment during his early years. However, after working on his accent, he started getting leading stage roles and eventually emerged as one of the top actors on stage in London.
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Claude Rains started his career at the London theatre, achieving critical success with John Drinkwater's ‘Ulysses S. Grant’. This was followed by a role in the same playwright's 1918 play ‘Abraham Lincoln’.
At the age of 29, he played Clarkis in his first and only silent movie, ‘Build Thy House’. During his early years, he also served as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).
He moved to Broadway during the late 1920s to appear in main roles in the plays ‘The Apple Cart’,’ ‘The Good Earth’ and ‘The Constant Nymph’. He appeared in the sci-fi horror ‘The Invisible Man’ in 1933.
On 27 November 1935, he signed to Warner Bros. Three years later, he starred in the villainous role of Prince John in the swashbuckler film ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ alongside Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, and Olivia de Havilland.
In 1942, Rains played a murderer in ‘Kings Row’ as well as a cynical police chief in ‘Casablanca’. A year later, he appeared in the titular role in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and followed it up with the spy film ‘Notorious’ as a refugee Nazi agent.
His only dancing and singing role was in a 1957 small screen production of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. Two of his later big screen roles were of Dryden in the historical drama ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and King Herod in the epic movie ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’.
While on loan to Columbia Pictures, Claude Rains played a corrupt U.S. senator in the 1939 political comedy drama ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
During the 1940s, he did the movies ‘Mr. Skeffington’ and ‘Notorious’, which garnered him two more Academy Award nominations.
In 1951, the actor appeared as Rubashov in the stage production ‘Darkness at Noon’ at Alvin Theatre/Royale Theatre. His performance in the play earned him a Tony Award.
Family & Personal Life
Claude Rains became a citizen of USA in the year 1939.
He married six times. His first marriage was to English actress Isabel Jeans whom he married in 1913 and divorced two years later.
His second, third, and fourth wives were Marie Hemingway, Beatrix Thomson, and Frances Propper, respectively. His second wife stayed with him for less than a year.
In 1959, the actor married classical pianist Agi Jambor. After divorcing her in 1960, he went on to marry Rosemary Clark Schrode; they stayed married until her death in 1964.
Rains’ only child, Jennifer Rains, an actress, was born in January 1938 to Frances Propper.
On 30 May 1967, he died due to an abdominal hemorrhage, at the age of 77. He designed his own tombstone.
In 2010, many of his personal items, including his Tony Award, letters, photographs, etc. were put into an auction at the Heritage Auctions.