An Actor's Voice
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Series: Screen Classics
Grateful acknowledgment is due to the dozens of institutions and individuals who helped make the idea for this book a reality. Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice would not exist without the support and assistance of Jessica Rains, who entrusted me with the responsibility of giving narrative shape to her father’s life, in the process making available to me all of Rains’s surviving papers and visual documents and her own extraordinary and vivid memories...
Roddy McDowall was in awe of Claude Rains. Both were English actors transplanted to Hollywood, but somehow they had never met, socially or professionally. McDowall had started his American career as a juvenile performer for MGM, while Rains worked primarily for Warner Bros., and their paths had simply never crossed...
1. Bloody Idiots Who Couldn't Learn Their Lines
His parents could not agree on what to call him. His father, Frederick, wanted a solid English name—William or Harry. And for that matter, what was wrong with Frederick? His mother, Emily, was entranced by the French name Claude, which she had discovered in a romantic novel. It sounded like “cloud,” something elevated...
2. Marriages and Mustard Gas
Emily Rains was not a happy woman while her son was growing up, though not because of any failing on his part. On the contrary, he must have been a source of pride for her. After all, in addition to overcoming his speech impediments, his responsibilities at His Majesty’s Theatre had expanded impressively, from those of call boy to prompter to assistant stage manager...
3. An Actor Abroad
In late 1926, Beatrix Thomson was offered the female lead in the New York production of The Constant Nymph, a play based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Kennedy and adapted by Basil Dean. The story of the romantic downfall of a na
4. Invisibility and After
Despite his reputation as a versatile and often adventurous performer, Claude Rains was oddly indifferent to the medium of motion pictures. He claimed to have seen only a half-dozen films prior to joining the Theatre Guild (and several, perhaps, were less-than-artistic silent vehicles in which his less-than-beloved father Fred appeared)...
5. Mr. Rains Goes to Burbank
Rains was shocked to learn that Beatrix, in Britain, was accusing him of bigamy, challenging the legality of his American divorce and remarriage. In London, on July 16, 1935, she filed a countersuit to his New Jersey divorce action, naming Frances as codefendant. Although Beatrix may have had reason to want to clarify her marital status...
6. Now, Contract Player
A prior engagement with Bette Davis prevented Claude Rains from attending his own mother’s funeral. Eliza Cox Rains died on May 13, 1942, during the production of Now,Voyager, Warners’ latest Bette Davis vehicle. Based on a best-selling novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, Voyager had begun production on April 7, with retakes continuing through June...
7. MacGuffins, Deceptions, Domestic Recriminations
Mike Levee, Rains’s agent, called his client one day. Alfred Hitchcock had expressed interest in Rains’s services. Could he have a meeting? Hitchcock was casting a film called Notorious, a tale of postwar intrigue and espionage revolving around an expatriate Nazi cell in Rio de Janeiro, starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant...
8. New Stages and Final Curtains
Rains’s relative isolation in Pennsylvania did nothing to lessen the ceaseless stream of fan mail, from which the actor could have easily inferred that the years had enlarged rather than diminished his professional stature and that women of all ages still thrilled to his polished, rich, and sensual voice and to the memory of all those screen portrayals of urbane wickedness and gallantry...
Appendix: The Work of Claude Rains
Notes and Sources