Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice

Overview

Late in Claude Rains's distinguished career, a reverent film journalist wrote that Rains "was as much a cinematic institution as the medium itself." Given his childhood speech impediments and his origins in a destitute London neighborhood, the ascent of Claude Rains (1889-1967) to the stage and screen is remarkable. Rains's difficulties in his formative years provided reserves of gravitas and sensitivity, from which he drew inspiration for acclaimed performances in The Invisible Man (1933), Mr. Smith Goes to ...
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Overview

Late in Claude Rains's distinguished career, a reverent film journalist wrote that Rains "was as much a cinematic institution as the medium itself." Given his childhood speech impediments and his origins in a destitute London neighborhood, the ascent of Claude Rains (1889-1967) to the stage and screen is remarkable. Rains's difficulties in his formative years provided reserves of gravitas and sensitivity, from which he drew inspiration for acclaimed performances in The Invisible Man (1933), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1942), Notorious (1946), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and other classic films. In Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, noted Hollywood historian David J. Skal draws on more than thirty hours of newly released Rains interviews to create the first full-length biography of the actor who was nominated multiple times for an Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. Skal's portrait of the gifted actor also benefits from the insights of Jessica Rains, who provides firsthand accounts of the enigmatic man behind her father's refined screen presence and genteel public persona. As Skal shows, numerous contradictions informed the life and career of Claude Rains. He possessed an air of nobility and became an emblem of sophistication, but he never shed the insecurities that traced back to his upbringing in an abusive and poverty-stricken family. Though deeply self-conscious about his short stature, Rains drew notorious ardor from female fans and was married six times. His public displays of dry wit and good humor masked inner demons that drove Rains to alcoholism and its devastating consequences. Skal's layered depiction of Claude Rains reveals a complex, almost inscrutable man whose nuanced characterizations were, in no small way, based on the more shadowy parts of his psyche. With unprecedented access to episodes from Rains's private life, Skal tells the full story of the consummate character actor of his generation. Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, gives voice to the struggles and innermost concerns that influenced Rains's performances and helped him become a universally respected Hollywood legend.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

One of the great character stars of 1930s-40s American cinema and a distinguished stage actor for years prior, Claude Rains had much to overcome before he reached that pinnacle. The handicap of a bad childhood stammer together with his short stature made him an unlikely candidate for stardom. In time, his memorable baritone voice flowered in all its glory. Ironically, in his first American film only his voice was heard; in The Invisible Man(1933), he was not seen on screen until the last minute. He went on to appear in numerous movies, some distinguished (e.g., Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Casablanca; Lawrence of Arabia) and many not, for the next 30 years or so. Skal (The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror) had the invaluable resource of tapes that Rains made and notes taken by a writer for a much earlier, unwritten Rains biography. In addition, Rains's daughter, Jessica, contributed many of her own personal memories. This may be a long overdue biography, but it is not a definitive one. The book relates biographical facts but largely skims over the surface of someone who must have been a very complex man indeed. Recommended for inclusive cinema collections.
—Roy Liebman

From the Publisher

""Well-researched, competently written biography of the English actor."--Robert Nott, Sante Fe New Mexican" --

""Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice seeks to shine the spotlight on one of the sharpest and most elegant stars of classical Hollywood cinema.... Skal has presented and organized a treature trove of material with methodical acuity. [A] lucid and informative biography."--Scope" --

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813192611
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 2/5/2010
  • Series: Screen Classics Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 689,516
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David J. Skal, the author of numerous books about film and popular culture, including Hollywood Gothic and The Monster Show, lives in Glendale, California. Jessica Rains, the only child of Claude Rains, is a producer and actress who lives in Venice, CA.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    I read this in a short time. I loved it.

    I read this in a short time. I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    Well worth the wait....

    This is the first full length biography about Claude Rains. The book is based on taped interviews Rains gave in the 1960's. There are many never before revealed details about his childhood, marriages, theatre career, film work and private life. <BR/><BR/>As always, David Skal gives us a well written and very informative book. Rains daughter, Jessica, contributed many interesting details about her father. There are many never before seen photos. Of special interest to any film buff is the extensive notes section at the end of the book. <BR/><BR/>It may have taken 40 years for Claude Rains personal memories to be published but this book proves it was well worth the wait.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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