Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice

Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice

by David J. Skal, Jessica Rains


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813192611
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 02/05/2010
Series: Screen Classics Series
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 791,730
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

David J. Skal, the author of numerous books about film and popular culture, including Hollywood Gothic and The Monster Show.

Jessica Rains, the only child of Claude Rains, is a producer and actress.

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Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in a short time. I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

It may have taken 40 years for Claude Rains personal memories to be published but this book proves it was well worth the wait.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've adored Claude Rains in movies as long as I can remember, so was excited to find out there's a biography of him.Rains came from a very poor background in England. His father acted, among other things, and Claude was apprenticed to the theater by age 12 to help bring in money. He worked his way up in the theatre, becoming a stage manager and acting in occasional small parts. He stuttered, and did not have a strong voice, but it improved through time, and, ironically, through being gassed during his military service in WWI. He went back to acting and got better and better parts. A bitter divorce (he was married a total of six times) led him to emigrate to the U.S. where he was successful on the stage and then turned to acting in film. From there he did almost no more stage work. Skal gives brief portraits of his films, Rain's roles, and the impact of the movie.The author was lucky enough to have tapes that Rains made when another author was interested in doing a biography, but both that author and Rains died before it was done. Skal also talked extensively to Rain's daughter Jessica. The book has an excellent appendix detailing Rain's theatre and film work, and a good bibliography and index. It is a workmanlike book, but fairly pedestrian... it never sings.
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