An Actor's VoiceBook - 2008
Born into the English working class, Claude Rains (1889-1967) overcame a severe speech impediment to become a fixture of the London theater scene. Rains's personal life was as dramatic as his work onstage: to end his second marriage while masking his wife's alcoholism, he staged an episode of infidelity, though the ensuing scandal made it difficult for him to find work. In 1926 he immigrated to America where, despite what Rains described as the worst screen test of all time, he was hired by director James Whale to play the title role in an adaptation of H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man, a tour-de-force depending completely on his vocal skills. In Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, noted author David J. Skal illustrates how Rains's talents were well suited to Hollywood's studio system, allowing him to become one of cinema's best known character actors. He lent his commanding presence to such landmark films as Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Notorious, and Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated for four Academy Awards, Bette Davis considered him her favorite acting partner. Drawing on over thirty hours of newly released audio interviews with Rains and enriched by daughter Jessica Rains's contributions, Claude Rains is an intimate portrait and the first full biography of this gifted actor.