The Sublime Claude Rains

As Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca

Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca


William Claude Rains was born in London, England November 10, 1889. He was the son of British stage actor Frederick Rains. Claude made his stage debut at the age of eleven in Nell of Old Drury. He learned the technical end of the business by working his way up from page boy to stage manager.

He came to America in 1913, but returned home to serve with the Scottish regiment during World War I.

After the war he became a leading stage actor in England, appeared in an obscure British silent film Build Thy House and taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Among his pupils were Laurence Olivier & Isabel Jeans (Aunt Alicia in Gigi), who became Claude's first of his six wives. He was also married to Marie Hemingway, Beatriz Thomas, Frances Propper by whom he had a daughter, Agi Jambor and Rosemary Clark Schrode.

While working for the New York Theater Guild in 1932, Rains made a screen test at Universal and was hired, because of his distinctive voice, to play The Invisible Man.

During his many years at Warner Brothers he became the studio's busiest and most versatile character actor, at his best playing cultured villains. By the 1940's Rains became one of a select group of secondary actors who are stars in their own right.

He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor four times for his roles in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Casablanca, Mr. Skeffington, and Notorious, but amazingly never won.

In 1946 Rains became the first film actor to receive a million dollars for his role as Julius Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra.

He made a triumphant Broadway return in 1951's Darkness at Noon.

During the 50's and 60's he continued to make films, most notably in The Lost World, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Greatest Story Ever Told and did television work with many appearances on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". He passed away May 30, 1967.

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