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Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (Screen Classics) 2nd Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0813124322
ISBN-10: 0813124328
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Editorial Reviews


""[Claude Rains] was perfect. There's a very small group of actors who seemingly never made a mistake: Walter Huston, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, and Claude Rains."--Roddy McDowall" --

""[Claude Rains] was witty, amusing, and beautiful. And thoroughly enchanting to be with. And brilliant."--Bette Davis" --

""Claude Rains was a consummate actor whose remarkable life and career has been covered in fascinating detail in this book"--Kevin Brownlow" --

""Most movie stars eventually are forgotten, and almost all character actors are, but the reputation of Claude Rains has survived for more than 40 years since his death. David Skal's biography, written with Rains' daughter, probably will provoke even more welcome -- and justified -- reassessments of his gifts."--Scott Eyman, Cox News Service" --

""This highly readable biography, written with the help of his daughter, Jessica Rains, reeals the witty, talented man behind this universally respected Hollywood legend."-- Larry Cox, Tuscan Citizen" --

""A comprehensive, breezily written guide to a consummate gentleman and an ever-dlligent pro."--The Post and Courier" --

""The book has an excellent appendix detailing Rain's theatre and film work, and a good bibliography and index."--Mary of Many Colors" --

""It's a fast, compelling read, leaving readers to reach their own conclusions."--Expressionmilwaukee.com" --

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

From the Inside Flap

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

  • Series: Screen Classics
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky; 2nd edition (November 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813124328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813124322
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,274,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I did enjoy this book, a biography of Claude Rains, featuring recollections of his daughter, interviews with actors with whom he worked, notable Bette Davis, and a description of his early years of poverty. Also, Mr. Rains own recollections were drawn upon for much of this book. The successful stage career is analyzed and the years in Hollywood where Rains appeared in such classic films as The Invisible Man, Now Voyager, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Casablanca, Juarez, Anthony Adverse, Deception, and Lawrence of Arabia. The author details his turbulent private life and six marriages, the longest lasting was his fourth marriage to Frances Propper. I agree with another reviewer that not much information is given re: his wives, particularly to Frances Propper--she disappears for a time in the narrative. It would have been helpful had their daughter Jessica discussed more about her mother and what happened to her after the divorce. Also, it would have been interesting to learn more about Jessica and what she is doing today.

Overall, a good biography but I was hoping for more.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book and I totally agree with Candace's review listed here.
The review is right on the mark so I won't be repetitious. Claude was married to Frances for a long time, yet you barely get to know her in the book; hardly any insight into their relationship and what happened to Frances after their divorce. What happened to the son that Claude had when he was in England? Too many loose ends. Not enough informal details about Claude....What music did he like? Food? Interests (other than antiques, farming/gardening)? Not enough stories about him and his daughter's relationship as they got older....which there is no excuse considering she co-authored the book. Claude Rains was a fascinating man and a brilliant actor and there should have been more depth to this book.
Also, here's a few mistakes I found in the book...

Page 101 - Inaccurate synopsis of movie "Juarez" and Bette Davis (Carlotta) did not play Paul Muni's (Benito Juarez) wife but was the wife of Brian Aherne (Maximillian), who was the misguided and deceived King of Mexico.

Page 111 - Doctor's daughter was played by Nancy Coleman not Ann Sheridan.

Photo of Claude in a white dinner jacket holding a gun is from the film "Rope of Sand" not "Song of Surrender."

Photo listed as "With Whitney Bourne in Crime without Passion (1934)" should actually be "With Gertrude Michael in The Last Outpost (1935)."

Claude Rains may have been precise and professional, but the book certainly is not.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not as expected. This is a college level, serious portrait of an accomplished artist. There is no apparent restraint in this biography which also serves as a text about real acting and the nearly lost art of film making. I want to watch these films again.
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Format: Hardcover
When Mr. Claude Rains dances around to show his excitement? Well, I'm dancing like that over the release of this fine book! Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I have become a fan of Claude Rains to the point that I simply cannot get enough of him! So, of course, I loved every single minute of reading this book by author David J. Skal with further insights by none other than his daughter, Jessica Rains. I read the book in two days and was amazed at the life of this great actor and gentleman. Mr. Skal's biographical storytelling had me engrossed for two solid evenings! You can tell that he has great respect for Mr. Rains as a subject and anyone who appreciates a good biography, will enjoy this book. I have to hand it to Mr. Skal in keeping the book as Mr. Rains apparently intended to present his life story for his never-finished autobiography. It's so easy to fabricate stories when individuals have passed on, so full marks to Mr. Skal for keeping it real, as they say. I really got the feeling from the book that Mr. Rains was a "regular guy", which was quite interesting. I don't know what I was expecting when I first started to read the book, however, I thought that even made him more charming as a person. The photo section is first rate and for a Claude beginner like myself, I looked through that photograph section over and over and over! I really enjoyed the candid photographs and it was quite fascinating to see the real Claude Rains in action rather than the cinematic Claude Rains as these images are readily available.
I wish I could have learned more about Mr. Rains' fourth wife, Frances. However, if Mr. Skal was maintaining Claude's original vision of an autobiography, one could see why Frances isn't really mentioned, although she was an important part of his life for many years.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a pretty good biography that could have been much better. Rains' early years are given excellent coverage, but his film years are given very little coverage aside from complaints about Warner Brothers not sticking to the terms of his contract and his dislike of certain co-stars (I've seent he comments on Paul Henreid attributed to others too). Little is said about his becoming an American citizen or a New York Times report in the late 1930's regarding a hospitalization, though it goes into perhaps too much detail about his later health issues.
While some of the information has been around in assorted books for years having it gathered in one place with the new information is a plus, and the stories from his early years fill in quite a few gaps only touvhed on in standard film references. The photos are a mixed bunch, again the early ones are excellent while the film ones were not the best scenes to use.
His personal life was far from perfect, he certainly could have handled wanting out of marriage number five better than he did, but there are plenty who have done worse than changing the locks on the house. I've admired him as an actor for a long time and this book does nothing to change that.
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