Birth Name: William Claude Rains
Birthdate: November 10, 1889
Date of Death: May 30, 1967
Number of Films Claude Rains made with Humphrey Bogart: 2
The son of British theater actor Frederick Rains, Claude Rains was raised around the stage, working various jobs backstage and onstage as he received a well-rounded education in the dramatic arts.
Rising quickly through the theater ranks to become known as one of England’s preeminent stage actors, Rains also taught acting at England’s Royal Academy of Arts where such greats as John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier spent time as his students.
After even more success on Broadway in New York, Rains finally headed west to Hollywood where he received the lead role in his first American film, The Invisible Man for Universal Pictures. After a few years, Rains would move on to Warner Brothers where he would star alongside of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca for which he received one of his four Oscar nominations.
Rains only made two films with Bogart, but ever since that first viewing of Casablanca, I’ve been a big fan of his work. Is there anyone on earth who didn’t laugh out loud the very first time they witnessed this exchange between Rains and Bogart:
Bogart as Rick Blaine: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Rains as Capt. Louis Renault: I’m shocked, SHOCKED – to find out that gambling is going on in here!
Croupier: (HANDING RAINS A LARGE STACK OF CASH) Your winnings, sir.
Renault: Oh, thank you very much. (TO THE ENTIRE NIGHTCLUB) Everybody out at once!
Casablanca – 1942
Rains gives an amazing performance as Captain Louis Renault, the ruling authority in Casablanca who also happens to be friends with Bogart . . . as long as the bribes keep coming and the the Germans don’t apply too much pressure. What a testament to Rains’ talent that he can commit completely despicable deeds one moment and then have us laughing with joy the next. In a film with a lot of great humor, Rains takes a hefty chunk of it, stealing nearly every scene that he’s in, including the one mentioned above. I can’t be the only one who wants to see just a few minutes of Renault and Blaine’s post-Casablanca adventure together! Can you imagine these two guys fighting, drinking, joking, cajoling, and swindling their way through German troops as they work for the French resistance? And, of course, Rains and Bogart close out the film with perhaps the most memorable movie-ending in the history of cinema! You can read my original write up on the film here.
Passage to Marseille – 1944
Reunited with Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet just two years after Casablanca, Rains plays Captain Freycinet, commander of an Allied air base that’s about to launch a bombing raid out of England. It’s a much more sympathetic and heroic role for Rains this time around, with a lot less snarky one liners to steal the show. Rains ends up on a steam tramp with escaped prisoners Bogart and Lorre as they try to stay out of German hands while heading off Greenstreet’s opportunist French officer. Rains especially nails his role during the funeral in the final moments of the movie where I think that he gives my favorite scene from any of his films. You can read my original write up on the film here.