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Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (Screen…
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Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (Screen Classics)

by David J. Skal

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Good easy-to-read bio of Warner Brothers steadfast actor Claude Rains who began his life in poverty in England and began work in the theatre as a youngster. The book covers his early family life, his early work in the theatre, his WWI service, and his return to the theatre and eventual move to Hollywood and return to the theatre and work in television. Rains' daughter, Jessica, was co-author on the book which also included information that was taped from conversations with Rains by a previous biographer who never got a book in the works. You get to know a bit about Rains the man, but not as much as you'd like. He was a fantastic actor who certainly deserved at least one Oscar (he was nominated 4 times) but I would have liked to have had a bit more. He was married 6 times. It would have been good to have some material from his wives. While his daughter was a co-author, I did not know if he was a stern disciplinarian as a father and very involved in her life or a distant father. I would have liked to have known what he thought about his daughter's decision to become an actress. And I would have loved to have found out why Charles Laughton went from saying how "wonderful" (p. 66) it was to have Rains as a teacher at RADA to Laughton saying "hello you little shit" (p. 102) - what happened - we never find out! All in all, I know a lot more about Rains than I did prior to reading the book but would have liked to have known more. The book has a complete listing of Rains' stage, screen, and television work. ( )
  knahs | Jul 16, 2012 |
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. ( )
  reannon | Dec 13, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0813124328, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:06 -0400)

Late in Claude Rains's distinguished career, a reverent film journalist wrote that Rains "was as much a cinematic institution as the medium itself." 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 nominated multiple times for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This portrait of a universally respected Hollywood legend also benefits from the insights of his daughter, Jessica Rains, who provides firsthand accounts of the enigmatic man behind… (more)

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