William Claude Rains, a British actor, was born on 10th November 1889 to Emily Eliza and Frederick William Rains. His birthplace was Camberwell, London. He stepped on stage for the first time at the tender age of eleven. What gave wings to his talent was the determination of his angel-Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the versatile actor and the man behind one of the most reputed drama schools, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree wished to water the sapling of an actor in Rains and sponsored his elocution classes. Rains served as an educator at RADA and also as a Captain the London Scottish Regiment during WWI. Rains kickstarted his career with theater with Ulysses S. Grant, a play on the life of the 18th President of the United States, by John Drinkwater. The next stop was Broadway, where he played the lead in The Apple Cart, a satirical comedy based on a political extravaganza, by George Bernard Shaw in 1928. His first role in a real film was in 1920, in a silent film titled Build Thy House. However, this was just a supporting role, and his real debut was as the lead in
The Invisible Man
, James Whale’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel that goes by the same name. He signed an unusual agreement with Warner Bros. in 1935 according to which he was loaned to other production houses. His well-known work for Columbia Pictures was in the role of Senator Joseph Harrison "Joe" Paine in a film titled Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The film was of a political genre and won Rains his first nomination in the category of Supporting Actor in the prestigious Academy Awards.
For Warner Bros. itself, he gave a wonderful performance as Captain Louis Renaul in Michael Curtiz’s rom-com film Casablanca. The film got him his next Academy Award nomination in the same category as mentioned before. Apart from these, he got nominated for the same for two other films- the Bette Davis starrer drama film Mr. Skeffington, and Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller which was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival called Notorious. Rains has also worked for Universal Studios in the horror-cum-musical film by Arthur Lubin- Phantom of the Opera. He was last seen on-screen in George Stevens’ epic film- The Greatest Story Ever Told, which released in 1965. Rains had been married six times and divorced five. He gave birth to his only daughter in 1938, named Jessica, with his fourth wife, Frances Propper. He married his sixth wife, Rosemary Clark Schrode in 1960. Fortunately, only his death parted them. He died of abdominal haemorrhage in 1965. He was seventy-seven at the time. Interestingly, he was the first among the actors to be blessed with a pay worth a million dollars for Gabriel Pascal’s adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play that was staged in 1901, titled Caesar and Cleopatra. His biggest achievement in forty-six years of an acting career has undoubtedly been the Tony Award in the Best Lead Actor category for the play based Arthur Koestler’s novel of the same name- Darkness at Noon.