Classic Movie Legend Tribute: Claude Rains

Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Claude Rains, born on November 10th 1889!

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There are some who believe that the litmus test for good acting is complete metamorphosis – the thought that actors must lose themselves so completely in a role, that all the traits of the actors themselves are gone and the only thing left is character. And while I have nothing against the Daniel Day Lewis’s of the world (I think he is a fantastic actor) I must respectfully disagree with that notion.

To me, a good actor doesn’t necessarily have to completely lose himself in a role to get the job done. A good actor must convey to the audience the emotional intensity of a scene while giving motion to the body in a way that demonstrates the inner conflict of the character. An actor can have the same general demeanor yet still give a completely different performance each time. To me, Claude Rains is this type of actor. Whether playing an invisible man, a caring physiologist, a Nazi general, or a British diplomat, Rains’ surface image always remained that of an English gentleman. However, the emotional depth he created for each character was vastly different, playing the gamut from detached, to disingenuous, to psychotic, to plain mad. Acting, as he understood it, was to serve the scene in context to the whole movie and, to me, that is what an actor should do. So, to celebrate this great actor, let us take a look a few of his best roles.

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Claude Rains as the well meaning therapist in Now, Voyager (1942, Irving Rapper director)

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Claude Rains as 1 part cruel, 2 parts manipulated and all parts Nazi in Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock director)

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Claude Rains as the cynicalically amused dipolmat in Lawrence of Arabia (1964, David Lean director)

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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