William Claude Rains was born today in Camberwell, London, England, UK. His father Frederick Rains was a well known stage actor. Young Claude made his own stage debut at the age of 11 in the play Nell Of Old Drury. He also worked in the business side of of the theater from a young age; starting out as a page, and working his way up to stage manager. His acting talent was later noticed by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He paid for Rains' elocution lessons (Rains would later become an instructor at the Academy, teaching the likes of Lawrence Olivier and John Gielgud). His acting career was interrupted by World War I, when he entered military service (along with fellow actors that included Basil Rathbone) and served in the London Scottish Regiment. He entered the military as a private and by the end of the war had risen to the rank of Captain. During the war he was the victim of a gas attack that left him almost blind in one eye for the rest of his life. He made his motion picture debut in 1920 in the now lost film Build Thy House. It was the only silent film that he is known to have acted in. By the late 1920's he had moved to New York and made is Broadway debut. In the early 1930's he had the ambition to return to film acting with the advent of talking pictures. A screen test for the RKO film A Bill Divorcement (1932) led him being cast as the Invisible Man in James Whale's film of the same name (Whale had earlier met Rains in London before they both made the move to the U.S.). He would go on to be once of Hollywood's most bankable male stars, showing up such well known films as Curtiz's Casablanca, Hitchcock's Notorious and Lean's The Passionate Friends, not mention the role of the corrupt senator in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. He also made several appearances in Universal's monster franchises. In addition to stage and film acting, he also made several sound recording and worked in radio. He also made numerous television appearances toward the end of life. Rains spent his final years in Sandwich, New Hampshire. On the 30th of May 1967, he died from an abdominal hemorrhage in Laconia, New Hampshire and was buried in the Red Hill Cemetery in Moultonbourough, New Hampshire.
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