William Claude Rains (10 November 1889 – 30 May 1967) was an English actor of stage and screen whose career spanned 46 years. After his American film debut with The Invisible Man (1933) he played in classic films like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Wolf Man (1941), Casablanca (1942; as Captain Renault), Notorious (1946) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Rains was a four-time nominee for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, but never won.
Rains was born in Camberwell, London. He grew up, according to his daughter, with "a very serious Cockney accent and a speech impediment". His parents were Emily Eliza (née Cox) and the actor Frederick William Rains. Rains made his stage debut at the age of 11 in the play Nell of Old Drury.
His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree paid for the elocution lessons that Rains needed to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at RADA, where his students included John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier. Many years later, after Rains had gone to Hollywood and become a well-known film actor, Gielgud commented: "He was a great influence on me. I don't know what happened to him. I think he failed and went to America."
Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment, alongside fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. At one time, he was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life. By the end of the war, he had risen from the rank of Private to that of Captain...
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