Warner’s, hot on the money trail of murder and mayhem in the 1940’s, quickly snapped up Charlotte Armstrong’s novel The Unsuspected and churned out another slick noir. The Unsuspected features a couple of the film world’s most notorious mannered actors: Claude Rains and Audrey Totter. A YouTuber has even put together a tribute to Miss Totter. A tribute to Claude would take too long.
Being a hambone is not necessarily a bad thing. All Best Supporting Actor nominations are shamelessly rife with overwrought, weepy, eye-rolling, couch-flopping, death-rattling dramatizations. In the 1940’s Claude Rains was nominated 4 times for a variety of scene-stealers:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (evil senator)
Casablanca (can you believe he didn’t win!)
Mr. Skeffington (in comparison to Bette Davis, he’s understated)
Notorious (super nasty nazi, but then other than Hogan’s Heroes are there any other kind?)
Claude Rains came by his emoting legitimately. On the London Stage. At The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, RADA. Pronounced (Rah-Dah) for you plebes. In 1920 (holy grampus) Rains even taught at RADA. His students included Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.
Like his fellow Londoner, Sidney Greenstreet, Rains did not even get to Hollywood until his forties. And it was his voice that got him hired–not his face. The role in The Invisible Man (1933) was just a talking mummy with googles.
Later, in 1946, Rains became the first film actor to receive a million dollars for his role as Julius Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra. It was Britains most expensive film to date and a complete failure. But then, Caesar and Cleopatra as a romantic comedy? It would take us gals nearly 20 years to achieve the same milestone– ironically with the film Cleopatra. Liz got the million bucks, the studly Shakespearean and nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. . . I think it’s time for Brad and Angelina to do a remake.
Rains film career fizzled in the 1950’s and he turned to TV. But by then he was in his 60’s. He would later retire to a ranch in Pennsylvania after a career lasting nearly 50 years. Very impressive for a kid who grew up in Dickensian poverty in 1890’s London. Rains was one of 12 children. Only 3 made it to adulthood. He never made it past the second grade. Another study in sheer willpower and determination. Salute.
Good. The Unsuspected. Pocket 444. pub. 1947. first edition. Creases on front cover. light tanning. Good spine.