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Five of the Best Claude Rains Movies



Claude Rains had a high reputation as a stage actor when, in his mid-forties, he made the oddest of all film debuts. James Whale cast him as The Invisible Man. So this fine actor, renowned for his mobile and expressive features, played his first major film part in bandages or invisible.

The voice – rich, vibrant and sardonic did all the work. For the next thirty-odd years Rains played leads and character parts, and for the first half of that period he was scarcely in a bad film.

He played many sympathetic parts (the father in Four Daughters, the psychiatrist in Now Voyager) and many villains – but even they were sympathetic. “I’m only a poor corrupt official” says Rains’ police chief in Casablanca, but the smile and the twinkle with which he says it make one forget the corruption in admiration of the man. Here though is our pick of five of his best movies.

Claude Rains The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man (1933)
In this classic Universal horror film based on the H. G. Wells novella, Rains (in his debut, a role that monster master Boris Karloff turned down) plays a mad scientist whose formula for invisibility wreaks havoc on his mind, and he begins to lust for power. Directed by one of Hollywood’s most distinctive stylists, James Whale (Frankenstein), it co-stars Gloria Stuart long before her Academy Award nominated role in Titanic.
Director: James Whale
Cast: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Holmes Herbert, Una O’Connor, Henry Travers

Claude Rains Mr Smith Goes To Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Capra’s enduring favorite has James Stewart as the idealistic, yet naive, politician sent to Washington as junior senator who runs afoul of the political corruption in his state. Capra favorite Arthur plays his cynical secretary and Rains the powerful senior senator who expects Smith to be nothing more than a rubber stamp. As with the best of Capra’s films, the sentiment and moralizing are kept in check by wonderful acting and genuine emotion. Based on Lewis R. Foster’s novel The Gentleman from Montana. Academy Award Nominations: 11, including Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor: James Stewart; Best Supporting Actor: Harry Carey.
Director: Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Jean Arthur, Beulah Bondi, Harry Carey, Thomas Mitchell, H. B. Warner

Claude Rains Now Voyager

Now, Voyager (1942)
“Now, Voyager, sail forth to seek and find.” Rains is a psychiatrist who quotes this line from Walt Whitman to inspire the repressed Bette Davis. Soon, the shy, sheltered spinster is brought out of her shell and falls in love with handsome, suave Henreid, though she knows he will never leave his wife. Through years of trials, their love endures and she becomes a surrogate mother to Henreid’s daughter (Wilson). The quintessential Hollywood tearjerker, with a lush Steiner score. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best Actress: Bette Davis; Best Supporting Actress: Gladys Cooper.
Director: Irving Rapper
Cast: Ilka Chase, Gladys Cooper, Bette Davis, Bonita Granville, Paul Henreid, John Loder, Lee Patrick, Claude Rains

Claude Rains Mr Skeffington

Mr. Skeffington (1944)
This popular Warner melodrama has Bette Davis as a society beauty who marries to prevent her brother from being arrested for embezzlement. She never forgives Rains, her banker husband, and they divorce. When their daughter flees her and she contracts a withering case of diphtheria, Davis learns that Rains has survived a concentration camp and is blind and poor. The one time beauty returns to the one time rich man. A strong script and two star performances, which garnered Academy Award nominations. Davis and Rains starred opposite each other four times in seven years (1939—1946). This was their third film together after Juarez (1939) and Now, Voyager (1942) they would also star together in Deception (1946). Franz Waxman’s score was called by one critic “the best [Richard] Strauss score not written by Strauss.” The score features some unusual early electronic instruments including an electric violin and a novachord. Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress: Bette Davis; Best Supporting Actor: Claude Rains.
Director: Vincent Sherman
Cast: Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel, John Alexander, George Coulouris, Jerome Cowan,

Claude Rains Caesar and Cleopatra

Caesar and Cleopatra (1946)
An extravagant, big-budget adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s epic depicting the political and personal lives of Roman Emperor Caesar and Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. Caesar comes to Alexandria to quell a civil war and falls in love with the young and inexperienced Cleopatra, who is dominated by an evil servant and her conniving brother Ptolemy. Caesar teaches her to be a leader and unleashes his army against the devious Ptolemy.
Director: Gabriel Pascal
Cast: Claude Rains, Stewart Granger, Vivien Leigh, Raymond Lovell, Cecil Parker, Flora Robson, Francis L. Sullivan, Basil Sydney, Ernest Thesiger



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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