We have decided to honour a lady who was one of the most talented and popular actresses of the classic film era.
The subject of our blogathon is the legendary Barbara Stanwyck.
Known affectionately by those who knew her as “Missy”, Barbara became famous for her natural acting style. She also became well known for playing strong, independent and intelligent characters in her films.
Barbara Stanwyck dominated the screen in every single scene that she appeared in. She is one of those actors who could say so much with just a look or expression.
For this blogathon you can write about any of Barbara’s films,TV series, or TV episodes. You can write tributes to her. You can write about her acting ability. You can write about her whole life and career. You can write about her lovely friendship with William Holden. You can write about your favourite Barbara Stanwyck performances. Perhaps you met or corresponded with her and want to tell us about that?
We will accept two duplicates per screen title. You can write more than one post if you wish to, but we ask that you please don’t write more than three.
The blogathon will be held on the20th, 21st and 22nd of January, 2019. I will be your hostess on the 20th. Crystal will be your hostess on the 21st and 22nd. Please send us your entries on or before those dates.
Let us know what you want to write about below. Take one of Crystal’s lovely banners to put on your site to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Barbara and watching her films.
Films claimed twice: Ball Of Fire and Sorry,Wrong Number
The Particpation List
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: All I Desire
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Topic to be decided
Pale Writer: Christmas In Connecticut and The Thorn Birds
A Shroud Of Thoughts: The Lady Eve
Love Letters To Old Hollywood: Ball Of Fire
Wide Screen World: Three episodes of the Barbara Stanwyck Show
Down These Mean Streets: Double Indemnity
Vinnieh: No Man Of Her Own
Caftan Woman: Banjo On My Knee
Poppity Talks Classic Film: The Two Mrs. Carrolls
Silver Screen Classics: Sorry,Wrong Number
Lisa Alkana: Guest post on In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood:Crime Of Passion
After toying with the idea for a while now, I have decided that I want to try and host one more blogathon this year. The subject for the last 2018 blogathon will be Ava Gardner.
Ava would have been 96 years old this year. I decided that I would hold this blogathon over two days, one of which is her birthday. I do hope that you will all join me to celebrate the life and career of this screen legend. Ava is someone who I admire a great deal. What you saw with Ava was what you got. Ava was open, generous, kind, fun and honest. She always seemed so down to earth too.
For this blogathon you can write about any of Ava’s films. You can write about your favourite Ava Gardner performances. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about her life and career. I will accept two duplicates per screen title. You may write more than one post if you wish, but no more than three posts per person please.
The blogathon will be held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. If Ava was still with us today, she would be celebrating her 96th birthday on the 24th of December this year.
If you would like to join in the fun, simply let me know what you want to write about below. Take one of the banners from below and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Ava and watching her films.
Films that have now already been chosen twice are The Killers, Pandora And The Flying Dutchman and Mogambo.
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman
Poppity: The Angel Wore Red
Movie Rob: Mogambo and Night Of The Iguana
Down These Mean Streets: The Killers
Caftan Woman: Whistle Stop
Palewriter2: Lone Star
Silver Screen Classics: The Killers
Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Cassandra Crossing
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Write up about her visit to the Ava Gardner Museum
The Stop Button: Seven Days In May
Silver Screenings: Mogambo
Vinnieh: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman
Diary Of A Movie Maniac: 55 Days At Peking
Overture Books And Films: The Great Sinner
Critica Retro: One Touch Of Venus
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: East Side, West Side
Virginie from The Wonderful World Of Cinema, and Emily from The Flapper Dame, are co-hosting this 4th annual blogathon celebrating Grace Kelly. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
1956 was a key year in Grace Kelly’s life. She had become engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco after the pair had met and fallen in love the previous year. Grace was about to embark on a new chapter in her life. Unfortunately her new path in life meant that she had to bid farewell to her film career.
In 1956, Grace Kelly appeared in what would become her final film. For her final screen performance she played a society heiress called Tracy Samantha Lord. The film was called High Society.
The 1956 film was a musical remake of the 1940 classic, The Philadelphia Story, which was an adaptation of Philip Barry’s 1939 stage play of the same name. The original film had succeeded in resurrecting Katharine Hepburn’s film career.
Katharine Hepburn’s performance, coupled with the overall success of the film, succeeded in destroying the cruel label of “box office poison” which had been attached to her name for some time. The film had also seen James Stewart’s hilarious performance rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
It was never going to be an easy task to remake a film that was so highly regarded. Charles Walters, the man behind such classics as Easter Parade, Three Guys Named Mike, and The Tender Trap, took on the task of directing the remake. The legendary Cole Porter penned the songs used in the film.
Joining the cast as Tracy’s three love interests were Bing Crosby as Dexter, the ex husband of Tracy; Frank Sinatra as the mischievous reporter, Mike Connor; and John Lund as Tracy’s new fiance, George Kittredge.
Bing, Frank and John as the three men in Tracy’s life. Screenshots by me.
I think that High Society manages to stand alone from the original film due to the different ways in which the actors perform their roles, and also due to the film being a musical. I like to call this film a reinterpretation of the original story rather than a remake.
A few scenes from High Society. Screenshots by me.
Whenever I watch High Society, it feels as though I’ve joined friends at a fabulous party, one which is overflowing with fun and wit. The film is uplifting, touching, glamorous and funny. The songs and musical sequences are all fabulous and they are sure to have you singing right along with them.
I also love that we get Louis Armstrong acting as our guide to this society world. Louis also performs several songs in the film, and he and Bing Crosby perform a duet together. I also love how Louis breaks the fourth wall at various points in the film and speaks directly to us.
As much as I like this film, I do concede that it lacks the character development of the original and some of it does feel a bit rushed. I also wanted a little more joy and excitement during the ending. If you have seen the original film, then you won’t really be able to help but compare the two films as you watch this one.
Some viewers don’t like the pairing of Bing and Grace here due to their age difference, personally I have never had a problem with age gaps in relationships, so I don’t care about that issue at all.
I do think that there should have been some more scenes between Bing and Grace, either as flashbacks to show the Haven’s marriage, or some more scenes when he comes back into her life as she prepares to marry. I wanted many more scenes between them and a bit more focus on their relationship.
In the scenes they do share together, I have to say that Bing gazes at Grace with such tenderness and warmth, and she looks back at him with equal warmth and affection.
Bing’s performance at first doesn’t come across as really being that good, but if you watch his eyes and expressions you will see that the performance is subtle, but it is most definitely there to be seen.
Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm are clearly having a lot of fun together as the reporters. I love their duet performance of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Celeste is hilarious as Liz, and she steals all the scenes that she is in. Frank is very good in the role of Mike, and you miss him when he isn’t in a scene. But sadly Frank is no Jimmy Stewart. I’m afraid that Frank’s performance lacks that special spark that Jimmy’s has in the original. I do like Frank’s performance, but I think that he and Celeste could both have done with more character development to work with.
Louis Calhern provides the comic relief of the film as Tracy’s Uncle Willie. There is strong support from Sidney Blackmer as Tracy’s stern father. Margalo Gillmore is also very good as Tracy’s mother. Lydia Reed is adorable as Caroline(I much prefer her performance over Virginia Weilder’s in the original) and I love the Little One scene between her and Bing.
Grace Kelly is the heart and soul of the film. She sparkles like a bright jewel whenever she is on screen in this film. I think that she delivers a very touching performance as a woman desperate to be loved for herself alone. There are several scenes where she expertly conveys how hurt or vulnerable Tracy is. Grace captures this woman’s pain and frustration so well.
I often wonder if Grace saw some of her own life mirrored in this character and her story. Grace was often(and still is today)seen as merely a beautiful screen goddess, rather than the complex and warm woman she actually was off screen. I for one can certainly see parallels between her own life and Tracy’s.
Grace is vulnerable and sad as Tracy. Screenshots by me.
If you think that Grace always played cool and remote women, then you should check her out in this film, where you will get to see her play a funny, sweet and easily hurt woman. I always think it is such a shame that she never acted again after this film.
As the film begins, we find the wealthy citizens of Newport about to be shaken free from their stuffy traditions by a dose of true love, and by the arrival of the great Louis Armstrong and his band. Louis and his band are in town to perform at a jazz festival organised by his old friend Dexter Haven(Bing Crosby).
A few scenes featuring the legendary Louis Armstrong. Screenshots by me.
In Newport, preparations are not only underway for the jazz festival, but also for the society wedding of the year. Heiress Tracy Samantha Lord(Grace Kelly)is about to get married to the decent, but dreadfully dull, George Kittredge(John Lund).
Much to Tracy’s annoyance her wedding is being covered by pushy magazine reporter, Mike Conner(Frank Sinatra), and his photographer pal, Liz Imbrie(Celeste Holm). This intrusion leads Tracy and her little sister Caroline (Lydia Reed) to prank these visitors and have a little fun at their expense.
Tracy’s ex-husband and neighbour, Dexter Haven stops by to wish her every happiness for the future.
Tracy and Dexter may well have had problems in their marriage, but the pair still love one another and Dexter in particular can’t bring himself to sever all connections with his girl.
The rest of the film focuses on whether these two will get back together or not. Tracy and Mike also have a few moments where it seems that they may well be falling for one another too.
At the heart of the film(even more than the romance)is Tracy’s desperation to be loved for who she is inside, not for her external beauty alone. George puts his fiance up on a pedestal and considers her a goddess, rather than seeing her for the flesh and blood woman that she really is. Mike admires her spirit and personality. Her own father even refers to her as being made of bronze. Only Dexter completely sees her and accepts her for who she is in every way. Can Tracy find the happiness she so desperately craves? Watch the film and find out.
This film may well not be as good as the original is, but it is certainly a lot of fun. The performances, costumes and songs are all fabulous. The duet between Bing and Louis, and the duet between Bing and Frank, are two highlights of the film. Cole Porter’s witty and catchy lyrics will stay in your mind long after the film has finished. Grace Kelly’s lovely performance will linger in the memory too. I think this was the perfect film for her career to end with.
What are your thoughts on the film and Grace’s performance in it?
When the clock strikes 11am on this Sunday morning, it will be 100 years since World War One finally came to an end. To mark this important centenary, I decided that I would host a blogathon about films which focus on this war.
I want to thank you all so much for joining me for this special blogathon. In addition to reading through all the posts in this blogathon, I would like us all to take a moment to remember all of the people and animals(their deaths and injuries all too often get overlooked) who lost their lives in this brutal and senseless war.
This war is an event that we should never forget. Sadly war is still present in our lives today, and it would seem that our species has learnt nothing from the horrors and pain of all those past wars. I hope that one day war can be a thing of the past, something that is found only in the pages of history books.
Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can over the weekend. Thanks again for joining me for this.
Day 2 Entries
Pop Culture Reverie tells us about Wonder Woman and her time in the trenches.
Silver Screen Classics writes about Peter Weir’s classic war film Gallipoli.
World War One has been depicted on screen so many times over the years, both on the big and on the small screen.
There have been many films on this subject that have horrified and moved us.
These films have been able to give us a little more understanding of the horror, the pain and the terror endured by the soldiers fighting on all sides in that senseless mass slaughter.
The following five films focus on different aspects of the war; some focus on the fighting, while others take a look at what happens when soldiers return home. They have become my favourite films about this conflict. I’m not saying that these are the five best films about WW1, but they are all very good, and I recommend each and every one of them.
King And Country(1964)
This is one of the grimmest films about this war ever made. The trench sequences are so realistic and they are very difficult to forget. This film really gives you a good sense of the hellish conditions that the soldiers faced and endured throughout the war.
The film focuses on a shell shocked soldier(Tom Courtney) who is on trial for cowardice after he leaves the battlefield. The soldier’s fate lies in the hands of the lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) defending him.
Based on Pat Barker’s 1991 novel of the same name, this seriously underrated film focuses on a group of soldiers being treated for shell shock and psychological trauma at a private hospital in Britain. It is a grim and deeply moving look at the damage done to so many who fought.
I don’t think those who survived this horror were the lucky ones, because they had to live on with the horror they had witnessed, and so many were psychologically damaged beyond repair. Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the doctor trying desperately to heal the damaged men, while he himself is struggling to deal with the horrendous stories and disclosures that he is hearing from his patients. Strong performances from the entire cast.
All Quiet On The Western Front(1930)
This is not only a must see for its realistic recreations of the fights and the battlefields of WW1, but also for its depiction of the brutal realities of war. The film begins with idealistic young German men being encouraged to fight for their country. They go off expecting to be embarking upon a great adventure that they will enjoy.
When the boys arrive at the front, they quickly discover that there is nothing exciting about war at all. War is ugly, war is terrifying, and war is the greatest horror imaginable. This is one of the best WW1 films ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never seen it before.
The film is based on the 1928 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. The book, it’s sequel, and the film itself, were all banned by the Nazi’s when Hitler and his party came to power. Many of Remarque’s other books were banned and burnt. He fled Germany with his wife, but his younger sister was tried in German court for undermining morale after she stated that she believed the war was lost. His sister was found guilty and was beheaded in 1943. Remarque never knew of her fate until after the war, and his 1952 novel Spark Of Life is dedicated to his sister.
A Month In The Country(1987)
This quiet film focuses on the emotional scars left on veterans of the war. Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh both deliver moving performances as two men scarred equally by their time in the trenches. Both men meet at a church in the countryside after the war has finished.
Colin’s character is restoring a medieval mural on the church wall, while Kenneth’s character is an archaeologist searching for an old grave believed to be somewhere on the grounds. Both men put up a brave facade in public, but each of them hides terrible pain. This shows you how brave the soldiers were who tried to carry on with normal life, even though they were in hell on the inside.
Famed for its spectacular aerial battle sequences, Wings shows us the youthful innocence of young recruits being shattered by the grim realities of war. This film focuses on two friends who join the American airforce and go off to fight.
One of the most striking images of the film(which I used in my blogathon banner)is of a plane landing on a field next to a hill, as far as the eye can see this land is covered in the graves of dead soldiers. This shows you the cost of war and is interesting because it focuses on the war in the air, rather than on the war being fought in the trenches. This film would also go on to become the first film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar.
What do you think of these films? What are your favourite films about this war?
Here are my answers to the rest of your classic film questions. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me questions. I hope that you will all enjoy reading my answers. I’ve really enjoyed writing my answers. It’s been a lot of fun.
4StarFilmFan asks me to share some classic era directors who I feel are underrated.
I have two directors from my own country of Britain who I want to spotlight. The first one is Thorold Dickinson. It is unreal how seriously underrated this guy is.
He made very few films during his career. He has become someone who is not very well known by film fans today.
He did make two films which were destined to become his masterpieces though. The first of his two masterpieces is the fantasy-horror film Queen Of Spades(1949), this is a film which came so very close to being lost forever, and it features one of Anton Walbrook’s most powerful film performances.
The second film is the original British version of Gaslight(1940). I like the remake, but this earlier version has more menace and a much more unsettling atmosphere. Anton Walbrook oozes malevolence as the husband who subtly sends his wife mad. The photography, mood, period detail, and the magnificent performances found in both of these two films are outstanding. Dickinson is a director whose name deserves to be on the lips of classic film fans of today.
The second underrated director is Robert Hamer. Classic film fans will probably all have seen(or at least heard of)his most well known film, the black comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets, which is notable for having Alec Guinness play multiple characters. Hamer did so much more than just direct this film though.
Hamer often moved between film genres. During his career he dabbled in comedy, horror, drama and Noir. I like him because every film/genre he was involved with felt as though that was all he had ever been working on. I never find myself wondering why he picked a certain project, this is because the overall quality of his films was always so good, and I always get the sense that he was comfortable and confident with whatever he was working on at the time.
Dead Of Night, It Always Rains On Sunday and Pink String And Sealing Wax.Screenshots by me.
He directed three real gems. The first one is Dead Of Night(1945), which is one of the best horror anthology films of all time. The second one is Pink String And Sealing Wax(1946) , which is a very underrated period piece featuring one of Googie Withers greatest performances. The third is the gripping British Noir It Always Rains On Sunday( 1947).
Palewriter asks what my favourite classic film biographies and autobiographies are.
Furious Love: The Love Affair Of Elizabeth And Richard by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger.
Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters edited by John Coldstream.
Ava Gardner by Lee Server.
Spencer Tracy by James Curtis.
I’m not much of a fan of autobiographies, but I do like Loitering With Intent by Peter O’Toole and What’s It All About? by Michael Caine. I also love Bring On The Empty Horses by David Niven.
Canterbury Tale asks my opinion of British cinema in the 1930’s.
I don’t consider it to be our strongest decade for film. I think that we didn’t really get going as a film industry until the 1940’s. However, having said that, there are a few gems to be found in the 1930’s.
A few British films from this decade that I recommend watching are The Spy In Black(1939), The Lady Vanishes(1938), Borderline(1930), Death At Broadcasting House(1934), Pygmalion(1938), The 39 Steps(1935) and Fire Over England(1937).
Thoughts All Sorts asks what classic era Westerns I like.
I love so many Westerns, but I love the psychological westerns directed by Anthony Mann the most. These films show the emotional/psychological toll that life out West took on the people who lived there.
These films are also among some of the darkest and most brutal Westerns ever filmed. Films such as Man Of The West, The Naked Spur and The Man From Laramie. I also love many of the Randolph Scott films including Ride Lonesome, Commanche Station and Seven Men From Now.
True Grit, The Searchers, The Man With No Name Trilogy, Once Upon A Time In The West, Yellow Sky, The Train Robbers and El Dorado are all favourites.
DB Movies Blog asks me what my favourite foreign language film is.
It’s way too hard to just narrow it down to one. So here are my top five favourites from the classic era. Ikiru, Charulata, La Belle Et Le Bete,Rashomon and La Strada.
Charulata, Ikiru, La Strada, Rashomon and La Belle Et Le Bete. Screenshots by me.
My favourites from the modern era are House Of Flying Daggers, Priceless, My Best Friend and The Devil’s Backbone.
Alex Raphael asks me to name my favourite performance by Robert Mitchum.
That would have to be a tie between Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Cape Fear.
In Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert is sincere, awkward, decent, tender and honest. He plays a man who we like and sympathise with. His performance here is the complete opposite of the cynical, cool and tough characters who he became so well known for playing.
In Cape Fear he is completely terrifying. I think he is even scarier than Robert DeNiro in the remake, because he often seems so normal and his performance isn’t over the top like DeNiro’s is. Robert Mitchum’s version of Max Cady knows just how far he can harass and push Gregory Peck’s character before the law can get involved. Robert captures all the things that make people like Cady(there are plenty of people like him out there)so frightening and unsettling.
Silver Screen Classics asks which classic actor I would interview if given the chance. He asks me to list five questions that I would ask them.
Buster Keaton. He is someone who fascinates me. I would love to have met him and spoken to him about film and his approach to it. I would have asked him the following questions.
1.Do you prefer arranging, setting up, and performing your stunts? Or do you prefer setting up and performing your comedy sequences? Which do you prefer and why?
2. What do you think about the fact that film will allow you and your work to be watched, enjoyed and discussed decades,possibly centuries, after you have made your films?
3. Which of your feature films and shorts are you most proud of and why?
4. What do you feel when you watch yourself up there on that big screen?
5. What is the riskiest stunt that you yourself have ever been involved in? What is the riskiest stunt that you have helped to set up?
Vinnieh asks which classic actresses I really like.
I have so many favourites. There are two who I not only like, but who I admire a great deal too. Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn.Both Ava and Audrey were not afraid to be themselves.
Ava and Audrey. Screenshots by me.
What you saw was what you got with both of these ladies. Ava told it like it was, she was down to earth, generous, fun, open and a real free spirit. Audrey was kind, gracious, down to earth and so classy. Both women lived life on their own terms. Neither one behaved or dressed how others thought they should.
I also think that neither of them was changed much by being famous, they would both still happily associate with ordinary people, crewmembers etc. They didn’t become divas who thought they were better than others because they were famous. They both stayed true to themselves, and I for one love them both forit.
Vinnieh asks whether or not I think classic films were classier in their depiction of certain things than modern films are.
That’s an interesting question. I think many were, but there are so many Silent, Pre-Code and Noir films that contain content which still has the ability to shock or raise eyebrows when viewed today. I think that classic era directors were much better at insinuating violence or sexual content than modern directors are. Many Noir films from the 1940’s have suggestive dialogue and sexy scenes which are somehow more shocking than a fully nude sex scene would be.
There are also many violent scenes to be found in classic era films, these scenes are capable of shocking you and making you squirm, but these scenes don’t become nearly as graphic and drawn out as similar scenes would be in modern films. I think that’s a good thing because there comes a point where such scenes become sadistic, and they reach a point where it seems like the director is just wallowing in the disgusting and horrible imagery they are filming.
I think that graphic depictions of violence and injury have their place in modern war films because that content helps the story be more realistic in my opinion. Most scenes of graphic violence and sex really don’t add anything to the majority of films and series of the modern era. Sometimes I think that it is best to leave these things to the imagination of the audience, or to depict these scenes on screen in a less graphic way.
Movie Rob asks my opinion on The Oscars and Best Picture winners.
I’m not a fan of the Oscars at all. I have never seen the point of the ceremony to be honest. Taste in film is subjective, as all art is, the trouble is that when the Academy or the critics call something excellent or terrible, those labels seem to stick to the films or performances in question forever and I think that is so wrong. Audiences will like and hate what they want to, all the rest is just nonsense.
There are so many films made each year around the world, how can you even begin to narrow those down to a handful and then proclaim one to be the best? It’s ridiculous.
Occasionally the Academy Awards will praise a particular film or performance and I will agree with them, but mostly I don’t agree with the awards given out. Some Best Picture Award Winners that I don’t have a problem with winning are Gone With The Wind, All Quiet On The Western Front, Lawrence Of Arabia, All About Eve, Gandhi and The Godfather(part 1 and 2).
Mike’s Take On The Movies asks me what my favourite classic Western film is.
The Searchers(1956). It is a film that never fails to leave an impact and make me eager to see it again. It has so many layers, you can interpret characters and events within it in so many different ways.It is one of the most complex and dark westerns ever made.
It still intrigues me, even though I have watched it so many times. An endless cycle of love, hate, revenge, violence and hope. It looks stunning and beautiful visually, and it features unforgettable performances from the whole cast. You can read my full review here.
Alex Raphael asks me if there is any classic film that I wish had gotten a sequel.
The Wizard Of Oz. It didn’t really require it, but there are so many other adventures and stories that could have been experienced by Dorothy in the land of Oz.
This could easily have become a film series(or at least a second film)with Dorothy returning to that land(be it by dream or by another way)to have further adventures with The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Lion.
Tiffany and Rebekah from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, are hosting this blogathon to celebrate the life and career of the actor Claude Rains. Be sure to visit their site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
When I saw that Tiffany and Rebekah were celebrating Claude, I just knew that I had to take part. Claude is my favourite actor. He was a master of his craft and he is always a real treat to watch and listen.
Claude was a chameleon actor who could switch effortlessly between playing villains who you love to hate, to playing loveable and decent men who you adore and pity.
Claude had the ability to be able to steal a scene in a film, often by doing nothing more than merely sitting in a corner of a room watching others, while saying and doing nothing himself.
His performance is all in the eyes and in the little expressions. I also love how a single arch of his eyebrow conveys amusement, disdain and annoyance. Aspiring actors could learn a thing or two about acting by studying his performances in my opinion.
His performances are subtle, and yet he often ends up delivering the most powerful and memorable performance in whatever film he is appearing in. I have never seen Claude deliver a screen performance which was disappointing or bad.
As well as liking him because he was a excellent actor, I must also admit to having a huge crush on Claude Rains. He is so sexy, so funny, so full of charm and wit. The song I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred could well have been written for our Claude. 😉 Whenever a character of his is treated badly by a leading lady, I always get so angry on his behalf, whilst also shaking my head and saying “wake up now, girl. Are you seriously treating Claude bad?!”
Claude is also someone who I admire a great deal. Claude came from nothing and went on to really make something of himself. He also suffered in World War One, but he didn’t let his injury stop him from pursuing his career.
Claude Rains was born in Camberwell, London on November 10th, 1889. His story is truly an inspirational one. He grew up in the poverty riddled slums of London. His father was a stage actor, and Claude wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Claude overcame a speech impediment which had always caused him to stutter. He also took elocution lessons to try and shed his thick Cockney accent. These lessons resulted in that very unique voice that we all know and love.
The famous Claude Rains voice is both silken and seductive, while also being strong and commanding too. That distinctive voice of his became one of his greatest assets as an actor.
Claude served in the London Scottish Regiment during World War One. A few other classic actors who served in this regiment include Herbert Marshall(who lost a leg during the war), Ronald Colman, and the great Basil Rathbone.
During the First World War, Claude Rains rose from the rank of Private to become a Captain. He was injured in a gas attack, which caused almost complete sight loss in his right eye, the attack also paralyzed his vocal cords for a time. After the war had ended, Claude returned home to London and embarked upon his acting career. He primarily worked on the stage and he was also an acting teacher at RADA, where one of his acting students was a young Sir John Gielgud.
Claude appeared in a British Silent film called Build Thy House(1920), but his big break in films really came when he was cast in James Whale’s horror classic, The Invisible Man in 1933. His performance in this film brought him the fame that he so deserved.
Claude as The Invisible Man. Screenshots by me.
We never see his face until the final minutes of The Invisible Man, but he carries the entire film through his remarkable vocal performance and body language alone. His vocal performance here is outstanding, he perfectly conveys the intellect, the rage, and also the increasing insanity of his character to us.
He signed a contract with Warner Brothers Studios, and he went on to become one of the greatest actors of his day. Over the next thirty years, Claude Rains would go on to appear in some of the greatest films ever made. Some of the classics he appeared in include The Adventures Of Robin Hood(1938), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington(1939), Casablanca(1942), Now, Voyager(1942), Deception(1946), Notorious(1946), Lawrence Of Arabia(1962) and my personal favourite film of his, The Passionate Friends(1949). He was held in high esteem by colleagues. His frequent leading lady Bette Davis adored him. Bette considered him to be her favourite co-star.
I thought that the best way to celebrate Claude was to share some of my favourite films and performances of his. First up are a couple of my favourite performances.
The Passionate Friends(1949)
This film features my favourite performance from Claude. He is outstanding as the decent husband who discovers his much younger wife (Ann Todd) is having an affair. He conveys so well the distress and pain his character feels when he discovers the affair. He has our sympathies throughout.
I especially love the scene where he finally cracks and verbally unleashes his pent up grief and rage at what has happened. I also love the hilarious scene where he subtly lets on to his wife that he knows she is having an affair.
Claude steals every single scene he appears in here. For me he is the heart and highlight of the film. He is hilarious as the scheming Captain Renault.
His character may well do some unpleasant things, but we can’t help but love the guy. Claude’s reactions and expressions in this are hilarious. I love his shared scenes with Bogie and how Renault can always figure him out.
I recommend watching the following Claude Rains films. Deception, The Passionate Friends, Mr. Skeffington, Angel On My Shoulder(hilarious as the Devil), Casablanca, The Clairvoyant, Mr.Smith Goes To Washington, The Invisible Man, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Now,Voyager. Those films are just a few of his finest performances, but I would recommend that you check out all of his screen work, he never gave a bad or dull performance.
Claude Rains was truly one of the all time greats. Are you a fan of Claude Rains? Share your thoughts below.