Claude Rains was an English stage and film actor whose career spanned 47 years; he later held American citizenship. He was known for many roles in Hollywood films, among them the title role in The Invisible Man, a corrupt senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and, perhaps his most notable performance, as Captain Renault in Casablanca. Rains was born William Claude Rains in Camberwell, London. He grew up, according to his daughter, with “a very serious cockney accent and a speech impediment”. His father was British stage actor Frederick Rains, and the young Rains made his stage debut at 11 in Nell of Old Drury.
His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, founder of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree paid for the elocution lessons Rains needed in order to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at the institution, teaching John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, among others.
Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment, with fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. Rains was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life. However, the war did aid his social advancement and, by its end, he had risen from the rank of Private to Captain.