Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Claude Rains: A brief, improbable tribute here, in the context of a greatest movie characters list at Premiere magazine.
More importantly, this list, like all things in Hollywood, is haunted by the specter of Claude Rains. Bogart's Rick is of course included, but at this point in history, is it not clear that Casablanca is Captain Rennault's movie? When was the last time you heard anybody, even as a joke, do the All the Gin Joints or Hill of Beans speeches? Yet it's probably been less than a week since you've heard an allusion to The Usual Suspects or a reference to somebody's being Shocked, Shocked. I can't think of a single Rains movie—The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Notorious, The Wolf Man, Lawrence of Arabia—where he doesn't steal every scene he's in. Rains even has a leading role—The Invisible Man—for which he could be legitimately included. My point is not that Claude Rains is underrated, though he probably is. It's that these lists are always about the Greatest, the Biggest, the Best, etc., when the incidental stuff is almost always the most enjoyable thing about a movie.
It's always nice when Claude gets press. And the point about the incidentals is right on too. See Notting Hill, for example, a bit of execrable dreck, momentarily enlivened by Rhys Ifans's hilarious portrayal of a slovenly and bizarre Welsh flatmate. He gets my vote for best character in a losing cause.

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