This post is a late entry to The Claude Rains Blogathon.
The most vivid cinematic image from my childhood is found in ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938). It comes from a scene near the beginning of the movie when Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone) toast their bright future as masters of England and Prince John accidentally spills some wine. It drips to the floor, looking very much like blood and Prince John turns to Gisborne with a crafty look of glee on his face.
I believe two things made this scene stick out in my mind: the blood-like wine (in all that glorious Technicolor) and Claude Rains’ complete embodiment of the dastardly Prince John. Because he is dastardly.
I’ve seen Claude Rains in several films over the years, but his role as Prince John in ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ is far and away my favorite role of his. He’s so slick, conniving, and utterly fun to watch as the biggest baddie on the screen (not even Basil Rathbone can steal the show here – a rare feat). ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ was a huge part of my childhood and, to me, Claude Rains simply is Prince John. His ability to turn from charming to chilling is just…wow. Love it. Good villains are the best.
Take, for instance, another scene near the beginning of the film where Prince John is enjoying a dinner party at Gisborne’s hall. He’s his usual princely, courteous self. Bits of humor and wit spark off of him. But once he announces that he’s kicked out the rightful regent of England and intends to rule in Richard’s place, the mood turns dark and Claude Rains goes from suave to defensive in a moment. It’s great acting. I really dig it.
Or consider how stone cold (yet affable) he is when sentencing Maid Marian to death?
Of course, Prince John gets his comeuppance at the end and Robin Hood triumphs, but Claude Rains put in an excellent performance while the fun lasted. He did a brilliant job of portraying Prince John – one that I hope to enjoy for years to come.
Have you ever seen ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938)? What’s your favorite Claude Rains’ role?