UNA English Club, Pillar of Fire Salute Stage, Screen Star Claude Rains

Nov. 16, 2009


FLORENCE, Ala. – The University of North Alabama English Club and Pillar of Fire are co-sponsoring a two-part celebration of the lasting legacy of a classic stage and film star this week.

“Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice” celebrates the British-born character actor’s life and work with a screening of his first film, “The Invisible Man” (1933), as well as a concert reading of the stage adaptation of Arthur Koestler’s novel “Darkness at Noon,” the Broadway play that earned Rains the Tony Award for Best Actor in 1951.


“The Invisible Man”

The free screening of “The Invisible Man” will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Performance Center of UNA’s Guillot University Center. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Rains’ daughter, actress Jessica Rains (whose films include the Oscar winner “The Sting” and Woody Allen’s “Sleeper), author, film historian and previous Pillar of Fire guest David J. Skal (“Hollywood Gothic,” “The Monster Show”) and actor and author Richard Seff (who appeared on stage with Rains in the original Broadway production of “Darkness at Noon”).

“The partnership between the English Club and Pillar of Fire makes this a true town-and-gown affair,” said Terry Pace, who teaches English at UNA and co-founded Pillar of Fire with science-fiction author Ray Bradbury. “It’s a fitting partnership because both of the works we’re showcasing – “The Invisible Man” and “Darkness at Noon” – are film and stage adaptations of classic literary works.”

Rains, who died in 1967, appeared in such Hollywood classics as “Casablanca,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious,” Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn, the Bette Davis melodramas “Now, Voyager” and “Mr. Skeffington,” the horror chillers “The Wolf Man” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” and David Lean’s epic “Lawrence of Arabia.”

“I feel confident that every adult on campus and across the community grew up loving at least one classic Claude Rains film,” Pace said. “These two events give us a golden opportunity to introduce a new generation of students to the range and quality of an astonishing talent. His films will live forever.”

Health and schedules permitting, legendary “Fahrenheit 451” author and Pillar of Fire co-founder Ray Bradbury (who wrote an “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” drama starring Rains) and veteran actor, director and producer Norman Lloyd (who worked with Rains on the Hitchcock series) will offer recollections and insights by phone during the discussion at UNA.


“Darkness at Noon”

Two nights after “The Invisible Man” screening at UNA, the dramatic reading of “Darkness at Noon” will be performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Ritz Theatre in downtown Sheffield.

The play takes place during the Stalinist purges and Moscow show trials of 1938. The story focuses on the character Rubashov, an old-guard Bolshevik leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution who is first cast out, then imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he helped create.

The Ritz performance of “Darkness at Noon” will feature Jessica Rains, Seff and Skal, joined by special guest and UNA alumnus Will Stutts as well as Pillar of Fire players and UNA alumni Kevin Hammond, Brooke Perry and Pace. Admission at the door is $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Both the UNA screening and the Ritz reading will be followed by book signings. Skal and Jessica Rains co-authored the critically acclaimed 2008 biography “Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice.” Seff chronicled his own colorful career in his 2007 autobiography, “Supporting Player: My Life Upon the Wicked Stage.” Skal also recently published a new genre study, “Romancing the Vampire.”

For more information on the “Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice” events, contact Pillar of Fire at 256-366-4512 or pillaroffire@bellsouth.net.

PHOTOS AVAILABLE: For photos of Rains and movie poster images, contact the Office of University Communications at 256-765-4225 or jlwoods1@una.edu.