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The free public film series "The Screening Room: Classics, Crowd-Pleasers, Cult Favorites and Neglected Gems" concludes its retrospective of “Claude Rains Classics” with a special screening of Alfred Hitch****’s nail-biting post-war masterwork, NOTORIOUS.

Directed by the undisputed “Master of Suspense,” the 1946 thriller – a tense tale of obsessive love, daring espionage and international intrigue – will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov 13, at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, 350 N. Wood Ave., downtown Florence.

NOTORIOUS casts Ingrid Bergman as an alluring but alcoholic double agent caught in a tragic love triangle with an aloof, hard-bitten American intelligence officer (Cary Grant) and a sinister but strangely sympathetic Nazi leader (Rains) living in South America in the days after the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich.

The Hitch**** favorite – which also features Louis Calhern, Madame Constantine and Eduardo Ciannelli – will be preceded by a screening of “And So Died Riabouchinska,” a 1956 episode of ALFRED HITCH**** PRESENTS that features Rains as an aging ventriloquist suspected of murder by a dogged police detective (Charles Bronson). The eerie half-hour drama was adapted by Ray Bradbury from his original short story.

The special "Screening Room" series of “Claude Rains Classics” takes place in preparation for next week’s special visit to the Shoals by Rains’ daughter, actress Jessica Rains ("Sleeper," "The Sting"), and film historian and popular Pillar of Fire guest David J. Skal (HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC, THE MONSTER SHOW). The two collaborated on a 2008 biography of the late stage and screen star, CLAUDE RAINS: AN ACTOR'S VOICE (Screen Classics/University of Kentucky Press).

The critically acclaimed book details Rains’ early life in England, his stage work and his brilliant career as a Hollywood character actor in screen classics ranging from the title role in the fantasy favorite THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) – based on the H.G. Wells novel – to his role as a wily British diplomat in David Lean’s Oscar-winning epic LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962). Rains died in 1967 at the age of 77.

During Skal and Jessica Rains’ visit, Pillar of Fire and the UNA English Club will co-sponsor a two-night salute to Claude Rains. Events begin with a free screening of THE INVISIBLE MAN at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the University of North Alabama Performance Center. A panel discussion following the screening will feature Skal, Rains, actor and former Rains co-star Richard Seff and (via phone) author Bradbury and actor-director-producer Norman Lloyd.

The final event will feature a concert-style reading of the 1951 Broadway drama DARKNESS AT NOON, for which Rains earned a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Broadway play. The performance – set for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, at the Ritz Theatre in Sheffield – will feature Jessica Rains, Skal, Seff (who appeared with Rains in the original Broadway production) and special guest Will Stutts. The drama will also feature Kevin Hammond, Brooke Perry and Terry Pace.

Admission to DARKNESS AT NOON is $10 for adults and $5 for students, with tickets available at the door the night of the performance.

"The Screening Room" is hosted by film historian and Pillar of Fire founder Terry Pace, who teaches English at the University of North Alabama. Screenings are free and open to the public.

For more information on the NOTORIOUS screening at the library, the INVISIBLE MAN screening at UNA or the DARKNESS AT NOON performance at the Ritz, call Pillar of Fire at (256) 366-4512, or e-mail pillaroffire@bellsouth.net.

Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains): “I’m not afraid to die.”
Devlin (Cary Grant): “Well, here’s your chance …”
– From Alfred Hitch****’s NOTORIOUS (1946)
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