Claude Rains received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Senator Joseph Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Rains early in the film establishes Paine a man of strong position, confidence, strength, and seemingly a man of honest dignity. There is a simplicity in his man of integrity that works splendidly with the idea of how Paine is viewed by everyone including by Jefferson Smith. Rains is careful to show this is most certainly the outward appearance of the upright crusading politician. It is not quite a facade that Rains creates though as there is some sincerity but Rains subtly shows it to be a compromised sincerity.
Rains is particularly strong in some certian moments of the film where he establishes the past of Paine, a past once of true integrity where he truly worked for who was best, not for the political machine he eventually gave up his integrity for. Rains is effective especially in his scene where he reflects about his past with Smith's father. Rains shows an authentic fondness in memory, and Rains expresses the honest desire to do good deep within Paine which is essential to the rest of the performance.
Later on though Paine is required to be basically a hatchet man when Smith fails to fall in line with the desires of the political machine. Rains again excels as he at first shows a great resistance to breaking down Smith, showing a tremendous regret, Rains showing that it really stems from the fact that he is tired of the way of the machine really, as well as truly regrets having lost what he once had. The strength of the machine pulls him back in though leaving Paine to attempt to destroy Smith.
In his scenes of attacking Smith, Rains is appropriately brutal. Rains is very strong here, becuase of how officially he makes all of Paine's attacks against Smith seem. Rains makes the perfect work of the perfectly corrupt politician. He never seems completely like a villain even though he is, becuase Rains plays it like Paine is still the proper politician just doing his good duty ousting a man not fit for the job, rather than what he is really doing which is breaking an honest man.
The greatest moment of Rains performance comes in when he attempts his final hatchet job on Smith, but Smith fights back through basically a direct plea to Paine. Rains' reaction to Smith's final plea is perfect showing how truly Smith's actions have made Paine view what he himself has done. This reaction is only up shown by his final confession at the end of the film which gives a chill down my spine every time I watch the film. The way he finally brings out the truth of Paine's regrets over what he has done is absolutely brilliant, and gives an appropriate ending to this great performance.