Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Victor Grandison in The Unsuspected.
The Unsuspected is so strange as it opens with brutal murder of the radio host's secretary. The film than proceeds to introduce a set of characters all around the host, Rains's Victor Grandison. It seems like it's building a mystery with these introductions of the suspects and even with Rains's first scene where Victor delivers one of his shows. Rains's voice seems so fitting for such a broadcast with Rains emphasizing every word to give a real certain ominous quality and as he warns about the "unsuspected" is quite something. The thing is, despite this set up, there isn't a mystery. and I don't mean just because Claude Rains is in the film, he's actually not the initial killer in the film. It reveals quite early, rather nonchalantly, who the killer is, a handyman who works for Victor. It further reveals that Victor himself is complicit since he figures out who the killer is yet only blackmails the man to do his bidding. The film then proceeds to follow Victor as he seems to try to kill everyone within his extended family for a reason that is never quite specified past Rains's performance.
The film honestly probably wouldn't have worked at all with its main cast being, while not bad, rather forgettable for the most part, if it were not for old Claude Rains being in this role. Rains basically is there to carry the entirety of the film, and is the only thing that really comes across all that well past a few atmospheric shots crafted by Curtiz. This is kind of Rains unleashed in a way though. In his scenes where Victor is interacting with his family Rains brings such a suave command as you'd expect from him. There is just the right assurance and style to his work that is perfect for this type of patrician radio host. To be entirely truthful Rains frankly seemed like he should have hosted a mystery theater at some point given that he brings the right sort of dark elegance for "murder in a mansion" style stories. Rains, as the surface Victor is more than he should be, and by that I mean by his sheer charm he makes some fairly tepid material engaging. Rains offers a real energy to role that is much needed to the film, although he extends that to further than merely Claude Rains being his usual amazing self.
Rains extends that energy to actually make sense of his character, who really doesn't make any sense just by what is written in the film, and with a lesser actor in the role the character would have fallen wholly flat. The thing is Victor goes about wanting to murder everyone in ways in which he makes everyone else look like a suspect or makes their deaths look like suicides. Again this is never explained but Rains's explains it through his rather brilliant performance. Rains throughout these scenes very carefully portrays them to convey the motivation all wordlessly of course. Rains does not simply have Victor set up the murder, nor does he portrays the sort of psychotic behavior you may expect, although his behavior is obviously that as well. Rains in the murder scenes does not even show any malice instead he's quite chilling by portraying instead this fascination in Victor in the act itself. He does grant a creepy joy as he does this, with that energy he has in the role, but again Rains depicts very carefully as Victor getting a kick out of the whole process. Rains makes sense of the character by showing this host who has become with obsessed with doing what he has only ever spoken of, and also makes a rather entertaining villain while doing so. I won't say he quite saves the film, but it is relatively easy to get through due to his dutiful work as always.