Today we’re looking at a couple memories of the Baz by people who encountered him in passing.
This photo was sent by someone who says his father’s friend took it when he happened to see BR in the street in LA in about 1956.
The photo is apparently in a book of celebrity pix taken by said father’s said friend, but unfortunately the sender didn’t name either the book or the friend so I can’t put in a link. If anyone has additional info, then feel free to let me know. It’s cool because it’s the Baz caught in an everyday situation. And you can get a glimpse of the scruffier side of his wardrobe-persona that Ouida apparently deplored, but which I rather like
This memory of encountering him on campus was sent in by a reader called “GC” – who is so charmingly self-reproaching that you sort of fall in love with him a bit. Would any of us have done any better if brought face to face with our hero and asked to come up with intelligent questions? I highly doubt it.
“…In 1965 I was a freshman cartoonist for the university newspaper when I was thrilled to hear that Rathbone was booked for the arts & entertainment series with his one-man show, an evening of poetry, dramatic recitations and reminiscence about his career. I begged to be allowed to interview him even though I had no prior experience or qualifications to do it.
On TV I’d seen (in those days of VERY sparse opportunities) many of the Universal Holmes series and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, one or two of the swashbucklers, and television guest shots like DR. KILDARE, but not much else; on the big screen I’d seen some of Basil’s last gasps like COMEDY OF TERRORS. The U library had many of his Caedmon LPs of Doyle and Poe stories that I listened to, and a copy of Basil’s autobiography, IN AND OUT OF CHARACTER, which I read carefully to prepare for the interview.
On the big day I waited for his arrival in the auditorium; when he finally showed up he looked very tired from his long trip, but was already besieged by a local TV reporter who badgered him with questions for about 30 minutes, asking most of the obvious ones I had prepared. When she was finally through he was thoroughly wrung out, and when I approached him he tried to put me off, suggesting that I should have more than enough information from the answers he gave her.
I really didn’t have much more I COULD ask him — except for something about those series films and horrors I loved, which I knew he wouldn’t be pleased to discuss. But I persisted and he agreed to “just one or two questions.”
While I racked my brain trying to figure out a way to broach the taboo subject, I mentioned prestigious highlights of his career (like his youthful stage role as Romeo to Katherine Cornell’s Juliet) and then, in my abyssmal incompetence and desperation, clumsily blurted out a question about his “B-movies,” phrasing it so ineptly that it surely must have offended him — a shuddersome embarrassment I’ll take to the grave. But he was composed and gentlemanly enough to give me a civil answer:
“One can’t always appear in masterpieces unless one chooses to live in a garret.”
Then he VERY generously signed the handsome 40s portrait I had ordered from Movie Star News for 50 cents (I had carefully avoided ordering a SON OF FRANKENSTEIN or Holmes portrait but now I wish I hadn’t).
That evening I sat in awe in the front row while he mesmerized us with superb recitations in that magnificent voice (“Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”). Afterward, I had the gall to confront him AGAIN for two more autographs, my program and the library’s copy of his autobiography. He gave me a funny look but signed both.
I returned the book to the library, where it was enshrined in the rare books room — by now some fiendish film fan has probably added it to his collection, and I wish it had been me.
If only I had been able to express to him how deeply I loved those “B-movies”!…”