BIOGRAPHY / LETTERS

Letters to Madame X c.1940 – 1963

These are all the letters we currently have that were allegedly written by Rathbone to “Madame X” between c. 1940 and 1963. They’re numbered as they were when received by us. Nos. 13, 15 and 16 are currently missing. We’ve only received one letter in autograph. The rest are typed copies, seemingly quite aged and pretty hard to read. Some are annotated, but not always legibly. Everything in black is original text, my notes are in blue and the annotations are in red.


LETTER 1:

no date, possibly 1939-40


Dearest X – what an extraordinary amount of enquiry crammed into such a small and charmingly violet note. How do I begin?

1. Tell him Dietrich is an angel – for the first week that you know her. Thereafter all bets are off. Her self-interest is boundless. Her sense of ensemble non-existent. If she can erase you in front of the camera she will. She is legendary for being very accommodating in other ways, but it barely compensates for the sheer flaming hell of working with her.

2. Yeats – oh darling I know exactly what you mean. I haven’t read that one since just after I was first home from the war, when it was almost unbearable. I was a young and starving actor in London and I was paid a few shillings to read it for some Arty evening in Soho. I read it cold off the page having never seen it before – and those lines “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer” seemed to spell all the wild futility and despair of that war and the sense we all had that we were out there at the whim of men who no longer knew how to end what they had begun.

I couldn’t get the words out of my mind and they became part of my nightmares along with the skulls and the puddles of flesh and such.

But of course it speaks universally doesn’t it as all great writing does, for our own time perhaps even more than when it was written.

3. Yes I know about Barbara’s [annotated in handwriting with what looks like the word "who?] nuptials, but that’s all very long past.

4. New York is – New York. Better than Hollywood.

I have no picture of what you are doing apart from frenziedly reading Yeats and making notes. How are you angel? Did I tell you I had a charming note from your father? He was inordinately complimentary about our little film. I am assuming you haven’t told him our reservations [...]! How he loves you though, and how proud he is. He seems like a very good man.

I have to stop writing and go to a dinner party. You are welcome to pity me.

All love to you – Basil


LETTER 2:

no date, after February 1941

X – I have to go and you are very asleep and I have to go and be unkind to Gladys all day, and on an hour’s sleep! [David] has taken the dogs out so don’t fret if they aren’t here when you wake up. I will see you tonight my little succubus.


LETTER 3:

written from Canada, around September 1941

Dear little girl – I’ve been thinking all day about your besetting problems.I think in the abstract AL is right, you will get further by being charming to Wallis and seem contrite as he and JL have all the power and no one has ever or will ever win against them in a straight fight.

But I think that is beside the point and he ought to realise it as your nature will never allow you to play the “oh I am such a foolish child, please forgive me” role if you don’t believe it to be true.

I think you must just let Arthur do what he can on your behalf and simply don’t be involved directly. Keep quiet if you can and let him talk for you. And then whatever happens, well, it happens.

But you should not be saying you don’t care. My darling you are gifted and you must respect the gift. And you must do right by it. That must be your motive. By all means hold firm and don’t compromise, but not out of some spirit of not-caring. You are an actress and already a very fine one, and with years and years after this to develop your art. You must absolutely care.

Thinking of you very often. I miss your warm darling little presence. It’s very cold here. In oh so many ways.

You know it’s not that I won’t tell you. It really isn’t. And it would never be that I don’t think you could…

[INCOMPLETE]


LETTER 4:

written from Canada, around September 1941

Darling girl – I found your letter this morning, but I think it arrived yesterday or the day before. Don’t fret. I’m well, really. Much much better than when you last saw me. It’s exhausting, and my voice is struggling with all the speechifying, but people here are wonderful. Though I’ve been missing my little night owl terribly. Oh how much. I wish you could have come with me – so many times I’ve thought – X would like this, or smiled to myself at the thought of what you would say.It’s very excellent news about “[NAME OF MOVIE]”

Yes, darling, it is quite ridiculous, No – no I won’t reassure you, little goose – because you don’t need to be reassured about something so absurd. Though it’s strange you should have thought it when you did, for reasons I will tell you when I see you – perhaps you really do live inside my head the way it feels as if you do sometimes.

When [Mary] said it’s something I would do, dare I hope it was in any sense an endorsement? No, you don’t need to tell me. I’m sorry to keep disappointing her so predictably.

As to everything else, oh my dear girl, no one has ever questioned me so closely or made me realise how pitifully few answers I can provide. You look at me with those eyes and you see through every stupid lie. And I don’t know how to tell you the truth, which is – I don’t know the why of anything, even when I pretend most diligently I do.

The truth is the last time I had any idea why or what I was supposed to do I was lying in a shell hole, looking up at the sky. My mind was filled with a Bach keyboard sonata which was one of the last I’d learned, I forget which one now. I absolutely knew I was about to die and I was completely happy and at peace, in a way I never was before or since, not even with you, in our best moments. It was so easy, you see, a kind of absolute joy and peace, because I knew it was all done and I was all square with life. Nothing left to do but let things take their course.

And when I didn’t die, I didn’t know what to do. So I thought I’ll take my revolver, go out and blow a hole through my head. Only I knew it wouldn’t work. I knew, I just knew you couldn’t do it that way. You couldn’t make it happen, not if you wanted to find peace. So, I thought, then a sniper can do it for me. But no matter how I tried to let them no sniper ever found me. And all the other times I went out and lay in shell holes in No Man’s Land it wasn’t the same, and I knew I wouldn’t die this time, and of course I never did.

I had this mad feeling I’d become some sort of Wandering Jew. And everything for so long afterwards was about dragging this living corpse of myself around, giving it things to do, because here it was, alive. And nothing made any sense and I didn’t even hope it would. I followed paths that were there to be followed, I did what others said to do. I didn’t care. And, angel, that’s the only why I have about anything to this day.

I’m so ashamed to even write it. I could never tell it, even to you. Do you judge me terribly for such a weak fool? Letting myself be dragged here and there for no better reason than that? I know the awful disaster I have made of everything, and I don’t think there’s much mending anything now.

It’s very late, or very early. I’m not sure of the time because my watch has stopped, but the sky is getting light. It’s oh so still and quiet. I am ridiculously lonely for you. Longing to be home. Let’s go to the house as soon as we can, I want to breathe you and taste you and gorge on you and sleep beside your sweet warmth. It’s so cold here alone – really, quite alone – my angel.

There, you have your needless assurance after all. What more can I tell you than that? You know it’s already more than I ought.

I’ll telephone you tonight from wherever we are. – Basil


LETTER 5:

Well there I was being talked at by some of the dullest people in British Columbia when it was announced Miss X Y was calling me from Los Angeles. I wish we could have talked longer. I would have telephoned later but this wretched man, I think he’s the mayor or something, and his wife and some other people kept me prisoner with their talking for hours until I just fell asleep in a chair – It’s about five am now and I’m writing this on the train.You were a cruel little tease to say those things – you know what you did to me, and then left me aching — all the time those people were talking all I could think of was you and your sweet mouth and where were you? I dreamt of you – profusely – even in that damn chair.

You are right it was our seven month anniversary yesterday. That first mad rut on your couch, and I was so sure David was going to turn up in the midst of it but couldn’t even think clearly enough to try and stop.

I haven’t the slightest interest in the lady with the lemonade or anyone – as I told you.

Listen angel – about the other things you said —I’m so grateful for your understanding but I have to beg you not to make excuses for me. There’s really no excuse and I didn’t tell you so that you could do that for me. People who had been through much worse managed to be men still. And I did not. I really did not. You don’t know even a part of what a creature I was. You were just a baby while I was already old in failure and sin.

I oughtn’t to have even told you and I don’t know why I did. It’s only when you demand I make sense that I realise how little sense my life really has – and I didn’t want to make up stupid reasons I dont have – but please don’t think I’m asking you to absolve me or explain me – I really am not and it would be awful and cheap of me to think you could or should.

I will see you very soon – Everyone is asleep except me. How I hate them for being able to sleep on trains. — B


[NOTE BY NeveR: the following letter has no date but seems to fit in with Madame X's narrative of Ouida having attempted suicide, which would place it as some time in November or December 1941]

LETTER 6:

Well darling, Mrs (unclear, H?) & I have finished a wonderful evening going round locking away all sharp objects and all the medications. It’s 2.30am. Everyone is asleep. C was awake a while ago with a nightmare and soaking wet. We lost her rabbit(the little brown one) and I had to hunt him up before she would settle. She’s fast asleep in my bed now. Such a small sad little thing she looks all curled up.This is a kind of hell isn’t it. Not sure how its to be endured. God willing we will find some way.

I’m so desperately sorry my darling X – for this awful wretchedness when your little cup is already so full. I can’t bear to see you so pale & jumping at every little sound, and worst of all knowing I am only bringing more pain. Don’t fret about me, all is quiet now, promise me you will eat & sleep -

I’ll call you but not tonight – reach me via the Bruces.

All my love is with you dearest girl – B


LETTER 7:

no date

Dear girl of mine – Bunny is here, and I have your little note, which smells of you, so I can see you when I close my eyes.What have I done to you poor darling – you shouldn’t be afraid like this – none of this should be happening to you.

She still says she never intended anything. I still have no idea what to believe, but when I say she may be telling the truth people look at me with desperate pity. I think they think I’m trying to find crumbs of comfort. Does Bunny say that to you? Perhaps I am.

If she intended it then I don’t know what to do next, and if she won’t even admit it then we can’t even talk about it, let alone put anything right. – and what could be put right?

I want to see you desperately too – missing you so much. And I have to work eventually. We can’t live locked up like this forever but the thought of leaving her terrifies me. I have to do the S.H broadcast, but Bunny says she will sit with Ouida for that and it’s only a few hours, can we meet after?

Take care my sweet little darling, sleep and eat. Eat chocolate if you want, only eat. I will try and speak to you tomorrow (Wed), Give my love to [name of dog], I’ve missed her almost as much as you. And to [Mary], who doesn’t miss me at all – Basil


[NOTE BY NeveR: no date information supplied with the following letter]

LETTER 8:

Darling – I can get away on Sunday – let’s please just spend the day in bed and forget everything else for a while.Will your mother tell you it’s something I would do? I don’t care. I think I’ll start losing my reason if I don’t get to see you and touch you soon. I’m dreaming of your mouth and your hands and your darling little quim like a thing obsessed.

Write me today – tell me we can meet. And when will you have a telephone that works? – B


[NOTE BY NeveR: no date information supplied with the following letter]

LETTER 9:

Darling – Cynthia woke up as I got home so I went to fetch her some water and while I was doing that Ouida came in to the kitchen. I was prepared for the worst. But she was very quiet and calm. I made her some tea and took her back to bed because I didn’t want her wandering the house alone, and I gave her a pill.

I think she knows I was with you. If she had asked I don’t know what I would have said, but she didn’t ask.

She’s sleeping peacefully. Everything is quiet. But I’m listening for every little sound, don’t want to try and sleep, dreading she might wake up or something will happen. Everything hangs on such little threads. I’m praying, just praying this doesn’t become something. She’s been so much better – almost quite normal. I want so much to be able to talk to her and try to find some way – but I don’t dare risk anything. She begs for the truth from all of us and we all smile and lie in our different ways because nothing else is possible now.

I want to crawl back into your bed and never leave. – B


LETTER 10:

no date

Dear girl – so I have to tell you – yes, you were absolutely correct, as you always are – there was something on my mind I didn’t tell you about. I wasn’t trying to keep it from you, I just didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure there was something to tell because you already have more than enough to worry about. But its become pretty clear it is a real thing, so I’m going to try and put it all down so you can get as clear a picture as possible.Well, O was waiting for me when I got back late one night last week. She was terribly calm and quiet and wanted to talk about things. I suppose it was an ultimatum, though it seems a vulgar kind of word. She was pretty clear anyhow. She said she wanted me to stay. She thinks I owe her that much for all the sacrifice she has made for me, and my family. I suppose she means Roddy, I didn’t feel like asking – just wanted to let her say everything. She said said she loved me as she always had, but she could never trust me again and it would be only for C’s sake she would want me to stay. She also said if I wouldn’t agree to this then she would – ‘take all the steps she needed to protect herself and her child’, which means she will sue for divorce as an innocent party, which of course is her right and which I’d never dispute.

She will also go straight to the Weird Sisters and tell them you are – in her words – “cheating on a war hero” with a married man. You aren’t of course, you aren’t cheating anyone, but that is her chosen way of seeing it and I think we can assume the Hags will agree with her. And she thinks I will have – by leaving – abrogated my parental responsibilities and she will therefore pursue any legal and actual means she can to prevent me having any access to C because I will have shown I’m as feckless and shallow and uncaring as she always feared I might be and I won’t deserve to be spared anything that can be legally done to me.

That’s pretty much the gist. She intends to shame us – which is possibly her right. And she means to take my daughter away from me if she can. I didn’t know how much of it to believe at first – you know how many threats and how much crazy stuff she has been throwing out. But the day before yesterday she reiterated the whole thing and it appears she has a lawyer waiting on side and basically she’s wired for detonation. Since then we’ve been ‘talking’ – desperate euphemism for my pursuing her about the house pleading and raving until she tells me I’m scaring her and locks herself in her bedroom.

Really really it is as tragi-comic as it sounds.

I have told her she can have whatever she wants of me – any and everything. It’s all really hers anyway in terms of effort and attachment I really don’t care about any of it, and never have. I have said I’ll willingly keep paying for her to live here or anywhere else she wants to go only please please she must not bring little C into it. But she’s deaf and blind. She seems literally to not hear my words. She says she has no choice & I will only let C down the way I did Roddy if she does.

She means to do it, I am certain of it now. Though it may all seem different tomorrow.

What to do? The only thing I can do would be to fight it in court and I would lose, because I am an adulterer and deserting her & I (em)was(em) such a terrible father to Roddy and she knows every grisly detail and wouldn’t be shy of using them all and anyhow it would only destroy the thing I was trying to save. How could any child bear to be fought over like that.

All that poor little child wants is to be loved and made safe and happy. She already knows in her baby way that things are wrong. She cries so much more, can’t bear me to leave her for long – and O knows this.

I suppose I had some ridiculous little fantasy that she would let me take her sometimes & I might have the two people I love most in the world safe with me in one place. You and C liked each other so much. And I thought Ouida and I would always love her and share that. But she doesn’t want that. She wants to paint me in some dreadful way she knows is untrue. She knows I would never desert little Cynthia but she pretends she’s in fear I will. God knows there’s enough true things she could say. I have hurt her and betrayed her in so many ways. But she prefers this lie. Why I don’t know.

It’s not what she says in public. I don’t care about that, it’s her right anyway, but to say to me I don’t love my daughter – when she knows I do. To lie like this just for some sort of advantage when I have told her she can have whatever she wants of me – Why? Why?

Darling, don’t say anything to Bunny about this – no one knows anything yet and I don’t want B barging in and throwing opinions about.

Oh I forgot to say – she wants an answer within a month.

I’m sorry my darling, so sorry this only gets worse.

But the black farce of it. You would laugh if you saw it. I do – when all alone and must look as if I’ve been playing mad men for just a little too long. When we’re a deux we are the last act of some unwritten Ibsenian drama, and when people are here the program shifts to drawing room comedy. Right now the garden is full of women in hats I’m not sure why but O is providing tea and little sandwiches and C is sitting obediently on her knee. I’m hiding in the library with the whisky bottle. She probably wants me to turn up and smile, but my performance skills aren’t up to it right now. I would just be terribly rude or cry – and neither would go over at all well.

You know what I keep thinking, and now I’ve started I can’t stop, she only ever seems to take any notice of that child when there’s someone to see her do it.

The only thing is to hope that isn’t true, because if it is, God help us all.

I’m sure it isn’t true. I’m angry and bewildered and frantic. I can’t think why she is being this way. Of all the ways I thought, it was never this. It seems so brutal and so cold. She has a lawyer? But when did that happen? It’s only a week since the nurse was dismissed and we are all under instruction not to leave her and to humour her. Straight from nurse to lawyer – it’s a step I can’t comprehend.

She must have asked him to the house since I would have been told if she’d gone out. It must have been less than a week ago.

One of the days I was at a meeting or something. One of the days when she was so sweet and told me she would never want to stand in my way? Why does she feel a need to defend herself – have I ever threatened her in any way?

She was begging for honesty and we kept things back because she was so frail – and now she has dates and times and accusations of systematic deceit.

What good does she think will come of it…? What is it she wants? I don’t know any more.

Oh angel I’m so tired of thinking about it. Dearest X – Wish I could just come and hide in you – all your tangled hair and your little body & your sweet smell – it would be such heaven & I could sleep for a while. All I want to do. It will be Christmas in two days – & tomorrow it will be a year since I first kissed you, after you pounced on me. My little tigress in a daisy print dress. I love you so completely my angel. I hope you had a better day and aren’t swimming in rotting garbage again. Poor little half drowned baby.

The Universal thing is definite it seems. Well, I should probably be grateful for the money but I’m not sure I will take it. I am tied here then and I still hold on to the hope we can get away. Though where is home any more? I’ve been here so long is anywhere else home?

You can call me up here tomorrow as it will just be me and C all day – which will be very nice. I don’t know where she is going but she will be gone all day she says.

Can we see each other? That would be glorious. You could have the day with us – Cynthia and me – We’ll take the dogs out to the hills and play catch in the hall and she can have rice pudding for every meal. Can you get away?

I know this will be a lot to take in which is why I’ve written it all down. I’m rambling too I know, probably something to do with a fairly high consumption of whisky. I’m kissing you in my mind, and feeling your breath. I love you – love you so much.

I don’t have any idea what to do darling. About anything. Not any idea at all – I need to talk to you. I need to be able to think clearly. And I can’t – B


LETTER 11:

Jan 42?

She talked to me this evening. At length. But nothing was resolved. I begged and finally raged like a maniac. She said the things she says. She seems so bruised & broken one minute, so full of icy rage the next, it’s all but impossible for anything coherent to be achieved. She talks to her lawyer for an hour on the phone at my expense and then cries and tells me I must know she could never divorce me.She keeps saying I’ve destroyed her life. It’s been said so much I don’t know how to feel about it any more. So tired I cant focus. I slept about an hour last night. Even after about a quadruple scotch. Nothing helps. Except you.

I suppose it’s the lack of sleep or something, but finding it hard to feel anything at all. Guilt is numbing, or perhaps I have no heart. Or it’s dead. Like those old dreams where people were chipping bits off my soul and they were like pieces of flint. I think I may be a little bit crazy tonight.

I know, I know I know I’ve wrecked her life — oh God I know but there must be somewhere to go from there. I wish I knew if she means half of what she says. I wish I could be sure she won’t try the same damn thing again. She says not, but then she also says she’d rather die than live like this. Which is true? What does -‘like this’ – mean? If I ask that she doesn’t answer — SO DARLING HOW CAN WE KNOW WHEN LIKE THIS ISN’T LIKE THIS ANY MORE? I suppose we have the excruciating joy of waiting to see.

Every morning if she isn’t awake before me I wonder – you know darling. Every time she goes out, every fight we have – I am terrified of what she might do. And my stomach is in a tight knot until I know she’s safe.

I can’t bear this always fear and this always guilt. It feels as if she was torturing us all, or me. Is she torturing me? Or am I going mad?

She talked about Louella again too. I think it’s just talk, but my darling I have to tell you I can’t be sure. I can’t be sure of anything any more. She’s been so hurt & wants to hurt me back as hard as she can and who can blame her – and I think she might sacrifice her own pride to that. If she makes the call it will be horribly ugly, I wish I could keep you safe from that but you know I won’t be able to, so be forewarned. But then does it matter beside the worst thing she could do? Does anything matter beside that?

I have made her this person that she is. She wasn’t this person once.


PART OF LETTER 11? PAPER DIFFERENT

Bunny told me how low you seemed yesterday. Now please listen to me as if I were there and speaking to you – None of this is your fault – you are not – ever – to start thinking like that. You have been honest from the beginning, you don’t know how to be anything else. [David] told you he doesn’t blame you & God knows darling he has put you through some things he had no right to ask forgiveness for. His boys – his men. The way he starved you.

What happens here is not of your making. You need to remember that or you’ll only make yourself ill with guilt. It’s older than you, I don’t even know old it is or even which of us is to blame for what any more.

Is [Mary] taking good care of you? If I telephone her will she speak to me? Dear girl I’m so so worried for you.

I wish you would tell her about your father. It’s too much of a burden to carry all on your own. And I suppose you are working hard and not sleeping or eating enough.

I know you, I know you too well little mouse. You will make yourself ill before you shirk anything. I wish I was there with you. I’d make you sit & eat & I’d make sure you slept some sane amount of time. I wish I was there with you.

I’ll try to get to the beach house but I don’t know – God knows I’m longing to see you – but C still cries when I’m not there, I have had to take her to work with me almost every day. You’ll have to give me the number for the house because I cant find it if I ever had it – so I can call you there on Sunday and let you know how things stand.

Thinking perhaps eventually we could still go east or even to London until things settle. Things can’t go on like this. There has to be some compromise. She is angry now but she wont always want to torture me. It would be so good just to be somewhere else for a while, somewhere we could just be for a while, just live in peace.

But your career would die and [Mr H] would sue you of course, bless his dear frigid heart. And if I have to keep this place up God knows how I could earn enough if I wasn’t on Hollywood money.

No hiding, not from any of it. We just have to tell ourselves this is not the way it’s going to be always. Somehow we will get through

The movie is done with or I’m done with it. I hate – HATE Ayres so much I daydream murdering him. What a canting lying fool. I want to push his face into a wall -B.


LETTER 12

Dear sweet girl – have the very best 24th birthday – I wish I could make you a present of happiness and every problem would just melt. But failing that, I hope this little book will at least make you smile. I know you love it very much.You know my darling, no need to say – Basil


LETTER 14

written between Jan. 1945 and May 1946.

I have to pick up Cynthia at noon. I fed D, so don’t. There is another bloody meeting tonight – I don’t want to go, it will be hellish, but if I miss another I will have to deal with CB(?) being a prig at me. I will be very late because they will drone on as ever, and I still don’t have the latchkey because [NAME] didn’t have it, as I ought to have told you before. You probably ought to find who does have it.I’m sorry little darling. I didn’t want to leave you like that. I walked along the beach. I didn’t know I’d been away so long until it started to get light. I’m sorry you had to go to bed all alone, I felt so bad, as if I’d abandoned you.

When I looked in you were just a little huddle of bedclothes. I watched you with such a hopeless feeling, because I wanted to bundle you up in my arms and hug you so hard and kiss every inch of your dear little face and make everything right – but I cant because we can’t keep living in this dream. – All we are doing is clutching at each other because we can’t bear to let go.

I don’t mean to say it’s fair. But it’s still true. Why should she care to be fair to me? Have I been fair to her? And anyhow, she detests me and she wants to make me pay my due and she has won – that’s all there is.

You’re just a little ghost of what you were. So thin and so harried. You cling to me and cling to me for comfort because we love each other so much, but there’s nowhere to go.

You have a chance for a fresh start now, you must take it.

I will call you up later, but please don’t talk about this any more for now. I just can’t darling. These are all the words I have. I’ve said them – Basil


LETTER 17

May 11 ’63 (? Possibly ’53?)

Dear dearest X – please don’t apologise or consider for a moment you owe me an apology. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I said I would have expected you to know without my having to say that you are the last person I could ever accept it from, I didn’t mean you’d done wrong and I am not in the least offended.

I simply meant I would have expected you to know why I would feel unable to take such an offer from you of anyone living. Dear girl, I think you must know why.

But please trust I know the good and generous heart that made you do it and I could only ever be thankful for that.

God bless you my darling. Do I need I to tell you how it felt to hear from you and see your so well-remembered handwriting or all the rest of everything it meant to this silly, sad, old man?

I hope life is being good to you in these sometimes dreadful times. I wish you and your little girl all happiness love and peace as ever – Basil.

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134 thoughts on “Letters to Madame X c.1940 – 1963

  1. I am stunned after reading those. This story could have been written by Graham Greene or Fitzgerald. I’ll have more to say when I have stopped wanting to cry.

    • If you like Graham Green pic up a book called “the Love Charm of Bombs” dont recall author the dist lib just got it so it’s fairly new I picked it up to see if Basil was in it..I saw Basil Deam mentioned as I was flipping through it. But it has one of those half-donkey indexes that dont list all the names. and I never finished it…Seams to be in large part about Graham Green during the war.

  2. Maybe their affair was wrong,but seeing Baz in the Univ SH movies,critics claiming he just “phoned it in” he looked so bored,but how tortured he must’ve been.OR never cared about how “neglected” Rodion was,after all his mother was around.Never believed Baz totally refused to see his own son,esp after it sounds like he really loved Cyn,and she kept him from his family with her selfishness (OR).He did comeacross as funny with some of his remarks,esp about the hags.Too bad he didn’t know how Tony Soprano interfered with his wife’s getting divorce attorney on The Sopranos and hire all local lawyers so she couldn’t have them represent her.So many contributors to this blog hit it on the nose,she was nacrcissistic,manipulative harpy who “rescued Baz”,but really did nothing of sort.She lived high on hog,kept him from experiencing joy,prob put out BullS articles about how he was a happy man,kicks him out of bed,but can have tons of pets,adopt a child to pawn off on hired help and expect her to be obedient dog at her command,like her husband was expected to be.OR was no one I’d waste an Xmas card on let alone high praise for her expensive parties to get in with the in-crowd,and humiliate her hubby to boot.Oh,how I hope God gave her back her own for what she did to Baz & his family.While haranguing Baz,did she stop to think how she did about the same to Marian,and like in prev date posted,I don’t buy the no sex before they married.How could she entice him with only a kiss,as we’re supposed to believe.Esp w/all he other prev marriages and lies and deceit (bankruptcy,place of origin,job titles).She’s no Disney heroine.

    • Please do,Countess.Oh,the more I read about OR’s antics,the more I hate her!Vampira is too nice a name for something like OR.

  3. Basil did not write those letters, or if he did he wrote them to Ouida. His beloved wife. I don’t know. The expression does not read like him, but he might have written them when he was taking care of X after her suicide attemt. I don’t think Basil wrote them at all.he would not use vulgar expressions or talk about physical relations like that.

    • ahhh how to put this..I do agree about the vulgar expresion[that word] does not sound like it would EVER come from the lips of a gentelman.Even my Truckdriver /Cowboy/Tank comander father never used that word!
      ..part of one of those letters.. Part about the war.. came right word for word[or almost] from some interview or section of his book some place else i read it..someplace..long day at work, memory failing me tonight.. where DID i read it?Alyssia he could not have writen those to Weedy no one rights to someone, talking about the person they are wrighting to in a 3rd tense.It would be beond stupid for me to wright TO Basil and say “Hey Basil, while Basil was out, Basil did this,Basil.” Thats just silly.Why would he say to Weedy that Weedy and some women are out on the lawn having a tea party..thats beyond silly. I miss my OTHER avatare.the cute lil blue masked smiley.I dont wear glasses.

        • Milton Berle was telling stories. Basil NEVER swore. The more I think about it the more I am sure he did not write these letters. I believe X wrote them to herself to make people believe he had loved her.

          • So now he “NEVER swore”, either?? Are you SURE you’ve been talking about Basil all this time, or did you confuse him with someone named “Jesus”?

            Oh, he swore, all-right—good and proper, too—especially while having passionately WILD sex with his lover, I’ll bet! ;)

            And, speaking of writing letters “to herself”, attempting to “make people believe” the stuff written in them……hmm. Sounds like someone ELSE I know of.

          • Think the only way to back that claim up is if you spent every second of everyday of BR’s life with him-he put his life on line during WWI,put up w/actors/directors/producers/interviewers/wives to say he never swore,he admits he was no saint,but to put up with what Baz put up with out of his 75 yrs on Earth,I say he swore many times.As for any woman writing herself letters,your sweetheart OR was more likely to do that than anyone else on God’s green Earth!She was no Saint.

          • Well arerntly I WAS the only one who found that word to be ..objectonable.But I was raised a Christian and,by very19th century parents.so ssence nobody here seams to find it a bad word,to the point ur wondering what word i ment and i thought it was the real stand out. I’ll say no more about it.ecept to say..it wasnt the f.bomb..Most of us have droped that bomb…opps… before we could close the bombay doors havent we..

      • Was Weeds entertaining the local coven,w/herself presiding.Hanging her hubby in effigy?She must’ve made remarkable recovery after suicide attempt,as she went for hubby Baz’s jugular.

        • Would like to know why Cathedral didn’t collapse on OR when appeared at Mass by Bishop Sheen,as BR mentions in IAOOC,the funny story of Bishop Sheen’s call inviting him to Mass.Too bad she wasn’t forced to admit at the Inquisition all she did to hubby Baz,and come clean about her real origins,marriages,dirty tricks thru her life.If I were her,IMHO,I’d sweat bullets wondering if I were to be found out.But then,if she’s a narcissist,I guess she felt only justified.

          • Bishop Sheen..I love him. He is so cute. Way back when we still lived in the country and could still aford cable..a local chanel used to show Bishop Sheens program..they were all B&W and ages old..I only watched the 1st one because of Basil..After that I watched it every time i could. To fully understand that part in the book.You HAVE to watch his show.He SO cool.

      • What word would that be? (just use an initial if you’d rather, I’ll probably get the picture). I don’t find his use of language out of character. Even Olivia de Havilland is recorded swearing and cursing on set. And Claude Rains uses the f-bomb in an out take. I think people tended to present a much more circumspect face in public back then, but in private they were a lot more forthright. Basil had been in the trenches and worked in the Bohemian world of British theatre. I’m sure he knew some pretty fruity language and could use it when needed.

        Personally I adore the way he sounds in these letters, just as Odette says. I think it’s as near to being the real private man as we will ever get, and I think he shows up as a decent, honest, conscientious and caring human being. I admire him even more than I did.

        • Roberta, you’re spot-on. Our favorite classic Hollywood actors (as well as many regular people the world over) used every word in the book! You have only to watch the Warner Bros. outtakes (of which there are many) to see Claude Rains, Humphrey Bogart, Pat O’Brien (his crack me up), Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson, Boris Karloff, Warren William, etc., etc. use all kinds of foul language. They didn’t expect the general public to ever see such film. In a letter between lovers, anything goes – he most certainly never expected them to be published on something called the “internet” nearly 50 years after his death! ;) I think these letters brings a very fresh perspective to the man.

          Just my two cents, but I think everyone should just ignore Alyssia’s comments. She is blind to some ideal image of a “perfect” movie star and his “perfect” wife (all kinds of oxymorons there) – HA! She has ZERO evidence of her claims. There is not ONE human being on the planet – then or now – who could have such an absolutely perfect private life. Why fuel the fire? I choose to ignore.

          • I absolutely agree with you on every point. I welcome this insight into Rathbone’s character, even if he may not be in all ways the man I imagined him to have been. He has grown in my estimation, not the reverse. If you measure a person by the way they cope with adversity then he showed true worth. He came through for his daughter. He tried to do right by everyone, even Ouida.

            And it is pointless to even try to argue with Alyssia. I used to think she was right, but even when I was on her side and asking her to produce her evidence she never did. I lost patience. Now I ignore her.

          • It’s pretty obvious that very few people here have ever worked in or around Hollywood. It was then and is now full of all kinds of language that in some cases would, like the old expression goes, “make a sailor blush.” You get used to it and have to tolerate it. It comes with the territory. Sainthood will never be bestowed anywhere’s near the entertainment world.

      • I remember reading about Eva La Gallienne and why her affair with Basil ended. It was because she overheard him “talking with the boys” about their relationship and got turned off with his description of it. Boys will be boys or should I say men will be men. From my experience, when they all get together any vestiges of propriety are usually thrown out the window!

        • Yes, I talked to Helen Sheehy about that quite extensively. My feeling is we need to take the alleged reasons for the affair with Eva ending with a pinch of salt. None of them come direct from Eva herself, who left no record of when or how their relationship ended. All we have in Eva’s own words is that letter to her mother about missing Rathbone and thinking of him still as “my Basil”. However she meant this, whether romantically, quasi-romantically or merely professionally (which seems a tad unlikely), it betokens a good deal of warmth in her feelings toward him, which doesn’t necessarily tie in with him having bragged of sleeping with her, or insisted on her having an abortion, or indeed that she was soon bored of him, which is the other unverified claim.

          The problem with evaluating his relationship with Eva is the fact that, as a self-declared lesbian she was perceived by many of her gay friends as somehow betraying her real self by sleeping with a man, and this has probably to some extent colored the way their affair has been remembered.

          • Heterophobia is real now and was probably real then. Being bisexual can tend to mean you simply get intolerance from both sides

            • Honest to gosh Claud now i know your a barrister if you dont look like Rumpole of the Bailey I shall be heart broken..Or posibly Garrow of “Garrows Law”

          • Hi, I’m a newbie to Basil fandom, having migrated from Benedict Cumberbatch and the BBC Sherlock, as I think quite a few others here did. I am reading Michael B Druxman’s biography so I am very surprised by some of the things I’ve found on this site and I have to ask, is it certain Basil had an affair with Eva La Gallienne? As in did he confirm it in writing or in his autobiography? The picture I get from the book I am reading is of a man who didn’t look at another woman after marrying Ouida, and if the Eva story is true then he was sleeping with her while he and Ouida were planning to marry which sounds quite at odds with everything else you read. I haven’t read everything on here yet, so forgive me if this is old ground!

            I am also having problems posting comments. I tried three times! Fingers crossed this time.

            • If you read the articles on this blog, especially the interview with Helen Sheehy (under “THE BAZ TALKS TO…” in the top menu), you’ll see that his relationship with Le Gallienne is pretty much undeniable.

              • Also might I humbly add that a lot of what we “know” about Basil and Weedy is alot of…what Weedy wanted every one to know about Basil and Weedy. You thought I was gonna say…,did’nt ya.

    • Alyssia: Since ALL of the letters are talking about his affair, how very MUCH he’s missing this lover who “pounced” on him the Christmas Eve prior when they’d “first kissed”, how “Ouida” wants to divorce him, threatening to take Cynthia away and tell the tabloids EVERYTHING, and how he “doesn’t care” who gets the house and all the stupid opulence “Ouida” cared SO much about (assuming you actually READ that part of the letters before typing your terribly ignorant comment above), whom do YOU suppose he’s writing them to?? Oh, let’s just take a WILD guess now, shall we? :o

      And, how ELSE would a gentleman like Basil “talk about physical relations” to his lover in a PRIVATE letter—those sounded like some pretty TAME sexual comments, to ME!! I mean, he didn’t say anything “raunchy” at ALL…in fact, it was quite beautifully done—kind of like those “romantic” letters sent between Civil War soldiers and their wives. Almost poetic, and extremely SEXY because of it! I wish more men NOW spoke like that…rather than just coming-out with all the “nasty”, “dirty” stuff they say to a woman these days, while supposedly “loving” or “making love” to them. It’s not like he said: “I wanna F*** your P**** till your brains fall out”, or “I can’t wait for you to suck my D***”, or something…he probably only said THAT stuff when they were in the midst of “doing IT”! ;)

      You must REALLY be repulsed by the very THOUGHT of sexual love—or the complete humanness of using an occasional “naughty” word here and there—a total purist……just like OUIDA!! Maybe that whole “reincarnation” theory wasn’t so far-off, after ALL. :)

      • Basil was a Christian who believed physical love was something that was about procreation and marriage. He never would have had relations outside of marriage. I am repulsed by what you term physical love, and he would have been too.

        • How do you know what did or didn’t repulse Basil? Even in his autobiography he didn’t write anything about his feelings regarding sex, whether within marriage or extramarital. Actually, he did write that Ouida refused to even stay in the same hotel with him before they were married. He said she was “annoyingly conservative” (p. 63). This suggests he was not so conservative! And what does being Christian have to do with it? If you think Christians don’t have extramarital affairs, you are mistaken.

          • Actually, even in In and Out of Character, there are at least 3 anecdotes of extramarital flings that Basil had with women he had met before his marriage to Ouida. The women are anonymous, and he uses pseudonyms — Kitty, his first Juilet, and Marie, I think. Regarding the language of the letters, while it is clear that he and X are lovers in an intense physical relationship, I find the language intimate and rather charming. I think the words that Alyssia and others might most object to are very English — “rut” for his first sexual encounter with X — and the other “darling quim” which is an old English expression for the female anatomy, an expression that’s used in a good deal of English love and sex poetry from the Middle Ages through the early Renaissance. When he talks about how much he misses her, wants to “gorge” on her, and even loves her smell, we sense this is a man who loves women and their bodies. These letters are quite different from some letters by Errol Flynn published on Robert Matzen’s blog several months back, where Flynn speaks of the women he beds in the most misogynistic and disparaging terms, including objectifying, disrespectful language about their “lady parts.” Basil’s letters, as well as X’s testimony that making love to him as compared to sex with her husband was like having a 5-course meal as opposed to a sandwich, would leave one to believe that he was a man who really appreciated and knew how to make love to a woman.

            The first letter, with its reference to Yeats, as well as the ones that refer to his war experience, reveal the deep emotional bond the couple had very early on in their relationship. This was a friendship and profound emotional affair that became a physical affair. You might call these two “soulmates,” clichéd as that sounds. The last letter, where he refers to himself as a “silly, sad old man” makes me want to weep.

            What would have their lives have been like if they had been able to stay together?

            • Brilliant post Rosebette. You said everything I wanted to say and so well. The last letter breaks my heart. I think if they had been allowed to be together and raise their child or children, then he would not have been the tragic frail and burned out man he became. I think X would have given him warmth and love and hope and I think he would have given her love and stability and genuine support for her career. I think it’s obvious he still loved her very much when he wrote that last letter. So sad.

            • Wow, Rosebette! JUST what I was thinking……and, so WELL said! :)

              When he wrote of that “wild rut” on her couch their very FIRST time together, my insides began to quiver! (Especially when he knew her hubby might be showing-up at ANY time, and he couldn’t stop himself…ooohhh, YES!!) And, the cute way he approached “naming” her anatomy, and all her parts being SO special to him…I can just imagine his beautiful, deep voice gently saying those wonderfully sexy, “dirty” little words in such a SWEET way to his lover, as he was taking her; now, THAT’S what I’m talking about—where ARE these men, nowadays?? I can’t stop thinking of wanting Basil to “feast” on and indulge himself with and in me—all OVER my “helplessly in love with him” body! That’s the epitome of what a WOMAN sees as “romance”, right there. Why, Lord? WHY did you have to take him away from us, and from his beloved, SO soon?

              Oh—I just want to CRY now. :(

          • Alyssia even Christian’s belive in physical love inside of marriage. Sence you seem to think there marriage was so good.And that X was a homewrecker and was preying on him.If Weedy had been doing, and I use the term “wife” losely about Weedy “her wifely duty” to Mr. R. then Mr. R wouldnt have been so loved starved that he was easy prey for Mrs.X.I might also add that being a Christian..dosent stop a person from haveing the same desire to love and be loved in return [I said love not sex] as a non Christian.You have to admit that there was something def. askew in the relationship between Basil and her royal pain in the butt.People who knew them said so.

        • I was raised in the Catholic Church, I don’t swear, and I never even KISSED a guy ’til I was 26! So to you, MY view of loving and surrendering to someone in a beautiful, sexual, physical way is considered “repulsive”……yet, YOUR view of Basil being immaculately-sinless since birth, and perfectly mentally and emotionally well his entire life, ISN’T??

          That’s a JOKE! :)

          BTW, Basil’s soul and mine have been on “speaking terms” telepathically for over 30 years, and he’s let me “know” that my views of him, his sexual experiences, and his love for “X” are DEAD-ON. I wouldn’t go arguing with Baz…he can be quite “persuasive” with people who accuse him falsely—and, I don’t mean ME.

  4. Yes, Basil, Ouida WAS torturing you. I mean let me recap ladies and gents. Ouida decides she doesn’t want to have sex any more and basically directs him to look elsewhere. He doesn’t divorce her at this point, which he could have done.No, he goes along with her wishes and has quiet casual affairs with women who “know the score”.

    Then, after a few years of living in this weird empty marriage, he meets someone he has a deep connection with. He tries very hard to stick to the rules and not get involved with this woman, but eventually he does, and, as he fears things run out of control. Ouida asks him to give X up, but he can’t. When Ouida finds out she “tries” to kill herself. And then, while she’s still being taken care of by a nurse at her husband’s expense, she lawyers up and threatens that if he doesn’t give up X she will run to the gossip columns with all the dirt on the relationships HE WAS ONLY HAVING BECAUSE SHE WANTED A SEXLESS MARRIAGE. And at the same time she’s lawyering up she’s crying and threatening to kill herself again. She’s crying all night, depriving him of sleep, switching between threats and pleading and keeping him in a perpetual state of terror that she’ll end her life.

    Those letters in the middle are heartbreaking. He is losing his mind. She broke him psychologically. Then she broke him financially.

    • You are talking poisonous rubbish. How dare you assume you know about Ouida. If she was alive you wouldn’t dare talk about her like that. Read Basil’s own words about her in his book. Id that how you talk about someone who tortured you??

      • Hold on a moment….X said she was 23 when she met basil, but the only 23 year old he acted with had a kid….
        o_o Can anyone explain what the heck’s going on?

      • Do you honestly think any man other than Baz wouldn’t have been driven to kill her for her actions?She’s lucky her non-”heman type” that she usually went for didn’t give her a thrashing at the very least for her crazed antics when she suddenly decided if she couldn’t totally control him she’d ruin him,his face,his mental health,his career,his very life.She needed to be committed,not given free rein to spend as revenge.She was NUTS,not X.OR had a kind,decent man who endured 41 yrs of what no other husband would have tolerated.How could anyone love someone like her.Oh,do you channel Cynthia,too?She lived thru hell,thank God she had Baz for a dad.Think X should’ve kept child,Loretta Young kept her love child,could’ve done same fake “adoption” thing.Think OR should’ve shut up about what she did sacrificing for the marriage.She invested nothing,took all,and should’ve been ashamed for what she did.Sacrifice to go back to NYC in 1946-7,should’ve dropped her in ocean.That BS too about her saying to Baz when Jack died,thank God it wasn’t him?She embellished that too,IMHO.She’s incap of empathy.

      • Alyssia I’ll never say anything about Weedy on this fourm that I wouldnt say to her face! And would love to! Oh Wouldnt I just tell her off!

        • You TELL ‘em, Countess! :)

          If I were invited to one of the Rathbones’ famous “dinner-parties”, and Ouida started acting-out in her juvenile “terrible twos” way, I’d have gotten up from the table and unloaded on her right THERE—in front of her husband and everybody…and I’m usually super SHY, except when it comes to defending someone I care deeply about. Needless to say, I don’t think I’d be invited back……not that I’d WANT to be, unless Basil and I could be alone somewhere for a nice chat (and a kiss)!

          Then, upon my TRIUMPHANT march out their door, with Ouida all red-faced and apologetic to everyone for MY “bad behavior” during dinner, Baz would give me a secret little pat on the back; with a wink, a nod, and a smile. ;)

        • You’re my hero,Countess.Many things we’d like to say to the wicked witch of “VA,AK,Europe”,whatever place determined by the day,how could she keep it straight?I would love to tell OR off,but wouldn’t have the courage.

          • She couldnt keep it straight,Ellen…thats WHY I found her SO easly. Shes FBI witness program fail 101. You can hide your id realy well as long as nobody is looking for you to be a fake.Easyer in the days before the internet.She told dif lies to many times.With the small bit of info that her real name might be Eunice or Eula Berger.From Ark.And Thank Neve for that info.From there it was easy.
            Way back then she wasnt covering up anything,no need to. It was only after she moved to NY and began makeing up a whole new persona for herself that she messed up on what lies she had alredy told…Plays music from Perry Mason in back ground..Thats how I caught her..roll credits.

            • Wonder how many former hubbys OR really had-her murderous rage when she found out about X,really wonder,since Witness Protection mentioned by The Countess,do we know where the “bodies were buried”?Can’t believe her going for her actor husband’s face was a 1st time thing.Still think if he tried he’d have had more on OR than you could float a battleship (as in DEEP WATER).He must’ve been scared witless forever after returning home to her.Not worth sparing scandal to wonder if next time she brings one of your sword collection to use on you.Bet things that go claw in the night was circa his telling Louis Hayward how she was breaking him financially.And that’s how the credit card crumbles.Still never noticed OR in a scene before it was mentioned here about SH & The Voice.Must’ve won cameo at a charity auction,she seemed antsy,looking around,more unnatural than others at the bar,prob trying to hog camera time,like Lucy Ricardo.

      • Don’t tempt anyone to have it out w/OR,she’d lose cuz what she did to “her husband”.Maybe if she’d treated him in a mature manner,some of us could appreciate her situation-but her ultra “Catholic” posing makes me sick.I happen to know at least 2 who cut hubby off sexually once past childbearing age.One sexually abused his daughters,one had 2 kids by him,back in 1930s,she was my great aunt,so don’t argue or try deny it could’ve happened.The other was a friend and her father insisted he sleep w/her in same bed,and rubbed it against her every night,esp when he thought she was asleep.The only thing she got back at him before leaving home for good was to ask him”What,did you have a hole in your underwear?”Better he had affairs in H’wood colony than misuse a child like either of the men I mentioned.And the aunt I mentioned-she was considered to be a slut,but she wasn’t,and her dad,I bless (being mean here) the drunk driver who ran him down for what he did to his daughter and the shame heaped on her.In conclusion,IMHO,OR enjoyed every bit of torture she inflicted on her man,and how he managed to live thru it w/o totally hating her is beyond me.

        • The reason Ouida was SO cruel to Basil (and probably to EVERY guy she’d ever been with), was because she HATED MEN.

          She was possibly neglected, and/or abused sexually, physically, or emotionally by a man she’d loved or trusted (perhaps her dad) when she was a small child; developing abandonment-issues because of it, as well.

          This is likely WHY she became a narcissist…and, why she’d chosen her (supposedly) abusive first husband, and had an aversion to expressing the “uncomfortable” closeness of sexual love with her partners—hiding behind her religion as an EXCUSE to think of sex as “wrong” or “disgusting”, in her eyes. Whenever a guy began caring deeply about her, she’d USE him for all she could GET out of him—money, gifts, lifestyle, etc.—as “payback” for having been hurt by men in her past.

          • How “Catholic” could Ouida have been, since she had been married and divorced three times? I wonder if when she went to Mass at Bishop Sheen’s invitation, she was allowed to receive communion. In those days, divorced and remarried people could not receive. Even recently, there was quite a brouhaha about John Kerry and some of the Kennedys receiving communion when they were divorced and remarried.

            Basil discusses receiving the sacrament in IAOOCC, but from their Episcopal priest at the church where he was a member.

        • You said dont take her on..I’d take her on..and suspect were pretty evenly matched. Unsure her hight and weight but i suspect she out weighs me at 5’1′ and under 120 lb. But I have a secret wepon..I’m Scotish in decent..

  5. Wow. I wish I had a man who could write me letters like that. I just love this man more the more I find out about him. He is so decent and tender and loving in those letters. And funny too. I am in love all over again.

      • I can’t believe OR was such the great Catholic she pretended.I say she gave him minimal when relationship was new,made empty promises,just like her “talent Agency” promised great things,got him away from Marian once and for all,then,maybe gave him some loving once her bankruptcy cleared to distract him from finding out truth of her finances,then by 1930s cut him off cold in bedroom.Seems like she would give a hubby more ammo due to irreconcilable differences,fraud,than a hubby denied conjugal rights.And having Miltern around,too spending money on whatever they (OR & Jack) wanted.Realize that Jack was his friend,but too bad his mum wasn’t around when he met Weeds.Think she’d scared the fraud off,IMHO.What a leech!He was staked out for the kill by whatever OR’s promises were.I agree,he was so vulnerable,2 immed family members he was obv close to die,his sister loses her grip,his dad terribly depressed,his PTCSD and he can’t believe he deserves happiness,IMHO as others here have prob said so much better,and he falls for a conwoman with empty promises of looking other way when he goes elsewhere for comfort.Could she at least give him an occ hug & kiss,or was that too costly.

        • I think Ouida made up being Catholic along with her “new” name, to try and seem more exotic and European. I’m fairly sure she was just plain old Episcopalian or Southern Baptist. That claptrap about not sleeping together before marriage and Basil wondering if she approved of divorce, is all her nonsense too. Once you think about it, you can see how she has probably written or rewritten most of Bail’s supposed memoirs. By that time he was old and tired and alienated from everyone that mattered to him. I imagine he didn’t care enough to try and stop her, so she just busied around making his memoirs tell the story she wanted told, much as NeveR says.

          • Yes, I’ve felt that much of “In and Out of Character” was written by Ouida, or at least edited by her. If Basil wrote it, I’m sure she deleted all the parts she didn’t like. That would explain the “holes” in the story.

            • And, perhaps a certain “invisible diary” (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) was ALSO written by Ouida for the same reason—so anyone reading it in the future would believe HER version of events that took place between she and her husband, during their “oh-so-blissful” marriage. ;)

          • Episcopalian and Southern Baptist are 2 dif religians..they dont share the excact same views. I’m neither,I’m Fundemental Baptist,we dont share the same views as either of the others you mentioned.It’s hard to say what Weedy was,realy The school she went to wasnt Catholic..but if that was the only good privet school around her folks could have sent her there regardless. I know several familys who send there kids to a local Catholic school just to remove them from the realy bad school system in our town.”and Basil wondering if she approved of divorce” well that line HAS to be stupid he was divorced and SHE was too he HAD to know that!.If he didnt He would have found it out looking at the weding licence.

            • Not saying YOUR stupid..it comes acrost that way..I’m saying who ever wrote that in his book ..well surley not him..had to know it was a stupid line..unless the person wrighting it was hideing the not comon knowlage that they had been divorced. Basils marrige and divorce is openly mentioned in his book. Her’s isnt [plurl even].

            • I was brought up Episcopalian, later Methodist, left Christianity all together for 14 years to appreciate other paths, and now I identify as Catholic (progressive, at that), so I think I have a pretty well-rounded POV. Episcopalian and Southern Baptist are not two different “religions” – they’re two (VERY) different denominations within the Christian religion. The Episcopal Church is the American version of the Church of England (some might say “Catholic Light,” as it is very similar to Catholicism, minus the pope – for further info, see King Henry VIII). Regardless, I don’t think it really matters what religion OB identified with – Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, whatever – you’ll find examples in EVERY religion of people not following their religion’s “rules.” I don’t think religion had anything to do with her issues though, and I don’t think Basil’s indiscretions made him a bad Christian. Judge not!

          • HRD,I agree Southern Baptist sounds more realistic.The town I grew up in,in CT,many had to join Congregational Church to get anywhere in th main company in town.Who knows,IAOOC may really have been more interesting if really written by Baz,better stories,more heartfelt memories.

            • I think it was writen by Basil..parts of it sound excatly like other things he has said and writen..but i also belive it was HEAVILY edited by Weedy[as in Jinourmus Jumbo Packyderm heavily.]“Here Basil, let me proof read that and fix up the sp and gramer for you then I’ll drop it in the post to the publishers on my way to by all new living room futniter these have been sat on once”.Basil,wearing a holey sweater,mutters”Whatever!”and closes the kitchen door behind him,as he exits with a pbj sandwich in his mouth and a glass of milk in his hand.As 4 dogs begging a bite follow happily after him.

              • Lucky dogs.Love the Jinormous Pachyderm comment,love it,love it.OR was as subtle as elephant in china shop,not a bull,although,she seemed to rage like one when caught in lies or corrected.Too bad they couldn’t have had peaceful union except at his sacrifice.Wonder if Norma Shearer counseled them during the Baz/X /OR War.Think that should’ve been left to the pros,even then they had to toe the line,psychiatrists I mean.I’m getting in line to take that editing pen of ORs and using it on her hair.Bet the red hair was a lie too.Maybe if she supp was raised in Europe,which she wasn’t,her mother sold her like that little Eastern European girl in news recently rescued in Traveler’s camp.,or maybe she could’ve invented such a story to CYA (actually CHA-nurse speak for cover your “assets”).Yeah,when widowed,then she missed him-prob all the cheap shots literally C& Fig she used to take at him,all the “all I sacrificed for you & this is howI’m repaid”.Not a happy marriage,a marriage,but wouldn’t want any part of it.I’d rather tend the flock,or at least clean up after them.

                • Ellen ever seen “3 Coins in the Fountian”? Clifton plays a wrighter..at a party this blousey woman comes over and corners him up and keeps bugging him and says to him her husband says if anyone would follow her around with a pencle all day they would get a good story. he replies “madem I’d love to get behind you with a pencile!” What a pitty he never got behind Weedy with a pen….

    • I wrote a story about me and Sherlock, Watson, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade all living together in baker street when I was but a young Sherlockian who hadn’t fallen in love with a certain big-nosed cutie yet. (Well, so Lestrade wasn’t there but still.)

      Me and Sophia sound sort of similar, sort of cocky and sort of insane.

      In my story Sherlock tried to bake cookies and the kitchen ended up getting flooded in cookie dough…. the things that popped into my mind when I was 10. :’D

        • Nope, but I’ve started writin the most bizarre and random fan fiction ever.
          It’s called;
          ‘If old actors were in The Hobbit.’
          I started writing it at school earlier, I might publish it somewhere sometime. :D

          • LOL – when I first read The Lord of the Rings, aged about 12, I thought no one but Basil could play Aragorn. He was my image of the man until I saw Viggo.

            • Nah, Basil’s gonna be taking the place of the elf king. :D
              Nigel Bruce is taking the place of Bilbo Baggins
              Vincent Price is going to be Gandalf (Thanks to the genius thinking of my Dad. :D)
              And there’s some other actors being thrown in as well. :3

  6. This poor man. I’m surprised, though, that he felt so free to put so much on paper. Most actors know better; X’s mail could have been stolen, anything could have happened. Why write when one can telephone? I do admire his managing to be so kind-hearted, even to O; I would have been crossing my fingers that she would overdose the next time and be gone for good. But men are doglike, women are catlike. Why on earth didn’t he go find himself a really good lawyer??? There were dozens of big divorces in those days, and somehow the skanky details were kept in check and everyone went their way and reattached if they felt like it. Studios protected their stars, when possible. And as for the language–they didn’t just hold hands in bed. How loving and sexy he could be. Good for him, that he had a little while of happiness before he had to pay the price.
    Love your new drawing on top, by the way!

    • In letter 8 he says “and when will you have a phone that works?” So maybe he literally couldn’t call her. Also I think I would want to write some of that stuff down, like the details of what was going on as the person can re-read them and it helps to make sense of things.

      But my God, yes, how sexy. You get the impression of a deeply physical connection between the two of them as well as the emotional one.

      Yup, in his place I’d have gotten a lawyer.

  7. So, who is “Barbara”? An ex-lover who is getting married?

    Thanks so much for publishing these. I agree with others who say it’s like getting to know the real man. And they are beautiful letters just on their own terms.

  8. OMG—the sexiest love-letters, EVER!! I can just imagine Basil “breathing her in”, “tasting her”, and “gorging” himself all OVER her body…wish to gosh it coulda been MINE! ;)

    And, OOOHHH……in that cute note he leaves for her to find, when he calls her: “my little succubus”; I have a feeling it meant how very “drained” of energy (and probably some bodily fluids) he was, after she’d “shagged him out” all night—he mentioned only getting “an hour’s sleep”! :o

    When she “teased” him on the phone, telling him all the “dirty” stuff he had coming to him when they saw each other again, knowing there was NOTHING he could do about it—and he sat listening to those boring drips yapping ALL night and couldn’t get away, while he “dreamt” to himself about what her “sweet mouth” would be doing to his “you know WHAT”—it was said SO vividly, I could just picture it: he’s sitting in one of those comfy old stuffed chairs with his head in his hand, drifting-off to sleep, with them still going on and on, completely clueless, as he’s thinking “OOH-LA-LA!!”. (Hee, hee! I’m sure we’ve ALL called lovers up to tell them “those” things that make them “ache” for us when they can’t GET to us, haven’t we, girls?) :)

    Something I noticed (though it’s written in a rather “abstract” way)—is how in one letter, Basil thanks “X” for her “understanding” that the reasons behind his strange actions are because of the trauma he suffered during WWI; he himself doesn’t know “why” he does these things, and he felt that by “telling her” about it, he didn’t want her to “make excuses” for his behaviors. This is referring to the fact that she was SO upset about his irrational decisions to stay married to such a HORRID wife, and suddenly adopt a baby just when he and “X” were thinking of starting a new life together, etc. She’d asked him “why”, and he explained what he’d been through…she, being empathic, then acknowledged this, and “excused” him. But he, thinking he wasn’t “a real man” for not just “getting through it” like others had (meaning the mental-effects of PTSD), couldn’t accept this from her, and truly believed he wasn’t “worthy” of her (or ANYONE’S) forgiveness…like he considered himself a “slacker”, or something. :(

    SO many sad things are brought-out so plainly in these letters—which, by the way, totally corroborate the information “X” gave in her interview—the terrible truth of Basil’s life-problems he’d hidden from everyone but HER…the only person he felt “safe” enough with to talk to about them; and, to be able to get some comforting SLEEP with. I could just FEEL that “knot” in his stomach, as he spoke of the stress he was going through with his wife (I get like that TOO; when I’m nervous, in heartfelt pain, and/or upset emotionally). Basil even felt she’d been “starved” of sexual love by her gay husband, and pitied her situation, having been sexually “starved” within his OWN marriage. What an understanding and SENSITIVE guy he was!

    Darn-it! Now I love him even MORE, and he’s out of my reach—if only I could HUG him with my heart!!

    *sends telepathic “hug” to Baz while he’s sitting on a comfy cloud-chair with his head in his hand, falling asleep, thinking “I wish Gretchen was here right NOW!”* ;)

    • I just want to correct one little thing. You wrote that X asked him (among other things) about his decision to suddenly adopt a baby just when he and “X” were thinking of starting a new life together. Cynthia was adopted in 1939, about two years before he and X started the affair. I can’t help but wonder, though, if they hadn’t adopted her, would Basil have divorced Ouida? One of OR’s strongest threats was that she would prevent BR from ever seeing Cynthia again. And he loved that little girl. If OR didn’t have that threat to use against him, maybe he would have left her.

      • Oh, I mentioned that because in her interview she was bothered TERRIBLY by the adoption of his daughter…as if it were somehow holding him—or them—back. She eventually grew to love Cynthia, but just couldn’t perceive “why” he’d gone-along with Ouida on having this child together.

        When he talks about how Ouida ONLY shows the child any attention when someone ELSE is around to “take notice”, he’s beginning to see her narcissism for the FIRST time, in a clear way. She wanted a kid with him, so she could put-on the “appearance” of being this wonderful, loving mother to her “adoring” public. That way, she’d get more sympathy and stuff…plus, she’d have “insurance” to keep him around, so he’d NEVER leave her—how could he, as MUCH as he loved that little girl—and she KNEW it. Ouida found his weakness; it wasn’t money, fame, power, objects, or the worship of his fans…it was LOVE. Once she’d figured-out this “secret”, she used the custody of Cynthia against him when he even THOUGHT of leaving with “X”—and, it WORKED. Good job, Ouida. >:(

    • No, Margaret…I don’t believe it’s true.

      Basil had been clouded-over by “love” when he first got-together with Ouida, and only saw in her what he’d WANTED to see. After several years of marriage, he began to finally see her as she really WAS. He only THOUGHT she’d been “different” before, but her mental-disorder had only become progressively WORSE with time.

      This is why they’d eventually grown-apart. A person can’t live in a sexless, loveless marriage with someone who’s only PARTIALLY compatible with them in other ways, because sexual love and empathy are KEY ingredients to staying happy, and “binding” oneself with another person for life.

      Basil was blaming HIMSELF for something he’d never caused…he did this OFTEN, because of his emotional damage and mental problems due to PTSD. :(

      • My 2 cents-worked in rest homes with many women who really came to exhibit schizophrenia after menopause.I know OR not schizophrenic,I’m not Psychologist,so maybe she was,but as Gretchen so eloquently put it,narcissitic,maybe she kept this behavior hidden and when feeling martyrdom as “wronged wife”,then this behavior as narc came to life.Doubt if she ever intended to complete a suicide.But why he missed so many days on set when there was a massive domestic staff it was staffs job to look after the home maybe get her a personal nurse,that was his guil that kept him from earning to coddle her.He should’ve taken Cyn to the set with him,IMHO so many female co-stars would’ve fussed over them both,unless he was letting the gash in his face heal.Can’t believe as major contract player that studio wouldn’t come to his rescue,get the lawyer,Gessler?,who defended Errol in rape lawsuits to rep Baz.

    • Perhaps this is not the woman he knew when they were courting because that was when she was putting on her “best self,” but this other Ouida was clearly her “darker side.” I think the statement says more about Basil, that he is willing to believe in the essential good in the other person and that if someone close behaves badly, it’s as a a result of something he’s done. I also think it might speak to his excessive sense of guilt which might stem even from his war experience.

      I think Margaret G. is on the right track when she says these letters read like something from a Graham Greene novel. I think the triangle of Basil, Ouida, and X is very much like Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, in which a very moral and duty-bound English colonial official ends up having an affair. The wife is a clinging, unsympathetic character, but he also blames himself for her unpleasantness because he hasn’t been able to get a promotion or an assignment to a different country. He is so torn by love, loyalty, and guilt that it ultimately destroys him. I reread this book over the summer, and I think it provides a very good understanding of that particular type of English psyche of a certain era and its complex ethic of duty and guilt. For those of us who are Americans, we might find Basil’s choices difficult to understand outside of that very English context.

      • The problem with Basil—if one would call it a “problem”—is that he was SUCH a trusting and honest person. This meant he took people at face-value, and at their word, without really giving it a second thought. People like him are the ones who fall prey to con-artists and manipulators, who exploit, destroy and rob the innocent around them……Ouida comes to mind; as well as the employers who got Baz to play in all those terribly EMBARRASSING flicks, ’cause they knew he was desperate for work, and needed the money! :(

        I HATE it when decent people are treated like that because of their inherent goodness. >:(

        • So true,Gretchen,Eva LG said he had innocent quality,prob did make him so blind to OR’s faults.Days of wine & Roses with Jack around (as in fun times).Maybe after Jack died,that’s when she wanted to adopt?Prob about the time she stopped sleeping with Baz-2nd honeymoon time he mentioned in IAOOC,so adopt child to sublimate lack of intimate desire-IMHO,I’m sure I’m not reading her behavior/reasons wrong (OR).Withwhat’s been said about Sinatra & Mia lately,Baz wasn’t lacking in desire either.If he’d not been dealt the OR demands for THE BEST for everything expensive,who knows,maybe I’d buy they were at least content.But knowing there was always that simmering resentment for having found the love he richly deserved with younger woman,he was made to suffer whenever she decided to throw it in his face (OR at BR).I know,my mother and granny could throw it back in our faces how much they sacrificed (mainly they were goodat riding a recliner chair).

        • Yes I agree. Even though he was estranged from his real family I don’t believe he wanted it that way. I think he was simply afraid of upsetting Ouida and provoking more hysterical behavior and later on he was just too tired and resigned to having lost everyone that he might have cared about. Looking at some of those letters to Madame X where he talks about what a failure he was, I think it’s possible he believed his son and grand children were better off without him. I wish Rodion had been able to appreciate that perspective. I don’t believe it would have crossed his mind his father might think that way. It was Rodion’s tragedy too that he never had his father. The sadness it brought him was lifelong.

      • The primer of how to drive a man crazy in 41-wonderful years of marriage.Being sarcastic,but boy,do I feel BR’s pain for endurig OR’s manipulative behavior.I’m lining up for the custard pies,or maybe the linup in Airplane to shut up unruly passenger (knives,swords,torture devices,boxing gloves,blackjack,brass knuckles) to give OR her just desserts.

        • just desert such as cream pie with arsnic sause. wink. I would still rather face her head on in a fight..with a claymore

  9. I am completely obsessed with Basil and X atm. I heard that old song Perhaps Love on the radio today and all I could think of was someone should do a vid about them to that song. But then we can’t because we can’t say who she was! (I think I know btw).

    • I’ve always loved that song,and John Denver. Always thought Placido was the BEST bar none opera singer!Seen quite a few of his operas but “don Givonie” was my fave…with Him. I prefer German Opera. Totaly Love Wagner.[thanks Basil}

      • Mikufan thats a fun video,sorta like a concert Speed Racer and Trxi would go to. Please tell me how to link to Utube so the screen can be watched that way..all I know how to do is insert an link like the one i did of Lanclot. While were adding songs that remind us of Basil and X..well heres my contrbution http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGv3S6Tbd1U the only way I know how to add it.

        • The one with the long blue hair’s Miku! (And the other one’s Luka) ^_^
          I usually just copy and paste the link and it comes up. :-/

          • Are the or is the co that does the graphics for them the same as did Speed Racer,s and Star Blazers.Theres another cartoon that looks Just like star Blazers but cant recall the name of it.

  10. I am shocked at what I am reading on this site. I have been an admirer of Mr Rathbone for many years, having seen him give a talk in the early sixties when I was a teen. His presence was extraordinary and his air of old fashioned decency always remained with me. I read his book and was terribly impressed by his love for his wife. I simply do NOT believe what I am reading here. It can’t be true. Simple as that. I just can’t see how the man I saw in person, and heard speaking could be the same man who wrote things like this to a woman who wasn’t even his wife.

    • If you don’t like it, don’t read it, ‘simple as that’.
      Ouida was meant to write most of his autobiography anyways.
      Also, there’s photographic evidence.
      And…*Looks at your name* Sheesh, this comment added to your chain.

    • @Marleys Ghost, I understand what you are saying. I, too, was shocked when I first learned that the Basil/Ouida marriage wasn’t exactly as described in IAOOC. That was the image that they wanted the public to have. Yes, it was hard to believe that Basil could have had an affair, but at least one of the letters is in his own handwriting. It’s hard to argue with that!
      I agree with Mikufan that Ouida wrote (or at least edited) parts of IAOOC. There’s no evidence that Basil wrote the entire thing (all that nonsense about their idyllic marriage). (Show me the manuscript in his handwriting, and I’ll eat my words.)

    • Marley’s Ghost—

      You are being quite closed-minded to reality……it’s a KNOWN FACT that Ouida spent ALL the money her husband made while they were married (sadly, she and Basil were joked-about in Hollywood circles because of this), leaving her completely DESTITUTE by the time of her death. This is mentioned in SEVERAL historical documents—look it up.

      These are NOT the actions of a so-called “loving and devoted” wife, but of a woman who both DESPISED and FEARED men (likely due to her possibly abusive upbringing), and who was also obsessive-compulsive, and EXTREMELY narcissistic. She spent Basil’s money not ONLY to have “fine things” so she could show them off; but to embarrass and humiliate him, and to “put him in his place” when she thought he was denying HER happiness (which always came FIRST).

      Was Basil’s closest friend Vincent Price just “making it ALL up” when he thought Ouida was crazy, commenting on her strange and selfish behavior towards Basil and others, which he’d witnessed over the years?? He had absolutely NO reason to lie about something like that.

      Most people would probably agree that like Basil, Vincent was also a pretty “decent” guy, himself—but, he TOO had an affair while still married to his 2nd wife…which led to his 3rd marriage (to his mistress!). So, I’m sure that as “decent” and “charming” as Basil APPEARED to be, he (as ALL of us do) had a private side which he kept to himself—remember, he was an ACTOR—and a good one, at that. He could pretend everything was “fine” on the outside, fooling the public and the press, while slowly falling-apart from within; desperately trying to hold his life (and family) together, and attempting to keep what little remained of his sanity intact.

      How many seemingly “decent” people have been secretly sleeping-around for YEARS to escape their miserably lonely and unhappy marriages, were eventually discovered, then permanently “tarnished” because of it? Basil had WAY too much class than to go and talk openly about his sex-life to the world, risking he and his many lovers’ careers and reputations (as well as causing embarrassment and shame to his and their families). He’d NEVER have written about these personal-matters in his autobiography—especially while his wife was still ALIVE! His life at home with her and his daughter would have been made even MORE difficult, awkward and intolerable, if that were the case…not to mention he’d be mercilessly-hounded for interviews about the “juicy details” of events regarding his trysts, and persecuted by those who previously saw him as a “positive role-model” to society. The book’s bogus “happy” content (written about Basil’s “wonderful marriage”) was merely a protective-measure—one which he took to prevent and deflect ANY possible future negative-publicity—aimed at either himself, or those who’d ever been romantically-involved with him. This was his way of safely ensuring that he and his lovers’ remaining relatives could live in peace after his death, as well as giving the public a “sugar-coated” version of his family-life, so he’d appear more amiable to his fans, and be remembered as such.

      Therefore, your argument that his book PROVES he was completely “innocent” of these affairs and “in love with” Ouida, doesn’t hold much water.

      A person’s sexuality and their private sexual-activities can be VERY different compared to the “image” they display publicly to the rest of us. That’s what makes sex so special. It defines a person’s TRUEST self; the one which only their lover can ever know and share with them. It’s meant to be this way. The two become bonded—they “own and possess” something sacred of each-other that NO ONE ELSE will—a kind-of “specialness” together.

      Basil was a beautiful, sexual being; he had a warm, passionate nature—a kind and gentle heart. His wife was cold and distant emotionally and physically—repulsed by sex, and men. Of COURSE he was going to cheat on her! Plus, he was ALWAYS somewhat of a “playboy”……he constantly fell in-and-out of (what HE considered to be) “love” repeatedly throughout his life, and even dated several women at the SAME time, on occasion.

      It isn’t fair or respectful towards Basil for others to deny the TRUTH of his life; even if that truth doesn’t coincide with the ideals which they’ve projected onto him, or their personal opinions of who THEY believe he “really” was.

    • Jacob..I wont scold or pick on you.I will only say Everthing I have said or posted on Weedy can be backed up with evedence. I have posted my links WHEN it is at all posible.some times I cant post a link due to the site not alowing me to do so. I have stayed out of the X + Basil thing pretty much except to coment on it as everone else has. Because I know nothing about it xcept what I read here. But for the info I post on Weedy! Yes I can back it up! And I expected her to be a Zitch..but I never in my wildest dreams expected to find all the things I have found. I have come to think the womans life was 1 long tapestery of lies.My latest discovery is lies she apperntly told Fitz-Maurice.. I honestly have come to think you cant belive a word the woman said.I never started out to do anything but check out what was suspected..And found more proof then I can belive actuly does excist. I couldnt adore Basil more.I have for years.As I have said I will be the 1st one here to stand and defend his honor! But I wont defend her or her passel of proven lies and her often odd, weird, manipulative,hatefull, behaviour.

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