Cynthia at Hockaday – by David Leddick


Ok, so in the first real post of 2014, we’re looking at the brief memoir of Cynthia Rathbone given to us by David Leddick her friend and colleague at Hockaday Associates. Answering some of our questions, though also adding several more, David tells us Cynthia died of “drink and drugs.”

I think more investigation is needed to explain how this poor girl’s life could have imploded like this, aged just 30!

Much thanks to David for letting us use this…

I worked with Cynthia Rathbone at Hockaday Associates in the early 1960s. Perhaps 1962 and 1963. Hockaday was then one of the new small front-edge advertising agencies in New York. We had perhaps 30 to 40 small clients, all of them selling expensive top-of-the-line products. Crane Papers, Elizabeth Arden, Grant’s Scotch.

Miss Hockaday, the President, wanted her staff to be young, smart, fashionable. Clients liked the agency as much as they liked the advertising. Cynthia Rathbone was part of this young but adult world. Rock and Roll, The Beatles, and Mick Jagger hadn’t come on the scene yet.

Cynthia was a big girl. Not fat, but tall, sturdy, dark-haired, good-looking in an upper-class, healthy way. She had an unabashed personality. She had no problem in presenting herself in a self-confident, amusing way to clients. She worked as an associate account person but was very much one of the inner circle of creative types among the writers and art directors. We lunched a lot. We laughed a lot. No one was pretending to be someone he or she was not. Cynthia wore bright green a lot as I remember, which went well with her bold, dark look.

You were supposed to be witty in New York then. Grown up and witty. Vast dance halls with ear-splitting music didn’t exist. You went out to supper clubs where everyone smoked and talked right through the entertainment. Billie Holiday? Yes, but as I was saying, this was a kind of sophisticated world that was . . . [rest of sentence is missing].

Cynthia was the daughter of the famous Hollywood actor Basil Rathbone, known for his role as Sherlock Holmes in a number of films. His wife was Ouida. Cynthia had been adopted. We all knew that her small, forbidding mother didn’t have the kind of daughter she wanted. I think we all made an effort to reassure Cynthia that she was one of us, one of the self-assured and socially unquestionables. In our own way we were a team of six or seven and Cynthia was one of us. I don’t think any of us anticipated that Cynthia would be dead within the next decade of drink and drugs.

I think Cynthia was lost because our world disappeared. She didn’t move into a future of a husband, children and a house in the suburbs. Really, none of the other women in the group did either, though some married and had children. Being a little younger than the rest of us, I think the nightlife that descended on New York swept her away. The large, lifeless apartment she shared with her parents wasn’t really a home. They weren’t really parents, distant as they were to her and each other. They moved in cafe society. Their names appeared in the papers. Cynthia wasn’t for that world. Her energy, force, enthusiasm didn’t find a place where she could like herself. I think her new friends were impressed with her, but they couldn’t reach out and save her. That wouldn’t have been the New York way.


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112 thoughts on “Cynthia at Hockaday – by David Leddick

  1. Apart from the drink and drugs and parents not accepting you and everything, Cynthia sounds a little like me. ‘_’ I mean she seems to be described as sort of different…and I’m not really the average teen you’d expect to meet on the street, either. ._.

    • brainstorming here… is there a every name index to the NY Times /and or/ NY Herald..i think the Hearld was the ‘other’ paper at that time. I want to say there is such a list because i found it or something like it one time a long time that i mean like over 10 years ago.And looked up Basil in scadds of papers on micro film.pretty sure was the times.Even found some stuff on Edgar. all of which was boring.[if you have ever used a mirco film viewer you understand no doubt,it makes you dizzy and its hard on the eyes and at that time copying even 1 atricel cost $1.00.] most of Basil’s listing were movie times and that stuff got totaly boring,totaly fast! but i found his obit. point is if Cyn was into drink and drugs running with the wrong crowd..the police reports might have her listed.Back here in small town America if you get busted your name goes in the paper,next day!

  2. Oh my God this is heartbreaking, but somehow I’m not that surprised?
    I used to work as an Art Director for a huge ad agency where I live (psst it’s also a BBDO), and it was all the work, the work, the work (that’s a BBDO motto btw haha).
    The glamour, the(almost)free rein of creativity and other perks were very appealing, especially to young people (I was 23 when I first worked there), but the stress level and expectations were really high, it was no wonder that we played hard as well. Mix with the wrong crowd with nothing to ground you and you could end up in all the wrong places.

  3. I can see voters choosing Benedict Cumberbatch, even though Basil’s my top choice. I think he’s a great Holmes, smart and sexy, and the stories, while modernized, really capture Holmes’ and Watson’s relationship and have all kind of “in jokes” and homages to the original stories. But Robert Downey, Jr. I’m sorry — he’s just Iron Man in Victorian dress.

    • I still see Robert as “Charlie Chaplin”……but then, I’m old-school—I can’t look at Johnny Depp without picturing “Edward Scissorhands”. :)

      Personally, when it comes to whom most realistically plays Sherlock Holmes the way he’s depicted by the author, Jeremy Brett is my fave. But, when it comes to the actor who portrays the character with the most warmth, humanness and even a comical nature, Baz totally kicks everyone else’s BUTT!! Just my opinion.

      I like Basil’s sword-fighting, drama, comedy, and goofball “horror” movies the BEST, though. (Since he absolutely LOATHED playing and being typecast as Holmes, and was terribly annoyed by the fans who constantly told him how much they loved those films, he’s probably quite happy about that.) ;)

  4. Totally off-subject here, but if any of you watch the American version of “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS each week, you’ll notice a Basil look-alike……there’s an appraiser named Todd Weyman, who could be a young Baz’s DOUBLE! :o

  5. My vote for Basil lookalikes — Charles Dance. He was in The Jewel in the Crown, a Masterpiece Theater version of Rebecca, and Bleak House. As he ages, he looks and sounds more like Basil. Watch around minute 3 of this Youtube for him as Maxim DeWinter. Basil and he could be twins, except Dance is blonde.

  6. Yeah, Marcia, like that guy you’re suddenly attracted to and realize later that he looks just like your old high school crush.

  7. Or. one night at the store i saw a realy GOOD lookng guy walk past. Like he was a mix of Vincent Price Ben Murphy and Lou Dimond Phillips.and a bit of Lee Horsley tossed in to boot. And i warched him all the way to the other end of the store not oggeling just looking.He comes back up, right to my register..and says “hey i noticed you was looking at me as i walked i know you?” i wanted to sink into the floor.. I was so imbarased so i burubeld something like ..ah..ah did we go to school togather?..turns out.. we did.And no i didnt recgnize his name and i dont rember anybody that good looking in school…he must have had a head transplant.And i have never seen him again.

  8. I remember when Alan Rickman was in Robin Hood and a reporter called him a Basil Rathbone” of todayhe gratefully accepted compliment.And Charles Dance,too,def 2 of my modern favs.2 classy gents,agree about Chaz and GOTs,when saw him listed in cast,had to watch.

  9. I’ve been working for about 4 hours now on a Frozen/Basil and Nigel Bruce crossover.
    I’ve only just finished Basil, and Nigel Bruce is gonna’ be even harder to draw. ;_;

    • You’ve not heard of Frozen? o_o Wow!
      If her hair was a bit darker then she’d look a bit like me, come to think of it…

      • I looked it up.sounds cute.I dont have kids so i’m a bit outa the cartoon fact i only got to see BRAVE right about newyears.Embarsing for a girl with with mostly Scotish desent to say.But I did like it.

          • yea they did go through a long period of..well whatever…in there cartoons But the Chronicals of Narnia have all been good.But i am predgist as i liked the books.I’ll probly see Frozen when it come out on dvd. Actuly i love cartoons and Disney has always made the best ones..untill recently.I think there downfall began when they started makeing released to dvd only cheepo sequels to every classic cartoon they had ever done..most of them..well..bad. I dont think they had a good cartoon from Pocohants 1995 till Brave.I was gonna say Anastasia 1997..but that wasnt them.

            • And all that ‘High school Musical’ garbage! All my friends were totally hyped up about it at school when we were about 6 or 7, I went to go and see it and I could never understand the attraction. Then again I’ve never really been into typical girl things….

  10. This is unrelated but….
    I’m watching the 1938 Warner Brothers Blooper compliation. I’m losing count of the amount of times Basil puts on the wrong crown. :’D

  11. Hey, has anyone else noticed that you know WHO from dreamland hasn’t been posting her “holier than thou” complaints about our (and most of the WORLD’S) realization of Basil’s and Ouida’s lack of saintliness, lately? :)


    I guess she either got tired of lying to us, or is SO upset when we intelligently refute her obviously bogus contrary “evidence”, she’s given-up trying to fool everyone……unless she just found another outlet online where others are actually dumb enough to BELIEVE her, and help feed-into her complete lunacy! ;)

    • I disproved her once before the diary incident, and she didn’t come on for ages…..unless of course she originally did have the diary and Zombie-Baz broke into her house and took it back……Nah that’s ridiculous, it was Zombie Ouida.

  12. So Gretchen i would presume the link leads to the verry spot you are refering to and about.snicker.Altho i havent checked Amazon to see if the afore mentioned person has published the afore mentioned peice of reading matrial..i can pretty much guess the answer.On the other hand she could be out there diligently researching proof of Weedy’s impending nomanation for St. Hood…..NAAAH.

    • Wow……Alyssia’s wannabe “blog” FINALLY has some comments posted! I especially like Greta’s—just as we both share similar first names, we also share a similar knowledge/understanding of Basil (and of Alyssia’s nuttiness, bad spelling, and terrible use of grammar). ;)

      • Well I wont ever fault her for her spelling inablilty..she cant hold a candel to me on that. But i do like the post where it says this is not Basil’s hand wrighting..I want to scream! This is not Basil’s diary!

  13. On 2nd thought while looking at the idea of Weedys St.Hood.we could credit her with one mirical. she did seam to be exceptionaly good at turning a paycheck into a pile of new clothes and jewerly in a holy second.

    • And she was pretty intelligent! Marry a hot guy who has obvious potential and then take his money.
      I think we can all learn from that. xD

      • Yes but what is the lesson? Saddly it seems in her case it was a lesson in how to screw up at least 3 lives[hers included]..and thats not counting the fall out of how much colateral damage was done to distant family members and close friends.I did inclued her because if she hadent latched on to Basil like a leach..she might have actuly gone on to do something beside being the party maven of Hollwierd..not to mention a screaming clawing …well you get the idea.

        • Yeah she did fail a little bit at it, if you’re marrying a guy for his money at least be nice to him. It’s a shame so many women do that though.

  14. A loving farewell to Shirley Temple and Sid Caesar……two VERY special people, who gave our world something to smile about. :)

    We’ll MISS you guys! :(

    • Had a patient who worked on a Shirley movie,back in her heyday.Loved Sid,too.Amen to comments re:OR marrying Baz for the ride.She had fun when he did well financially,and just as much fun on the wane and no effort to control spending.

  15. I must admit I shed a tear to hear of Shirley Temple’s passing. I grew up watching her movies on TV and shared them with my daughter; so, it’s kind of like losing a childhood friend. We both loved her! My dad used to tell me stories about how there would be lines a 1/2 mile long to see a Shirley Temple movie when it opened, and my mom who was the youngest of 9, was “spoiled” by receiving a Shirley Temple doll for Christmas from her siblings during the heart of the Depression.

    Sid Caesar was a comic genius, another favorite of my dad’s. If you ever catch sketches from Your Show of Shows, you’re in for a treat. He did great parodies of famous movies.

    • I have to grudgingly agree Sherily was fun to watch love “The Little Princess” and “The Littlest Rebel” my fave of hers is “The Blue Bird”. she was cute in the one with Clifton..”Mr Pennypacker”? I think. My only problem with her isnt with her its with my Mom. My Mom thought I had some kinda resemblence to little miss perfect Tempel[or mabey she just wished i did] and so I had to sleep in currlers more then alot .so she could curl my hair just like hers had all the curls counted and in the correct places too. Yep I looked just like her… if you could see her as a tiny realy skinny strwaberryblond with freckels and no front teeth..yep i was the spittin image.I did rebel when Mom wanted me to learn all the words to Good Ship Lolly pop.

    • I LOVE “The Little Princess”, “The Blue Bird” and “Heidi”, the best……but, ALL of her other musical singing/dancing pictures were great, too. She was one of those child prodigy genius kids, who could learn her lines and dance-steps (as well as everyone ELSE’S) better than the adults! Entertained like a pro, even into her later years; and, she was also highly successful in her political career.

      The parody of “This is Your Life” was the funniest skit EVER on “Your Show of Shows”!! I think it got the LONGEST continuous live-audience laugh in TV history, at that time—until Johnny Carson threw the hatchet at that wooden Indian’s crotch! :)

        • The really GREAT thing about it, is that not only did he accidentally throw it at the crotch……but the way it stuck, it also looked a LOT like an “erection”—DOUBLE hilarious!!! (And probably pretty embarrassing, too; especially in THOSE days.) :o

    • TOO funny!! :)

      Sorry about my above boo-boo—it wasn’t Johnny but Ed who threw the tomahawk, and it was at a cowboy, NOT an Indian.

  16. I feel like an abandoned child and my siblings are trying to cheer and distract me. Never come back…hmmmm. That does not sound right. Never, come back. Ah, punctuation makes all the difference!

    • Guys! I’m here! I’m checking in and approving comments. Working about fourteen hours a day and no time to blog! The guy I work for let everything just pile up while I was sick and I’m having to struggle to catch up.

      • We reconed you was there..Glad your feeling better. Dont work to hard all work and no Basil makes Neve Lonsome.I understand the I work to hard thing..but this is our slow season. By May everone in the store will be saying how overworked they are..Do what you must and hurry back we all miss you.

      • PHEW! I thought you’d been abducted by aliens and the replacement Never they’d sent down had no idea about Basil!
        Either that or zombie Ouida tied you up in her basement along with Basil and X.
        …Both are entirely possible, of course. :D

              • Good art, Mikufan! :)

                Ahhh……now we know Ouida in her TRUE FORM—if only Baz could’ve seen her like that before it was too late—in other words, at the party where they first MET!! ;)

                • Thanks! I draw with a pretty bad software on my cruddy old laptop, my parents did get me a drawing tablet but it didn’t work too well, so they’re buying me some art markers instead sometime soon. I’ve already decided which big nosed fella’ I’m drawing first! :P

                    • Yup, I’ve got Gimp! ^_^ I draw on it occasionally but it always seems to lose quality if you use certain tools, so if I do draw on it the results don’t usually come out TOO well.
                      The markers are a sort of ‘It’ll do for now’ thing, there’s a manga software which looks REALLY amazing which thousands of professionals use, but my computer wouldn’t be able to run it, so I’m saving up for a computer that can. I’d rather be spending my money on anime and Basil movies but never mind. :-)

                  • I recently downloaded the FREE sample version of “Serif DrawPlus” onto my computer…it’s a UK drawing program. (There’s a complete version with many more added “extras” that costs about $30.) Similar, but somewhat different than the Windows “Paint” program, it has a LOT more drawing tools and effects.

                    I like using it to write letters to my friends (there are several COOL type-fonts to choose from), which I can custom-decorate to look like fancy stationery with the included array of various designs/cartoons—then, I print them out to send in the mail. I think it also allows you to import your own photos to add to your project, which is neat when I want to send someone the latest pic of myself along with a letter. :)

                    When I’m able to afford one someday, I’d like to get myself a touch-screen tablet. For now, I’ll see if I can buy some art-markers and decent paper to begin doing better drawings…I’ve used cheap copy-paper and “Crayola” markers for years (I store my finished drawings in plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder). In high school, our art class had these REALLY expensive Japanese “Sakura” rubber-tipped brush-markers that I loved, but they were about $7 EACH at the craft store—20 years ago! :o

                    • I’m probably getting some letraset markers, they’re made especially for Manga artists, so they’re perfect for me!

                • If only Baz had all thefacts before “going for it”,pursuing relationship with married woman while he was still married,happy or not.And the Bankruptcy,and that dreadful ad for talent agency.The “next husband” comment too bad someone didn’t lie and tell him Jack was her sweetheart,or him believe it as so anyway and run away from that future relationship.She may have rescued him from a life of drink and pills,but she continued on her merry spending way after discharging her own debts.How she could go thru over $7500 per week H’wood salary!And to think of child actors whose parets misspent their hard earned money,call Weedy Mrs Moneypenny.

  17. Totally off topic here, but some total GENIUS morphed all of the on-screen Sherlocks faces together. \(ಥ_ಥ)/ I WANT TO MARRY SOMEONE THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS!!

    • Well I’m Nobody but I’m here all the same. I was gona post tonight anyhow..I was looking at genealogy books on line last night…And by just pure chance one of them had Basil’s family in it…as expected at least in a good movie it would be expected. my compuker picked that time to give up for the evening. Gerrrrr.!I had the sight bookmarked but not the book it’s self..and it wasnt listed under Rathbone family..I will atempt a finding and get back to everone on it..maybe neat new stuff..mabey not…

    • I’ve been coping with exams and such nasty things. ;_;
      My school gives me 3 pieces of homework a day, and each piece is supposed to take an hour to an hour and a half to finish. Sadly though most pieces take a lot longer, and by the time I finish studying it’s really late at night, so I’m not getting any of my personal things done, I’m starting to gain weight because of it…
      Last week my ICT teacher gave me some coursework and told me it was due in on the end of term, but yesterday he decided he needed it handed in tomorrow, so with that on top of homework and everything else I’m probably going to be up PRETTY late tonight. :-(

      • I felt your pain..past tences as I’m no longer in school.. but I doubt teachers are much nicer then they were when I was in school.Like we had a high school math teacher one time that came in the day before they let us off for Christmas vacation..he came in slamed the door, and said “my wifes family is coming to our house for Christmas! I’m not going to enjoy Christmas and neither are any of you!” he then gave us stacks of homework garented to keep us busy and unhappy for the whole 2 weeks of vacation.! So I fell your pain..just rember highschool is only 4 years of your whole life…hang in there it gets better.! Smile!

        • Yeah, some teachers seem to pick on certain students for no reason. I’ve been picked on over long periods of time by 3 separate teachers, then all of a sudden they stop. Weird! :-/

  18. My school show movies in the school theatre every lunch time, my friends and I went in there today and ‘Shanghai Knights’ was showing. The main villain in it’s called Rathbone and one of the characters was pretending to be Sherlock. I think that film explained my life in two scenes. :’D

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