Biography Project, BLOG INTERVIEWS, Marcia Jessen
Comments 63

Interview with Marcia Jessen

Today The Baz is talking to Marcia Jessen, creator and owner of basilrathbbone.net, the first and last resource for anyone looking to research Rathbone’s life and career. In addition to her chores as webmaster, Marcia is one third of the newly formed Rathbone Biography Project. We’re very grateful she’s made time in an incredibly busy life to talk to us.

TB: Tell me about how you became interested in Basil Rathbone.

JESSEN: Like so many people, I loved the Sherlock Holmes movies that Rathbone made. Then I saw Dawn Patrol and loved it. After that I began to actively watch for Rathbone films to be shown on television.

TB: Why Rathbone?

JESSEN: To be honest, my interest wasn’t limited to Rathbone early on. I’ve got lots of books on Errol Flynn and most of his films on VHS or DVD. But sometime in the 1990s, I was admiring an Errol Flynn website (errolflynn.net, which oddly enough doesn’t exist anymore), and I thought, “Someone ought to make a site like this for Basil Rathbone!” Since I couldn’t find a Basil Rathbone site that was as I thought it should be, I decided I would have to create one myself.

TB: When did basilrathbone.net first go on line?

JESSEN: I don’t remember exactly. I know it’s been at least ten years since the domain name basilrathbone.net was registered. I started out small in the late 1990s and had a few pages on the free space that AOL allowed with my old AOL account. As the site grew, I bought web hosting service and the domain name.

TB: So, you’ve been “on the air” over ten years. You’re also a collector aren’t you. How extensive is your Rathbone archive?

JESSEN: I’ve been collecting a little at a time for all these years and have acquired a large number of photos and old magazines with articles about the Baz. Of course I’ve tried to get every Rathbone film on VHS or DVD.

TB: You’re being very modest. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of your collection, including the early articles you have and I think it’s safe to say what you have is a unique and invaluable resource. Are there any rare items you are finding it hard to locate?

JESSEN: I haven’t been able to find ALL of Rathbone’s films; I fear that some of the early ones may be lost. The Masked Bride, for example (silent film from 1925). I would love to find a copy of that film and see Basil doing an apache dance! I don’t know if the silent films exist or not. I’d also love to find A Lady Surrenders (1930), This Mad World (1930), One Precious Year (1933), and After the Ball (1933).

TB: What kind of feedback do you tend to get from your readers? And has it changed over the years?

JESSEN: Most of the e-mails I receive are questions about Basil’s life, his films, his co-stars… I have been asked all sorts of questions. But they’ve changed over the years. Prior to 2003 (when MPI released the first set of the restored Sherlock Holmes films on DVD), I was inundated with e-mails from people wanting to know where they could buy the Sherlock Holmes films on VHS or DVD. 90% of the people asked about that. Most of them specifically enquired about The Hound of the Baskervilles. The other ten percent asked about where to get The Stingiest Man in Town on DVD. Now that all these are available on DVD, folks find more obscure things to ask me about.

TB: What’s the strangest thing you have ever been asked?

JESSEN: Some people have asked if it’s true that Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn had a homosexual relationship, citing David Bret’s allegations in the book Satan’s Angel. I cannot confirm the allegation; I’ve never seen any evidence to suggest that Rathbone was gay.

TB:People send you their personal memories, not all of which you’ve published. Has anything you’ve been told surprised you?

JESSEN: Over the years many folks have e-mailed me stories of their personal encounters with Basil Rathbone. When I started the website, I was interested in documenting Rathbone’s professional career. I didn’t know what to do with all these personal stories until I got the idea to create an Anecdotes page. Still, some folks send me stories that they don’t want made public. As I wrote in a comment on your blog, one woman who wrote me claimed that her mother had an affair with Basil Rathbone. If this is true, it certainly is surprising, considering how Basil writes about his love for Ouida. It’s hard to imagine him being unfaithful, but the allegation has been made! Another person wrote me that when his father was in the military during WWII, and was on leave, he and his buddies were invited to spend the afternoon at the Rathbones’ swimming pool. The writer said that his father was shocked to see big-boobed starlets “flopping around” in the water!

I appreciate when fans e-mail me and give me information about something that isn’t on my website. This helps the site to grow! But sometimes those same fans are impatient with me because I don’t immediately add their new information to my website. I try to verify all the information that I get. Once someone told me that Basil Rathbone had been a guest star on an episode of a particular television show. He insisted that he remembered seeing him in the episode. I hadn’t come across that information anywhere, so I was excited to know this. But when I started looking at cast information for that television show and all the guest stars, I found no mention of Basil. I did find that John Carradine had been a guest star in one episode. This is just one example of why it’s so important to verify all information I receive.

TB: Given the large amount of information in your possession, much of it not easily available to the public, you’ve probably had a uniquely informed insight into him as a human being. What sort of a man do you think you’re dealing with? Is your impression well formed or is it still developing?

JESSEN:My impression of Basil Rathbone is continually developing as I learn more about him. I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface where Basil’s life is concerned. My current impression of Basil is a hardworking, professional actor, proud of his Shakespearean training, and yet lacking confidence (in the early years). Once he became a star, he was confident, but he never acted superior to his fellow actors. He was friendly to and supportive of his fellow actors, a mentor to the young actors. He took his work seriously and gave a good performance even in the abominable films.

TB: Ouida Rathbone has been the subject of some discussion lately. What’s your impression of her from all the information you’ve managed to pull together so far?

JESSEN: My first impression of Ouida was based on Basil’s biography, in which he wrote about her as his soul mate and how much he loved her. I thought that she must have been an angel! I did think it was terrible of her to spend so much of Basil’s money in Hollywood, though. In at least one magazine interview, Basil told the reporter that he objected to the reputation that he and Ouida had as extravagant party-givers. He said that they enjoyed entertaining their closest friends, but they were certainly NOT the “Host and Hostess of Hollywood”! (I don’t have the article in front of me, so can’t quote exactly.)

His response is nonsense. The huge parties to which nearly everyone in Hollywood was invited were documented in the newspapers. We aren’t talking about a small dinner party for six or eight people. They were outlandish parties with fake snow and huge ice sculptures. And it seems clear that the parties were Ouida’s idea, and Basil just went along with it. Michael Druxman interviewed Louis Hayward, and wrote in his book (page 63) that Hayward remembers Basil being almost in tears after one of these expensive parties, and he said that Ouida was breaking him financially. (Forgive me if this was already quoted in the Druxman interview. It bears repeating here, I think.)

So why couldn’t Basil stop Ouida from ruining him? If she were really the perfect wife he wrote about in his autobiography, she would have said, “Honey, let’s put away some of this money you are earning for our retirement.” I’m disappointed that they didn’t do that.

And then I’ve read other people’s impressions of Ouida. Christopher Plummer (Basil’s co-star in the play J.B.) wrote in his autobiography that he liked Basil Rathbone very much, and he thought that they could have been friends, but for some reason Ouida did not like him (Plummer), so she prevented him from being friends with Basil. When I read that, I thought, “What? Basil’s an adult, but he can’t choose his own friends?” I also wondered why Basil’s autobiography has no mention of his son and grandchildren. It’s as if they didn’t exist. I find it difficult to believe that Basil didn’t want to have a relationship with them. Though I don’t know what happened, my “spidy-senses” tell me that Ouida was involved.

And then there’s the post on The Baz about Jed Harris’ impressions of Ouida. I no longer feel that she must have been an angel! Basil must have loved her, else why would he have stayed with her and put up with her manipulation of his life and his relationships? But I struggle to understand why he loved her. I guess we can’t explain the heart!

TB: Yes, there does seem to be a basic dichotomy between the story Basil puts out in his autobiography, and in some interviews, and the story told by others who knew him and Ouida. For example, have you encountered anyone but Basil describing her warmly? Did any of the people who expressed love or fondness for him also express it for Ouida?

JESSEN:Now that you mention it, no. I haven’t read anything positive about Ouida from anyone besides Basil. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. David Macklin, for example, has told me quite a lot about his association with Basil. David is an actor who worked with Basil in the early 1960s. He knew Basil professionally. He may never have met Ouida. You’re going to have me digging through my notes for mentions of Ouida!

TB: So, are we talking about love being blind? Or was Basil simply presenting a public face?

JESSEN: It’s certainly possible that love is blind, although he wasn’t blind to Ouida’s faults. He complained about her spending habits to others, but it seems that he loved her in spite of it all. I definitely think that he was presenting a public face. I imagine that he feared a scandal would affect his career in a bad way, so he was careful to avoid any scandal. I believe that Rathbone wanted the public to view his marriage as one of the few that lasted in a culture where several marriages were the norm. Well, his marriage did last, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything was rosy in the Rathbone home.

TB: Good answer. Some celebrities, then as now, were running to their publicists and to Hopper and Parsons with every little marital problem. Rathbone didn’t do this and tended to keep his private life private. Even his “autobiography” is far from revealing or exhaustive isn’t it. What do you make of the almost total omission from the book of his son and grandchildren? .

JESSEN: I think it’s very strange that Rathbone makes no mention of his grandchildren, and hardly mentions his son. Maybe he thought that readers wouldn’t be interested in hearing about them. Personally, I would rather have read stories about his family than the story of Mr. Poole, the butler. I certainly have a lot of questions about the family.

Why did his first marriage end? I can understand that he came back from the war a changed man. Such a horrible experience would naturally change someone. I can understand that perhaps they had grown apart and the passion wasn’t there anymore. But unless they parted hating one another, why wouldn’t he want to be a part of his son’s life? Did Marion not permit him to see his son? (It’s too bad that Marion didn’t write an autobiography!).

Basil’s son Rodion came to Hollywood and lived with Basil and Ouida for a year, but after Rodion’s marriage, it seems as though he disappeared from Basil’s life. I’ve not seen any post-wedding photos of Basil with Rodion or with his grandchildren. Why? What happened? Perhaps Basil didn’t write about it because it was painful for him.

None of Basil’s grandchildren have ever contacted me. I would welcome the opportunity to present their side of the story!

TB: Does Rathbone’s life contain any other areas of puzzlement or “absence of evidence” that you’d like to see resolved?

JESSEN: I’ve wondered what happened to Basil’s sister Beatrice. In his autobiography, Basil doesn’t mention having any contact with her as an adult. If they were estranged, I wonder why.

TB:– let’s talk about the Rathbone Biography Project. Can you remind our readers about what it is?

JESSEN: Ah, the Basil Rathbone Biography Project! That’s where all these unpublished stories are going! The Project is a repository of information that will be made available to the person who undertakes the writing of a biography. There are bits and pieces of information all over the place–little nuggets published in one book that don’t appear anywhere else, for example. It would take a biographer years to track down all the sources. The Project should make the biographer’s research a snap! Believe it or not, the amount of information on basilrathbone.net is small compared to what is available. My focus with the website has been more on Basil’s professional life rather than his personal life. But I would be *very* interested in seeing a biography of Basil Rathbone written!

TB: OK, that’s a good note to end on!

If you have any Rathbone-related material you’d like to share, email basilrathboneproject@gmail.com

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63 Comments

  1. genevra says

    I am a big fan of Marcia Jessen’s lovely site and it’s nice to put a face to the unassuming internet presence!

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  2. GRETCHEN says

    I first discovered Marcia’s site about Basil in 1999, while looking-him-up online at a neighbor’s house. (They let me use their computer sometimes, since my family couldn’t afford one.) I learned MOST of what I know about Baz on there. It’s AMAZING that the webpage still looks the SAME all these years later!

    Marcia, you probably DON’T remember this, but I’m the one who wrote to you back in 2000 about the prop-box of “BASIL RATHBONE’S DOG-BISCUITS” from the show “MST3K”!! I’d saved the printout of my e-mail to and from you, and re-discovered it recently in my Box-O-Basil-Stuff I keep in his memory. (I’m planning on putting-together a Basil Rathbone scrapbook soon…I already HAVE a Vincent Price one!) In that “MST3K” episode, they didn’t do as good of a job as they COULD have on the funny, degrading comments (for “The Magic Sword” movie)…I came-up with WAY-BETTER ones myself, while watching! Also, they kept pronouncing his name “Bay-zil” instead of “Bah-zil”, which sounds kinda GOOFY…I suppose that’s how people in different parts of the country say it, or something.

    I had this NIFTY idea that maybe you could have a merchandise-store (“BAZ-MERCH”!) on your site, that sells hoodies/t-shirts/hats/pins/totes/mugs/key-chains, etc. with different photos from his many films, as well as of just his face, and a cute, catchy saying or film-quote on each item (with basilrathbone.net in small-print at the bottom of the image). Then, you could spread-around the LOVE for Basil, along with the name of your site, AND make a tidy profit in so-doing…I’d TOTALLY buy a Baz-hoodie! (I LOVE hoodies!!) You could even do a “design-it-yourself” thing, in which all the available images/colors/sayings and fonts are chosen by the customer. Then, the manufacturer makes the items AS they are ordered, rather than making them BEFOREHAND, so you don’t spend more than you NEED to on production-costs. There are several companies that provide this type of service to small web-stores. A LOT of sites are doing this, now…I can just IMAGINE someone coming-up to me and asking: “Who IS that handsome, sexy young man, and where can I get a shirt like YOURS??” Hey, let’s face-it… Marilyn, Elvis, James Dean, the Three Stooges and the Beatles have been seen on this stuff for YEARS— Baz deserves HIS turn to shine!! Just an idea…let me know what YOU think! 🙂

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    • Hi Gretchen! Thanks for contacting me about the Basil Rathbones Dog Biscuits box so many years ago! Regarding your merchandise store idea, I like the idea, but gosh, I wouldn’t know where to begin. And since I have a full-time job, it would be difficult to find the time to learn how to do it. I need a partner to take care of the merchandise store. Are you interested?

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      • GRETCHEN says

        WOW!! No-one’s ever asked me to do anything like help run a STORE, before! It sure sounds like FUN, but I don’t think I’d be qualified at this time. See, I don’t know much about using a computer…just the BASICS— I can e-mail, surf the web, play video-games, watch YOUTUBE, draw with the “paint” program, print stuff, and write on this blog. I’m pretty INEPT, I know. I have NO idea what this “job” would entail…I don’t know the FIRST thing about running an online store, or even a website, for that matter (or I’d have one of my OWN right now!!) Gee-whiz, I wish I could help…I don’t have contact with someone who does these things, or I’d ask for THEIR help figuring-it-out. Well, let me know what I’d have to DO, and maybe I’ll get BRAVE and try! 🙂

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        • Ah, there’s the rub! I can’t tell you what you’d have to do because I have no idea. Perhaps someone will come forward who has some knowledge and experience with running an online store (and an interest in doing so). But thanks for the idea! I am intrigued.

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          • Well you can run a store through Amazon I think. You import their interface and stock it with your choice of items. I’ve seen other websites do it and it seems pretty easy. It might be worth thinking about it, Marcia.

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            • GRETCHEN says

              COOL…THIS IS AWESOME!!
              I just did a little online detective-work, and found-out what you can DO, Marcia—

              Go to “cafepress.com”, and look down the left-hand column for the words “photo gifts”, under “design your own”. Click on “photo gifts”. On the top of the page, you’ll find the word “sell”. Clicking on this will lead you to a VERY simple way to begin your web-store! Three different selling options will pop-up, and the second one, marked “shops” is the one you want to go with (it’s for people who ALREADY have a blog, or website). Then, you can click on that, and it will take you to ALL the info. you’ll need.

              THEY handle all the work, all YOU do is receive a sales-commission check. They will automatically take 10% out of the total royalties, up to a max. of $10. Or, you can PRE-PAY by getting your credit card billed for about $6 a month (more or less, depending on how many months you pre-pay). When you reach a large number of sales, you receive “bonus-level”, which means you get a LARGER commission. You can personalize your web-store page with your own HTML, so it blends with the look of your site. Whatever you choose to mark-up a product above their base price, is what you EARN.

              This is a REPUTABLE company that’s been around for several years, and they sell a LOT of quirky stuff, as well as retro-celeb items…PERFECT for someone like you, especially as BUSY as you are! You just upload your own photos, and use their custom-tool to design your products…I think they also have the option for customers to do it, too. There are OVER 250 products for you to choose from, to put your designs on. There is an automatic tool built-in which calculates the shipping cost, as well. They ship internationally, and there is a place with a US flag next to their logo you can click-on to find your country.

              Both eBay and etsy (an artists’ store-site) do this kind of thing TOO, but I’d go with café press, since they are more well-known when it comes to selling items related to screen-stars and films in general.

              You may not make a TON-O-MONEY doing this, but it’s WAY easier than going through all the legal stuff I read you’d have to do to open a store on your OWN…and much less TIME-CONSUMING!

              I HOPE this info. has HELPED you-out on your journey!
              GOOD LUCK!! 🙂

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                • GRETCHEN says

                  NEAT!!!
                  I was HOPING you’d start a shop, too…boy, that sure was FAST! When I checked-it-out, I noticed ALL the logos on the shirts are the same size— REALLY TINY!! I guess when you first start a shop, that’s how it’s presented, until you personally tweak each logo to the size you want at a later time, or something. I was thinking about how COOL it would look to have “THE BAZ” blog-logo with Basil’s profile-art in white on a BLACK mug, hoodie, baseball hat, and T-shirt! OOOOOOHHH!!

                  Hmmm…perhaps I should open my OWN web-store too, someday. I’m an artist, and I’d have a LOT of fun designing my shirts, and stuff. But, BECAUSE I’m an artist, I also can’t AFFORD to right now, if you know what I mean!! (I’m poorer than Basil Rathbone— T-HEE!)

                  CONGRATS on your NEW store…YAY!! 🙂

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                  • 🙂 I only did it to see how easy it was. They just ask you to upload a logo and the first one I found was the one on the banner here, so it’s miniscule 😀 But it does seem a cool idea. Marcia should def have a try.

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  3. Jerrie says

    I just want to mention I am so grateful for Miss Jessen’s site as it was an oasis in the desert for so many years of my Basil fandom. It’s a truly awesome resource. Thanks so much

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  4. Santa's Little Helper says

    To Ms Jessen – I absolutely am a fan of your website! I wish you would convert it to a blog format so I could comment directly

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    • Thanks! I don’t know about changing the format of the website–I couldn’t possibly compete with The Baz! You can always e-mail your comments to me. My e-mail address is on the home page.

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    • I agree he was,esp with Ouida.Who can say what he really thought.If she got father and son back together,more power to her.Many wives have compulsions to spend,I’m no different,but to criticize because people don’t have all the facts comes with the day of the internet.There are a lot of haters,but this site seems dedicated to the memory of a truly kind,generous man who had regard for all.Sad about his sister,Bea,but maybe she caused him pain because she was pained by his separating from Marion.I think his remarks about Flynn were anything but gay.He said Flynn was lazy,too,and did give the impression he could have been so much greater,evidenced by Patrice’s comments,and Miss Olivia about her unsent letter to Flynn about how great her films with Flynn were so many years on,after his male beauty faded,he was clearly bipolar and needed help and understanding,and he seemed to get both from Rathbone.

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  5. DaysWatchingSherlock says

    I simply want to say I am a very big fan of Basil and Marcia’s wondrful ite has been one of my favorite places to visit for so long I can’t remember! Thank you so much

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  6. Frances says

    I do not believe for a moment that a person of Rathbone’s breeding would a) have had an extramarital affair and b) have had starlets frolicking in his pool!

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  7. Perhaps no one ever approached Basil’s son or grandchildren. Perhaps they were never asked for their experiences and opinions.

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  8. ParkerFan says

    In answer to the person who asked me to post the relevant poems, here they are (I hope they come out alright). I believe they were all written between 1929 and 1931

    1. Little Words
    When you are gone, there is nor bloom nor leaf,
    Nor singing sea at night, nor silver birds;
    And I can only stare, and shape my grief
    In little words.

    I cannot conjure loveliness, to drown
    The bitter woe that racks my cords apart.
    The weary pen that sets my sorrow down
    Feeds at my heart.

    There is no mercy in the shifting year,
    No beauty wraps me tenderly about.
    I turn to little words- so you, my dear,
    Can spell them out.

    3. Purposely Ungrammatical Love Song
    There’s many and many, and not so far,
    Is willing to dry my tears away;
    There’s many to tell me what you are,
    And never a lie to all they say.

    It’s little the good to hide my head,
    It’s never the use to bar my door;
    There’s many as counts the tears I shed,
    There’s mourning hearts for my heart’s sore

    There’s honester eyes than your blue eyes,
    There’s better a mile than such as you.
    But when did I say that I was wise,
    And when did I hope that you were true?

    4. “Grande Passion,
    “If you should break your beauteous nose
    My love would perish, I suppose
    Or did your hair go limp and straight
    I might again be celibate
    Were you to slide your step, and peer,
    You’d see my little back, I fear;
    But lose, my love, your soul and sense
    I should not know the difference.”

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  9. Claude Rains says

    I think perhaps the reason you’ve never seen any evidence for Rathbone’s homosexualty might be that you refuse to look, just like Druxman and Matzen, whose claims of being a thorough researcher seem dubious under the circumstances. How can it not be obvious that one reason he was not a “womanizer” is that he didn’t feel attracted to women and didn’t feel the need to pretend in any but the most superficial way? The only source we have for assuming him to be hetero is his marriages. But gay men often married in the days before gaynes was acceptable or even legal. Oscar Wilde married. Tyrone Power married. It means nothing. And the only other ‘romance’ attributed to him is with the famous lesbian Eva Le Gallienne, but was this a marriage or the deal often struck between lesbians and gay women of a marriage of convenience?

    Rathbone’s comment about Flynn’s beautiful body is consistent with a man who is comfortable in private with his orientation, even if he preserves public decencies. And aren’t Flynn”s insecurities and neuroses and promiscuity only the other side of the same coin? The misery and frantic over-compensation of a man who couldn’t accept his own sexuality?

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    • You know what, Claude? You’re right. I am a dubious researcher because I didn’t follow the trail of no evidence to its inevitable conclusion that Rathbone was gay because he used the word “beautiful” about Errol Flynn. Similarly, at one point Flynn used the term “out of this world” describing his dinner at Mocambo–obviously he was telling the world he was a Martian and I missed that too.

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      • Claude Rains says

        let me ask you a question – do you think Flynn was 100% straight? And Rathbone? Would you describe another man as beautiful? (assuming you are straight)

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        • rosebette says

          As I recall, Jack Warner called Flynn a “sexy, animal package.” Was Jack Warner gay, too?

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    • Yes Marcia,thanks to your site i see Basils handsome face everytime i turn on my laptop.Those blue eyes are really something on that picture!

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  10. Melanie says

    You know what is really annoying. I think my mother had a copy of A Lady Surrenders taken off the TV in the early 1980s. She, like me, was a big Basil fan.

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  11. Thank you Ms Jessen. I assumed the person who contributes here as HRD was a relative of Basils, possibly a grandchild, though I see on looking he/she has never said so.

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  12. rosebette says

    Thanks, Marcia, for your interview, and for your wonderful site, BasilRathbone.net, which I’ve been following for years. My own input on the Rathbone/Ouida relationship — perhaps Basil was the creative type and Ouida the more controlling motherly type, and he needed that aspect of her personality for some reason, and tolerated her spending because of it. My husband says I’m kind of controlling, too, but we’ve been together 29 years, and he still thinks the world of me, although many might see me as a prickly personality. My husband is a diabetic and workaholic, so I can be a bit of a nag about his health, but he acknowledges he needs me. He’s also the extrovert that other people tend to like more. Perhaps Ouida threw all those parties because she wanted to be liked, and that was the only way she knew how to get people to like her, while her charming husband got along so well with people was easy to like. On the other hand,in my marriage, I’m the thrifty one who tries to prepare a meal at home when hubby wants to go out and spend 50 bucks on dinner, so I don’t think I’m a Ouida in that regard. In any case, who is to say what the dynamic is in a long-term relationship? No marriage is perfect. There is a lot to be said for a couple having a history together and raising a child together, which Basil and Ouida did. Too bad so little is known about Cynthia, other than that she adored her father and died young.

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    • I think it’s safe to say Ouida did more than spend lavishly. She seems to hav ruined her husband financially. I find that a lot more difficult to understand than the occasional spending spree. Hard to understand why she would do it and consign her husband to the humiliation of those later films, hard to understand, as Marcia says, why he let her. If my wife did anything similar I’d consider it grounds for divorce!

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  13. ParkerFan says

    I have a question for Marcia (or anyone who can answer)

    Years ago now, I read I somewhere that a number of Dorothy Parker’s poems in the volume “Death and Taxes” were dedicated to and written for Basil Rathbone in the late 1920s. I have always “known” this but now I can’t find any reference for it, Yet I am absolutely _certain_ I read it, and even annotated my personal copy of D&T with the information (I still have that copy and the annotations are there so I’m not imagining it!) The poems I annotated as having been written for him were “Purposely Ungrammatical Love Song.” “Little Words” and “Grande Passion.” Can you help me with any background to this?

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    • I’m afraid I can’t help with the Dorothy Parker question. I’ve read that she described Basil as “two profiles pasted together.” I don’t recall reading anything else about Dorothy Parker and Basil Rathbone. Anyone else know about the poem dedication?

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      • rosebette says

        I teach English and American literature, and I’ve never heard it either. I read the poems in question online, and they could be about anyone. The only detail is the one about blue eyes in one of them; Basil had gray or blue eyes, but so do many people. If there was an affair it would be after he was married to Ouida, since Death and Taxes was published around 1931.

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    • I’m afraid I too have never heard of this before, and as you say there’s nothing on line about who the poems may or may not be dedicated to. Do you remember anything else that might aid in discovering if your annotations are accurate?

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      • Parkerfan says

        I’m afraid not. All my note says is “written for and dedicated to Basil Rathbone. NYC” I stupidly didn’t even cite the source.

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  14. This is a grand interview. Miss Jessen, allow me to congratulate you on your hard work. You seem like a very retiring person who doesn’t seek the limelight, so it’s nice to see you receive some.

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  15. Alyssia says

    So you take the view of mean spirited and jealous people about Ouida rather than the views of her loving husband? Why would he lie about her? It’s other people who have lied. His son was simply resentful as children of first marriages can be, but Ouida still befriended him and brought him back into Basil’s life. What greater gift could a wife give her husband?

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    • Anita Vaudricourt says

      Who says they were mean-spirited? You’re making an awful lot of assumptions, based on what?

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      • Alyssia says

        they are assuming the worst about a man who can’t defend himself and about the woman he loved!

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    • I don’t know that Basil lied about Ouida. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. But there are conflicting reports about her, and none of them are favorable. So that makes me wonder. “Why would Basil lie about her?” I don’t know. Why would everyone else lie about her? Why would Christopher Plummer lie? Why would Jed Harris lie? We may never know, but it’s intriguing that no one seems to have liked her.

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      • Alyssia says

        Of course he didn’t lie about Ouida! Why would he? If you could understand their relationship you’d know why she inspired so much jealousy. People come here claiming to know them, but they don’t. It’s just a bid for attention. Anyone who really knew them like Michael Druxman knows they were devoted. And the idea he had some like you said someone had told you. It’s ridiculous. No one could mean anything to him beside his darling wife.

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        • I never met Basil or Ouida, so I have no choice but to form my opinions about them from what other people have said or written about them, including what Basil and Ouida wrote themselves.Unless you knew them personally, you are doing the same thing: basing your opinion on what you have read. And that’s okay. We can respect one another’s opinions and still have a civil conversation, can’t we? What you wrote about people who “come here claiming to know them” is unkind.

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          • Alyssia says

            There are lots of ways of knowing someone. think you can know a lot about someone from reading their own words, or even from just looking at a photograph. Everything I see in Basil Rathbone is beautiful, honest an true. A true husband and a true friend. I don’t believe he would cheat on his wife and I don’t believe he would lie about her in his book

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            • No there are not lots of ways of knowing someone. There is only one way of knowing someone. Would you accept the suggestion I know you better than your parents because I’ve read your comments here? No, because it’s ridiculous. You didn’t know either of them at all. I did.

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