BIOGRAPHY, Relationships
Comments 209

a closer look at the second Mrs Rathbone part IV

How much Basil Rathbone knew about his second wife’s past is debatable. Some of the things he said about her in public suggest she might have been keeping certain things from him. For example he said in one magazine interview that he’d been unsure when he first got to know her whether Ouida believed in divorce or if she would be willing to dissolve her marriage to Fitzmaurice in order to wed him – (True Story, 1940) which makes pretty much no sense if he’d known she’d been married and divorced at least once previously.

So, it may be he never knew about Mr Burgess in Little Rock.

Or about Little Rock at all.

Or about Mr Weadock – if indeed she ever married a man by that name.

Or even about Eula/Eunie Branch.

He generally puts over the image of Ouida as a very morally upright woman with strong religious convictions, who was keen to be married in a church and even refused to stay in the same hotel with him until they were legally married.

Does this totally jibe with Eula/Eunie, married at nineteen, divorced by 24, married once or twice more before she was forty and with a “niece’ in tow whose precise parentage remains to date obscure?

I’m not sure it does. I’m not sure this isn’t an invented set of moral principles to go with her invented history. Ouida Bergere, the exotic European lady who spoke only the “Spanish language” until she was four and who believed in the sanctity of wedding vows and no sex before marriage.

Maybe she intuitively sensed the rather lost, vulnerable, romantic and gentle young Rathbone would respond well to this suggestion she was an old-school virtuous woman, alone and in need of protection. So she simply turned on what he wanted to see.

If so, he bought it one hundred per cent. And his attitude to her from the outset seems to have been a bit like a knight of old pursuing the favor of a chaste demoiselle. At least that’s the impression given by many of the things he said subsequently, and by the dedication written to her not long after they first met…

“Ouida my own, my dearest….”Oh ye Gods render me worthy…”

“Ouida my own, my dearest….”Oh ye Gods render me worthy…”

You’ve gotta play the odds and assume no one had ever talked to short, chubby average-looking, averagely-talented Eunie Branch quite like that before. And almost certainly not a man who looked like young Basil Rathbone, romantic matinee idol. Did she realize how insanely above her weight she was punching? Or did she just think “finally, someone who gets how freakin’ great I am”?

And did he ever get to know about Mr Burgess? or Little Rock? Or Eunie/Eula? or did he go to his grave thinking her real name was Ouida and her first hubbie had been George Fitzmaurice?

In the summer of 1947, twenty-four years after her husband-to-be had written that inscription, exiled from Hollywood, and not having written anything professionally for (what a coincidence)twenty-four years, Ouida Rathbone suddenly decided her talent was needed to "improve" the play (THE HEIRESS) her husband had been asked to star in.

Even if she had been a successful playwright herself this is a massively inappropriate thing to do. But bearing in mind Ouida had never had a play produced professionally at all, this was not just boundary-deficient and presumptuous, it was also slightly insane.

But, rather than do the only self-protecting, sensible thing and tell her to back off before she wrecked his chance of a great part, Basil inexplicably humored her mad idea, and invited the director, Jed Harris and the authors, Ruth and Augustus Goetz, round to his apartment to listen to her read out her suggested rewrites from "piles of yellow paper."

Jed Harris, director of "The Heiress"

Jed Harris, director of “The Heiress”

Harris recorded his impression of the whole, awful, embarrassing thing. Ouida sat there – reading aloud – while the authors and the director looked on in silent disbelief, and Basil "leaned forward in a Hamlet-like attitude." When Ouida said “you are free to use anything I’ve written,” Basil jumped in to say "yes perhaps it would be better that way." pretty obviously as a means of drawing things to a close as quickly as possible. And everyone went home.

Ouida’s rewrites were never used, or even discussed again so far as we know.

Why had Rathbone done this? Why had he (presumably at her prompting) invited Harris and the Goetzes to come round? Why allow his wife to put him through the excruciating embarrassment of seeming to condone her weird and antisocial behavior?

What makes this even weirder is, according to Jed Harris, Rathbone never made Ouida’s rewrites a stipulation in his contract. He just turned up in Harris's office the next day, and signed the contract without saying a word more about those embarrassing yellow pages. So, this is less about Ouida throwing her weight about and controlling him than it is Basil humouring her for a moment and then moving on. I think we have to see that embarrassing scene in the apartment as simply for Ouida's benefit, to give her the impression she was being consulted. Basil was evidently going along with a sort of charade, to make her feel good about herself, or to feed some delusion that she was "helping" his career.

Hold on to that thought and journey back with me another nine years to 1938.

brc196

Around that time Ouida had apparently gotten it into her head she was going back into screenwriting as a career. Even if she had been as talented as she liked to make out, this was a totally unrealistic proposition given the fact she hadn't worked in the industry for fifteen years and had never worked on a talking filmat all. Given the previously stated fact that she just wasn't a very good writer, her hopes of “going back to work” were borderline delusional.

But then Ouida seems to have specialized in delusional thinking, and this was just the latest example.

Basil valiantly went in to bat for her on this occasion, just as he would nine years later in New York. He gave an interview for Photoplay in March 1938 that pretty much set out the story Ouida presumably wanted to be seen as "the truth" at that time…

click to read the PDF

click to read the PDF

“My wife was Ouida Bergere before we were married. She was a successful screen writer. Paramount was paying her thousands of dollars a week so I think you might say she was well along in her career. The day she married me she quit writing, abandoned her career. Or rather changed it. For twelve years, Ouida’s career has been – me…..

….She was a practical woman then, as she is now. She knew first that there should be only one pay check in a family. Two pay checks mean two separate lives. If she continued her work she would have had to be in Hollywood, while my interests were still on the stage in New York. She said, ‘If you are very much in love with something, you must be with it. I can’t write in Hollywood when you are in New York. So I won’t write!…

..rightly or wrongly, Ouida considers her job with me done now. She thinks I am established at last and capable of looking after myself. She feels she can relax now and return to writing, the career she abandoned to see me through. And it was she who saw me through – because, if I hadn’t met my wife, I honestly don’t know what would have happened to me, for until then my life had no direction…..”

This is a lot of self-abasement. And a great deal of it is hard to reconcile with verifiable reality. In fact the image he puts over of himself as a hopeless loser and Ouida as a dynamic success at the time they met is almost the reverse of the truth. In 1923, when he first spoke to her at a party, he was a star on the London stage and a huge hit on Broadway where he was playing with Eva Le Gallienne in THE SWAN, whereas Ouida had already finished her last screenplay and was effectively done in Hollywood.

swan09

Rathbone and Eva Le Gallienne in THE SWAN, the show that took 1923 Broadway by storm

The story being sold in this article is a “Ouida-reality” from the same alternative dimension where she gets to have been born on a train bound for Madrid and to have spoken only the “Spanish language” until she was four. It doesn’t even make any sense on its own terms. I mean if she really had given up work because she knew “two pay checks meant two separate lives” – then why was she planning to start working again?

But what makes it more interesting to us, is that this is Basil talking, not Ouida, and he is going along with her reinvention, following her script – to the point of undermining his own career and his own character – just to big up his wife in the press. Even though this narrative was a travesty of the truth and had the effect, not just of promoting Ouida, but of devaluing him almost to negation – making him no more than the sum total of Ouida’s self-sacrificing bid to turn him into a real human being – Rathbone adopted it unreservedly, and hammered the point home over and over "eagerly and humbly" as the slightly bemused journalist remarked. Just as in 1947 and THE HEIRESS debacle he’s helping her live a little dream of what she wants to be, at the expense of truth, sense, and even his own personal and professional pride. He’s there outside the tent she’s pitched, shilling for her, selling an image of her as she wanted to think she was – dynamic, successful, multi-talented, a Godsend to the man she married.

Is this weakness? Or something else?

The unidentified actress I quoted a while back on this blog said, memorably – “she didn’t take the power, he gave it to her.”

“…He was a much stronger person, a much more grown up person than she was. He was gentle, he rarely got mad – but he could – he really really could believe me. He was gentle but he was a very strong presence, very commanding and –don’t fuck with me – and you couldn’t screw with him unless he wanted to let you. I couldn’t. He wouldn’t take anything like that from me or from anyone but her…”

Why did he feel the need to do that? What was driving him to that kind of extreme? Is this “love”? Or something more like paying off a debt he thought he owed her? Was he still struggling to be “worthy” even after she’d wrecked his finances, forced him to whore himself out in order to pay the family bills, and pretty much destroyed his professional self-respect?

If that’s true – then why?

I think that question is beyond the scope of this blog. That is for a biographer to try and answer.

And thus ends the fourth and last part of our Ouida Series.

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209 Comments

  1. GRETCHEN says

    HI…IT’S ME, AGAIN!!
    WOW— I’LL BET OL’ BAZ NEVER WOULDA THOUGHT THAT SOMEDAY HIS OWN LIFE WOULD BE THE SUBJECT OF A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY! THEY SHOULD MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT HIM, CALLED: “THE ADVENTURES OF BASIL RATHBONE”! STARRING— JOHNNY DEPP! …JUST KIDDIN’. 🙂

    I’m gonna try and not use the caps lock now…although it is rather tempting. I read earlier comments about opinions and rumors on Basil’s sexuality. Well, I know he was very open-minded when it came to sex, and believed strongly in equal rights for everyone. He was quite upset when he and his fellow actors got arrested for doing a play about homosexuality and adultery. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with a person’s sexual identity, or the way they lived. He was a pretty cool (and brave) dude to stand-up for the rights of those who were persecuted, especially at that time in history. Now, as to his own sexuality…from what I’ve read and studied over several years, I’ve come to the conclusion that he was possibly bisexual. A true bisexual person is usually more attracted to one sex, and also has tendencies to explore and feel attractions to the other sex, as well…eventually settling into a monogamous relationship with one of the two. (This, of course, would be a healthy bisexual person, not a cheater.) Basil was a very sensual person, and had the female qualities usually characteristic of men who are bi. His good friend Vincent Price was bisexual (as well as his wife Coral), and so was Jeremy Brett. Yet, each of these people fell in love and married into hetero relationships. This is how bisexuality usually works. There may be a bit of experimentation during adolescence and young adulthood, and that’s it— or, it may be a lifelong thing. All in all, I believe that if Basil was bi, it would be a marvelous thing, because bisexuals are more in-touch with both realms of the sexes, and are able to better understand all people in a more empathic way.

    As for what Alyssia implies— that Basil was 100% celibate between marriages, and completely monogamous…of course not!! This is obviously the wishful thinking of a purist, who doesn’t believe in the fact that we are all beautiful, human, and sexual, and there’s nothing wrong with that…and I was raised super-Catholic! Ridiculous. He probably lost his virginity in his teens, like most young men, and dated before he married his first wife, Marion. I know he wasn’t monogamous while he was separated from her; sleeping-around after the war. This also disputes the claim of his “celibacy”. He may have messed-around with the guys in the trenches, for all we know, as this was common in wartime. Back in 2000, I read on the “master of stage and screen” site that Basil, in an interview on a Christian TV program in the ’60s, stated that “sex without love is just sex”. This clearly implies his firsthand knowledge of having had many lovers in his time, and how empty and unhappy it made him, until he met Ouida. He also mentioned that “falling in love with your best friend” is the best kind of relationship, because it’s more intimate and fun than sex alone. I suppose he considered her to be his best friend, because of all the good times and silly moments they shared. That makes me happy, knowing he loved her like that. This also means the sex they enjoyed must have been quite passionate, and made Basil feel good to be alive again for the first time since the war. It’s too bad that most likely Ouida’s passion for him was due more to his status and paycheck. Hopefully, he never knew this, and was able to love her without any doubts until his sudden (and too early) death.

    HEY, I JUST THOUGHT OF SOMETHING FUNNY…BASIL WAS A KNIGHT, AND HE MARRIED “MAID” MARION!! HAR-HAR! (NOT-SO-CASUAL INFERENCE TO “ROBIN HOOD”.) NOW, THAT’S PRETTY COOL. I WONDER IF HE PLANNED IT THAT WAY…NAH! WHEN HE WAS A KID, PRETENDING TO BE A KNIGHT AND STUFF, HE NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED THAT HE’D ACTUALLY GROW-UP TO BE ONE FOR REAL! “NO-WAY!!” SAID HIS BRAIN JUST BEFORE IT EXPLODED FROM SHEER AWESOMENESS. 🙂

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    • Johny Depp as Basil Hmmm.. not as good looking[nobody is are they] but still cute. Not convinced ..but on the other hand can’t come up with anyone better, that is still alive that is. Perhaps Johny Depps looks, Lou Dimond Phillips intensity,[think “Young Guns”]Humm.. nope still cant cast this movie with any young actor I can think of. Haveing said that, Gosh I’d like to see Johny Play him,even if I still think he’s out of his leauge.

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  2. Aubrey M says

    I have been reading your various essays on Ouida and I have been fascinated. This is very good writing.

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  3. ProtoAuthor says

    I am very impressed by the standard of the articles on this blog. I am writing a study of the Universal Horror Stars and this has been very helpful, thanks

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  4. roesbette says

    I think that there was something deep that tied them together for so long. I think that what happened between Basil, Ouida, and his family by his first marriage is a matter of speculation. As you know, he says nothing about it in his autobiography, so it’s a mystery that those on the “biography project” need to delve into. Also, people make a lot of mistakes in relationships, but relationships can repair and endure. Who is to say what is the dynamic of a long-term marriage?

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    • I can say the claim Ouida didn’t want Basil to associate with his son and grandkids isn’t just speculation. It’s been confirmed by his grandchildren on several occasions.

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      • SE Dahlinger says

        I heard Heloise Rathbone give a talk in which she unequivocally stated that Ouida was the reason that Basil never saw his grandchildren.

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  5. roesbette says

    Usually people who pick someone who is “bad” for them go from one bad choice to another. I can’t see sticking it out for 40 years with someone who is “bad” for him. My own feeling is that she gave him emotional stability in his life. Also, if you see some of the early pictures of Ouida, she is an attractive woman. His memoir speaks of her beautiful coloring, and I’d assume black and white photos don’t do that justice. When we see photos of her in the 1930s and later, remember she’s already in her mid to late 40s (or even 50s) and photographed with women who are many years younger and among Hollywood’s most glamorous peple. Sorry, gals, but while some men continue into gorgeousness well into their 50s, many of us (without the help of plastic surgery) don’t fare so well. Look at Bette Davis in some of the movies she made in the 1950s; she was only in her 40s then. Now, everyone has bo-tox, etc., and look like wax figures into their 70s.

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    • Jerome says

      I appreciate what you say and you are probably right, because I am very new to this, but if as some people say here Ouida kept him from seeing his son and grandchildren, and if she lied to him all the time and even pretended to be ill to manipulate him, then I don’t see how she was good for him, or even a very normal or decent human being, and from what I have read of him I would think Basil was too intelligent not to realize this, so the only reason i could imagine he stayed with her would be either he was insanely in love with her and blind to her activities, or he in some way was elf-destructively drawn to her. Does that make sense?

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    • I’d actually disagree with the generalization. Some men loose their looks totally in mid-life and some women don’t. Susan Sarandon, Isabella Rossellini, both continue looking fab into their sixties without having work. Sometimes getting work done ruins looks rather than preserves them. But anyhow it’s not about Ouida’s looks, it’s about her as a person. I don’t see people saying “wow she was so ugly” I see people saying “wow she was so WEIRD,” which is much more interesting.

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  6. Roberta says

    I am a complete tyro, but is it possible Basil had some sort of self-destruction wish? It’s almost as if he picked Ouida because she was bad for him, I mean.

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  7. Harmonica Joe says

    Is that Ouida in the photo with Basil – I mean the first photo, because she looks a lot hotter than she usually does

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    • Roberta says

      Here here, this site is like Basil heaven! I spend my time going between this and Basil Rathbone Master of Stage and Screen. The latter has so much wonderful information, and this has so much discussion, I am learning a lot – at the expense of my day job!

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  8. Miriam says

    I could say I wish more men were as loving and loyal as he was, but maybe that would be missing your point, which I do get. Maybe she did love him and he loved her despite the problems

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  9. Roberta says

    I’m very new to Basil fandom. How much is known about his love life? I have read here and on Wiki about his two marriages and his affair with Eva Le Gallienne, but are there others? He just strikes me as a man who would have been very aware of and responsive to women, emotionally and physically, and probably capable of getting involved with them quite easily (I’m just saying what my instinct tells me there). Was he faithful to his seemingly awful wife? I have to admit I sort of hope he wasn’t!

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    • Alyssia says

      Basil was totally faithful to Ouida from the moment he met her until the day he died. He was a very moral man and was only ever physically involved with women he was married to, who were Marion (a youthful mistake) and Ouida (the love of bis life)

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    • There are lots of rumors and anecdotal evidence that Basil had extramarital affairs in Hollywood, but so far no concrete evidence has been published. Many of Basil’s ardent fans believe that Ouida was the love of his life and that he was faithful to her. That’s probably not true.

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      • Roberta says

        This is very interesting. Is it possible to say what the rumors etc were? I’m so fascinated by this!

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        • I was referring to rumors that have been talked about on this blog. I received an e-mail from someone who said her mother had an affair with Basil. Another person wrote that his great uncle Sidney Greenstreet told him that Basil had an affair (or some involvement) with a gay actor and later an affair with that actor’s wife. An actress is quoted in the book Universal Horrors as saying that Basil boasted of his sexual conquests. These are just a few of the rumors that we’ve heard.

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  12. I am becoming seriously addicted to this blog and to the unfolding story of Rathbone’s life. I read Druxman’s biography some years ago, and I have to say he must be feeling frustrated he didn’t have the benefit of recent research. is he planning to update his book?

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  13. roesbette says

    Sorry, but the name was “June.” So, you’ll have to fix that, too. And there’s very little about her, except that she was Basil’s “date” when he first visited Ouida at her Long Island house.

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  14. roesbette says

    finally received my “Bible” for Christmas, BR’s own In and Out of Character, which in literary terms is more of a memoir than a true autobiography. In the past, I’ve only read snippets here and there from searching the book in amazon, or quoted on this site or on basilrathbone.net. I must admit that reading it from cover-to-cover gives me new insight. While Basil’s bio is not completely “factual”, i believe it is honest in what it reveals about him and Ouida.

    I think he did truly love her whatever her foibles. As a teacher of writing and literature, I think the preface one of the most important parts of the book. He begins by dismissing any ideas that he is going to reveal anything damaging about the people he loves, perhaps already putting aside the speculations and criticisms of any who knew him well and knew about any of the inadequacies of the marriage. According to the section where he describes meeting Ouida, he calls her “Titian-haired” and he also refers to her as a natural redhead with alabaster skin. In his narrative, he is the one who makes the first move physically. He describes many aspects of his relationship with Ouida which woud make them a good match — they share the love of the same books, music, theater, the arts. (As a long-married person myself, I have to agree that a “long run” marraige needs this as much as or more than sexual chemisry.) I think he does refer in subtle ways to some of the more intimidating aspects of her character. He often calls her more “conservative” in terms of discipine and morals regarding the upbringing of their daughter and later on, her respect for social conventions. He comes across as more free-thinking and liberal, and emotionally a bit of a softy. (I was surprised by the many sentimental moments, particularly about his childhood and wartime experiences.) I do think Ouida probably did give his live more discipline and was a controlling influence in some ways, perhaps some positive, others negative (although you wo’;t hear that from him!)

    I find it interesting how he reveals in veiled ways that both of them were sexually experienced before marriage and that helped them also get along as a couple. Also, yes, he was a ladies’ man before Ouida. Not counting the wartime “almost” dalliance with “Marie” and his first roll in the hay with “Esther”, in his theater days, he refers to at least three laydfriends — another “Marie”, “Kitty”, and his first “Juliet” (not to mention “Joan” in the U.S., his date when he frist came as a guest to Ouida’s, and whom he admits he rudely abandoned). Alll of these while still legally married to (but separated from) Marion. He describes all of these escapades charmingly — with no rancor or misogyny, a real gentleman who loves women. So, he was no “St. Basil,” but a bit of a bohemian enjoying the free loving lifestyle of the theater. He adored Cynthia, his daughter, who is described as a willful but charming child, and if there were difficulties between him and Ouida in the 40s, I could see him as being inclined to stick it out with her and overcome them for the sake of the child.

    Anyway, I had a Merry Christmas devouring this lovely little book on the car ride to visit relatives!

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    • Brilliant take on his book.He was honest and never said everything was always smooth sailing.This website has made me love Baz more and more.Ouida said he only required the bare minimum to survive with a small “cell-like room”,so that must mean they didn’t have to sleep in the same room.When Baz asked her if she was involved with Jack,she told him don’t be ridiculous,he was too old.So why did he become part of their household until his death?

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      • Judy D. says

        Must read it again; been many years. A “cell-like room”–he also always took cold showers, he wrote. Brrr! Such a spartan life, at least till party-time; why?

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      • roesbette says

        From the autobiography, it seems as if Basil and Jack became good friends, and Jack accompanied him to England when he got his divorce. Of Jack, Basil writes, “Dear Jack Miltern… he was to become my foster father. And in years to come I was to see him killed on Los Felez Blvd.” Basil lost his own father around this time, so I wonder if this was why they became friends.

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      • Ulrika says

        He asked her if she was involved with him and she said “no”? But then he lived with them???

        Ok – is it just me or is something not right there?

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        • SE Dahlinger says

          John Miltern did not live with them. He had his own separate apartment on the property. IIRC it was over the garage. He gave Basil advice on financial matters and was at one time sweet on Ouida.

          Interestingly, John Miltern was the last stage Moriarty to play opposite the great William Gillette on Sherlock Holmes. He had had a wonderful career as a stage villain.

          It was Miltern who was the subject of the ghost story that Dick Cavett used to tell about the man who was struck by a car and almost instantly killed one night when he and Rathbone were out walking the family dogs.

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          • ticotico2 says

            Other things BR doesn’t mention in his book: two more brothers??? I recently found, googling Biographical Summaries of Notable People, Horace and Harold Rathbone, listed under Anna Barbara Rathbone. Who was a violinist, it also sez. I know these sites are often inaccurate, but then saw the brother list somewhere else. Were they her husband’s sons–BR’s brothers by another mother? The plot thickens once again.

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    • Very fine and perceptive review Ms Rose — But as Neve says – doesn’t Ouida’s assumption of being more straightlaced and moral than him seem to clash with her early life as we now know it? He says she was this morally correct woman who may have been too conformist to even divorce her first hubby – but in truth she had already been divorce at least once before he met her.

      It raises the question for me of how real his image of Ouida ever was and how much it might have been a persona she adopted in order to impress him and keep a hold on him.

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      • Judy D. says

        Bazz in his book says he isn’t going to dish dirt about anyone. He knew all about Hollywood lifestyles and paybacks. Aside from that, he was smart enough to know all about his wife’s background, and gentleman enough to not diminish her in his book or in interviews. He considered this their very private business. Whatever his view of her behind closed doors, he wanted her public image to be as decent as his own. There were many strange marriages in showbiz, as there certainly are still today, and we all know a few in our own circles. That’s my take on BR/OB at this point.

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        • roesbette says

          I’m inclined to agree. In several places in the book, he describes her as being very caring and solicitous of him, particularly when he was on tour on stage with the Katharine Cornell troup, where he became ill and had to have his tonsils removed. While we’re all “digging dirt” on Ouida, I have to admit the overall feeling of the book is that they did truly care for each other. Perhaps she did overspend his income and may have been jealous or suspicious of those who came close to Basil. If I was a woman insecure of her own background married to a handsome and charming guy 6 years my junior who was surrounded by some of the most glamorous women in the world maybe I’d be paranoid and controlling, too.

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  15. Alfonso says

    here is the “kissing pic” of Baz and Ouida – I have to agree with what others say – they do look like they are doing it reluctantly because the photographer asked them. It just looks like their marriage wasn’t very physically passionate.

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    • Megan says

      Well, I’m a life enhancement coach, and one thing I have to be aware of is body language. My reading of that photo and their body language is that physicality is not a normal part of their interaction. They are awkward with each other, not just the social setting, as might be the case with people who don’t like to express affection in public for example.

      It’s particularly significant that their hands are entirely disengaged from the process. They don’t touch each other. Most affectionate kisses, whether romantic or otherwise involve an instinctive touch with the hands, on the shoulders, arm or face usually. It’s very counter-intutitive to kiss someone affectionately or romantically without touching them as well. Try it yourselves.

      The hands not touching suggests underlying physical coldness or even hostility. And I would say it emanates more from the female than the male partner. He at least is leaning toward her, whereas she is resolutely keeping to her own space, her hands limply in her lap. Her reluctance could not be more telegraphed.

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  16. Celery Queen says

    I think this is an amazing story. Part love story part psychological study. You could almost write it as a novel.

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  17. Hermione says

    One thing you have to say about Basil – he wasn’t one of those celebs who is depressingly superficial and boringly bland in person!

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    • Sounds like the father,sister of Baz were nooses around his neck.He lived up to being a Liverpool Rathbone Scion,sort of like the caring people that William Wilberforce appealed to (AMAZING GRACE movie) in outlawing slave trading.He was attractive,so naturally he had many girlfriends,and seemed to feel the glorious first days of marriage die quite shortly after settling in together,possibly because they didn’t have much time to adjust and really know each other before becoming parents.Maybe an important issue with a sensitive spouse.He felt badly enough over their breakup,but I strongly suspect he knew what was best for his own mental health,as he seemed so high-strung.

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      • I think he was suffering from war trauma most of his life. When you think about it – not only did he have his own war experiences, but his brother died, his mother died and his sister went nuts, that’s almost his whole family wiped out. I think it’s lucky he didn’t en up in an asylum too. he must have been strong in his way to keep going.

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      • They knew each other for AT LEAST 11 months before they were married.Posibly more. They toured togather here in the USA in Nov. 1913. On the ships manifesto she is line 29 he is line 30.One would think they had to know each other,at least as long as rehersals,or as long as a ocean voyage before the tour.I wish I had payed more attentn to the book about Frank when I read it.Ithink there were lists of people in his co. wonder when she joined,we know Basil joined after 1911 that cencus finds him still as a insurance clerk.As he said in his book for The greater London ins co..If she is the lady whos death I found in 1976 it’s teribly swett shes still useing the last name Rathbone even after the divorce…mabey she never gave up hope..

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  18. I admit you make quite a good point. I had sort of mentally docketed Basil away as a henpecked husband, but indeed it may be that’s lazy thinking.

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  19. ok i lied http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk/catalogue/biog/?nid=RathP try as i might i cant find a link to the pictuer they are talking about. for this scroll down to the middle of the page under Jane Stringer Steward http://familytree.cheshirealan.org.uk/p207.htm and here which seems to be a link to some of the Rathbone papers ..to late to explore, tonight.http://archives.liv.ac.uk/ead/search?operation=full&rsid=3907&firstrec=1&numreq=20&highlight=1&recid=gb141rp-rpxxv.2 did i post this? http://www.stanford.edu/~dorcas/Rathbone.htmlhttp://www.stanford.edu/~dorcas/Rathbone.html

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      • When your looking for your grand parents great etc.the pros remind you,no one lives there life in a vacume.Most folks have a family…if you cant find anything on the person your looking for,try finding there family.It’s called the shotgun method. Basil comes from a large famous family..it’s amazing what you can find out about him,buy useing the shotgun method. Sherlock Holmes can teach you a lot of niffty stuff..

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  20. Judy D. says

    Here we go, part two. ____?__ News, Oct. 4, 1924. With small pix BR, George Fitzmaurice, and Florence Vidor. Will abbreviate names. (Under latter 2 pix it says “Director and movie star praised by his wife. You’re gonna love this one.”
    “OUIDA’S FOND OF FLO; AH! SO’S FITZMAURICE. And King Vidor’s Fond of ? Period, End Quote.
    Fresh from a summer vacation spent in England, OB, scenario writer and wife of GF, movie director, returned on the Aquitania yesterday, bringing with her more enthusiasm, an unfinished play and no end of praise for FV, cinema star.
    Ouida’s praise of the fair Florence is interesting when you remember that there has been talk about her contemplating divorcing King Vidor to marry Fitzmaurice. Ouida, on the other hand, has been reported as making legal preparations so that she can marry BR, who recently returned to resume his part in ‘The Swan.’
    When asked about this Ouida smiled sweetly and declined to talk about the matter.
    Praises Florence.
    ‘Whatever Fitzmaurice wants to say about it is his business,’ she said. A moment later she burst forth in praise of Florence.
    ‘Florence,’ she said, ‘is one of the nicest women in the movies. She has always kept herself clean. And let me tell you that Fitzmaurice will be a mighty lucky man if he is ever able to get her.’
    Mrs. Fitzmaurice went to the Hotel Belmont, where she will remain until Sunday. Marie Doro, the actress, leased Mrs. Fitzmaurice’s home near Sutton pl. until that date and refused to move out before the expiration of the lease.”
    Article follows with info on other famous passengers, including Carl Laemmle, president of Universal Pictures, “who claims he has found another Valentino in the person of Andre Mattoni of Czecko-Slovakia”….
    [Chee, wasn’t one enough. Guess it didn’t work out. And what did Ouida mean by “She has always kept herself clean”? I suppose she means scandal-free. Or maybe the devoon Ms. Flo was susceptible to the odd venereal disease and Ouida was having a bit of an inside joke…. Jeez, I’m worse than her!]
    Oh, and can’t forget this one (no date/source), with photo of OB (wearing glasses) and BR, looking at what seems to be anopen program. “One of the ‘nicest women’: Ouida Rathbone, here with husband Basil. Reason: She does more with less fanfare than a lot of others who stand in the publicity spotlight.”
    I have part of a very bombastic interview from The Billboard, Nov. 24, 1923, pg. 24, with photo of him currently in “The Swan,” but too long to quote right now. Maybe someone can find a nice readable copy online!

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    • Hi Judy – this is fantastic! is there any way of sending me copies? Even a bad scan is better than nothing just so we have the record. I’ll email you actually 🙂

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      • Judy D. says

        Thanks for your response. If I were to scan clippings, how can I attach them to this? I have an awful lot of them, but could look for the more interesting ones. I also found the missing book of clippings. Bought it from AbeBooks.com in 2008, a great emporium of BR stuff. If there was one copy, there must be more out there. Edited by G.D. Hamann; title: Basil Rathbone In the ’30s. Filming Today Press, Hollywood, (c) 1999. His address was 2365 Scarff St., Los Angeles, CA 90007, (213) 746-7899, so maybe he can be found by your enterprising horde of sleuths. The book is mostly typewritten, paper-bound, 8.5×11, over 82 pages! (Unfortunately, the good stuff happened in the 1920s and the 1940s!) His introduction says he’s doing a series of books intended to recreate some of the flavor of newspaper coverage of major 1930s movie stars. He says many old hard copies of newspapers were destroyed, or entertainment sections vandalized before microfilming, so the best records at the time were in Calif. or the Library of Congress. Give him a try!

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          • Judy D. says

            Oboy!! Thanks; will start picking through the pile. Maybe not today–sunny out and Tenn. rescue dawg Dixie Moritza Rathbone needs a walk–but there will be a cascade. (Yes, there are also cats, Tangerine Rathbone-Jones [the Jones for the yummy Tom Jones], Basil Lovebug Snookie-Ookums Rathbone, and the simple Tico-Tico. Never volunteer in an animal shelter, yuck yuck.)

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      • Next time i’m around to the district Lib. I’ll check out to see if they still have there newspaper and magizen collection.They “DID” have a huge one. They ought to have the press. I could check if that ‘arteeeckkel’ ;} has a photo with it. Ought to have Billboard too. I went through it at one time reading all the stuff on Basil and his family that I could find.But at that time I had noway to photo copy all of it.Sadly about all I rember was reading an art. on Basil playing at the theater in that town.]before i was born sadly]Also rember reading a couple of letters that Edgar wrote back to a SouthAfrican paper/also to an English paper on some kinda politicks .Pretty boring,so I dont recall why they stuck with me.

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      • This – “People ask me why I don’t appear in better pictures and they mention ‘Becket” and ‘Dr. Zhivago.’ Well, there aren’t many pictures like that in any one year and besides, nobody asks me.”

        So, why didn’t they ask him???

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  21. Lourdes says

    I think we should think about something Judy said – namely that Basil may not have been responsible for the lovey “verbiage” (just the right word) in those magazine articles. How were such things put together?

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  22. Judy D. says

    I just so happen to have a lot of old clips on BR, one bunch of which in binder form prepared by someone and which I found on Abe Books being impossible to find at the moment, so turning to Plan B, here is some fun press on our hero’s divorce/marriage situ back in 1925 (will abbreviate names unless articles have unusual spelling or whatever):
    NY Review, June 20, 1925. “BR to wed OB. English Actor Wins Divorced Wife of Picture Director. (Special to The New York Review.) Los Angeles, Cal. June 18.–BR, leading man for Elsie Ferguson at the Biltmore Theatre, has admitted his engagement to OB, former wife of George Fitzmaurice, the picture director.
    Rathbone obtained a divorce six months ago in London, while Fitzmaurice was awarded a divorce from his wife here in December on the grounds of desertion.”
    _?__ American, July 7, 1925. “BR’s Wife Gets Decree. Paris, July 6.–Mrs. Ethel Marian Rathbone was today granted a divorce from BR on the ground of infidelity.
    Rathbone is an English actor, who played in ‘The Czarina’ and ‘The Swan’ in New York and now is in San Francisco.”
    [Note: so they musta done it once–or was it Ethel’s infidelity??]
    Undated, unsourced partial newspaper article; starts out about King and Florence Vidor and their divorce. They parted “the very best of friends. Florence, formerly a bashful, quiet sort, blossomed. ‘Freed from an incompatible husband,’ as the movie folks had it, she became ‘the toast of Hollywood.’ [Shades of OB!!] She was much in New York, as was George Fitzmaurice. OB, the scenario writer, divorced ‘Fitz’ several years ago, but he went ahead and built one of the finest houses in all Hollywood, evidently with his eye on somebody or other. Studio gossip said it was ‘on’ Florence Vidor, even while her trial separation was still being tried. Ouida, the titian-haired, in case you don’ remember and before we forget it, married BR, the English actor, in the Beekman mansion, No. 439 East Fifty-first street, last April.” Then it goes on about Eleanor Boardman and King Vidor’s relationship and marriage. With photos of KV, EB, BR, OB.
    OOOh, found another cutie, with OB quotes. Will send separately, in case I lose all this and have to retype it again, egads. (These photocopies are hard enough to read, and not sure scanning and sending to the site would be worthwhile.)

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    • My Basil is definitely quoted as having had many girlfriends while separated from Marion,including on the boat from England to start working on Broadway.Not sure if David Niven meant Basil alone as having many girlfriends,lovers,mistresses,or the many British actors he dished on in his books.He’d definitely be worth seeing,I thought he’s most attractive.

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    • I dont understand this coment? “[Note: so they musta done it once–or was it Ethel’s infidelity??]” Well i would guess Basil jr. was proof they “done it once”..He looks so much like his dad,Or more actuly I think he looks alot like John, still theres that family resmblance.I’ve never seen Marion.Or did you meen he and ouida done it once?

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    • Judy D. says

      I meant that if Marion and BR were divorced for infidelity either he had done it at least once with Ouida or with someone else, or Marion had. But it seems (David Niven quote later) that BR had quite a love life. That is certainly a great relief, but makes Ouida seem even more unlikely.

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  23. Larry Clifton says

    Appreciating Rathbone’s commanding uniqueness, and success so early, it is quite possible that Ouida’s obstreperous side may have “cut” his career with those in power. It has certainly happened with such spouses interfering!

    Having met Rathbone, when I–as a teen– saw him at a college lecture, as well as getting an autographed photo of him from Ouida, when I was at NYU–at the behest of the great film historian William Everson, my mentor, I feel that your ‘new info.’ justifies such a feeling. He is among my students’ favorite stars in my cinema class. Keep up your good work. His fans seem legion–as I always suspected!

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    • Hi Larry – I posted your comment for you. It’d be very cool to see your autographed photo – if you could send me a scan of it?

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  24. seems like a good place to jump in.As i stated eayler i spent the afternoon looking for Basil and Ouidas wed licence..no luck. finding anything on that lil woman is like pulling teath out of a chicken! .but I found Basil and Marions.keeping it short and sweet it reads” 1914 church of St Luke Parrish of Batterea London,oct 3 1914 Phillip St. John Basil Rathbone age 23 bachelor, profession actor, of 24 Hendrick. Ave. Father Eddgar Philip Rathbone occupation mining engineer wed Ethel Marion Forman age 27 spinster on profession, of 29 Bassaley rd. Newport mons dau of Edward Forman occupation member of the British Collage Of Physical Education. in the presence of Barbara Rathbone and Edward Forman”

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    • Am still looking for Cynthia’s death cert. so far no luck.no luck on Bea’s either. found Edgars July 14 1924 and Annie’s July 14 1917 she left it all to Basil. He left it all to Bea.[ in her name not in the name of a instution or a caretaker?]Wasnt Bea alive when Basil wrote IAOOC? if not the why the sentence,about her mourning ..still to this day..or such like. whille i’m about it Marion..well it MIGHT BE HER Ethel Marion Rathbone died 2nd of July 1976 Hillindon London. B. June 2 1887[.which might or might not be her]. I have more if anyones interested?

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      • Oh and I dont know who gave the answers here him or her? someone had to say it, the Captian didnt make it up. but it’s a passenger list: Passenger list: arriving on or leaving on[i was in a hurry,running out of time and couldnt re read what i wrote.] The Eroupa from Berman Germany: Oct 27 1933, Phillip Rathbone b.1892 age 41 Ouida Bergere Bathbone b 1896 Lil Rock Ark. theres that age thing again…but the place is correct. once again folks oct 1937.

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      • I imagine this was a typo on your part. Basil wrote that his father died on his (Basil’s) birthday: June 13. How odd that Basil’s mother would leave everything to her son rather than her husband! And equally odd that the father wouldn’t leave his estate to both children.

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        • Why leave it to her husband she probly thought or knew he was financily set. She might also have expected to out live Edgar. What did she die of,i have no clue? the book i got it from didnt say. John left it all,in his will,says he had one,to Bea too. Perhaps each parent chose a dif child…the child each thought needed most.And if june 14 is a typo this time at least it’s not mine.I wasnt there,it could have been around midnight and Basil rembered it as the 13..or the person reporting the death could have goten the time wrong..I know from doing my own family genealogy i’ve some strange things writen on death certs.including that one of my great great grandpas died from corns..not true.

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          • Judy D. says

            Did the Spanish ‘Flu epidemic hit Europe in 1917, or was it 1918? That could be what happened to his mother; so many died of it in just a few years. Maybe also the sister…interesting that she seems to just disappear as if into a London fog.

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            • No I have Bea up till 1922 when she dissaperes from ancestory at least. I have her ariveing may 8 1922 at South hampton on an English Ship called Arundel Castel from South Af. pretty sure its her Beatrice George Rathbone age 28 born 1894 S.A. for oucpation it says nil. after her name is a lot of blured letters posably{ N.B.S.A. guraw p.l.c. london coael E.G} but that best guessing because there all but inposible to read. I dont realy find it odd if it IS her for her to have been staying in S.A. her moms family was probly there.I dont know If she did die..as I said B$ didnt Bail say”till this day”? about his sis mourning? prehaps he was staying with family.

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            • My 1st thought was the Spanish flu too. But i know it didnt hit usa till 1918, so i did a bit of binging and came up with this. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWinfluenzia.htm
              it was a good idea but probly not.I dont think people rember how bad it was i read once that there probly wasnt a family in usa that wasnt touched by it in some way.The house i lived in before i bought this house i belive the mom died of it..news paper wasnt clear on cause of death only that it was a sudden illness and about a couple days latter the headlines were shouting flu hits tow. all verry sad.

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              • Judy D. says

                Thanks for the info. End of that line of thought, if her date of death is accurate. What an awful epidemic it was. It would have been tragic if BR had brought the disease home with him and infected his mother.

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      • No, no link. i have to acess it at the libary. Not from home. Beside i belive that ancestory has so many blockers if i did copy the link it would only be blocked,if you tried to ascess it without a subscpiption any how.I could posibly copy it and send you a scan. No it dosent say actress.But I know she was.With Sir Franks troupe which is how i would supouse they met,in the 1st place.They toured togather I thought it odd too that his mom was witness and not his dad.

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        • Edgar was a minning engiener,perhaps his work took him away from home for periods of time? Or perhaps he disaproved of the wedding?Looks like her dad was ok with it. Unless there was a previous lil Rathbone we dont know about,that died. It wasnt a shotgun wedding.Basil jr was born over 9mo. from wedding date. ;} I know they knew each other in 1913,they toured with each other,that year.

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  25. Judy D. says

    I don’t want to search through the hundreds of comments but did want to comment on an early one about a letter he painstakingly replied to; a fan who had sent him a bond. In those days celebrities apparently hadn’t been put on alert by stalkers and shooters, but there certainly were a lot of disturbed people around, same as today. I think he was simply trying in a very polite way to return the money to her and discourage her from similar communications. I suppose very few celebs actually responded to much mail; the one I knew, who reached his height of radio/TV fame in the 1950s, would reply now and then by way of his secy.’s typed note (e.g., his eBay site), but in later years he would sometimes reply personally by pen (eBay). I have both types. I know of at least one disturbed woman whom I was at fault for enabling, by supplying his private PO Box No. and office phone number (thankfully did not provide her his private number!!), and one of his secys. had to patiently deal with her calls for years. The good side is I got a lot of info out of her, since by then I was on the outs with him, no doubt in part because of her. She even “married” him out in the street in front of a group of bemused local rabbis before her family had her temporarily institutionalized.
    So the bond incident is perhaps an example of BR’s innate sympathy for those with mental disturbances. I don’t know if his sister stayed institutionalized for long after her brother’s death; don’t think he ever refers to her again in his book. And hey, who knows what his first wife was like? The notorious actors’ temperament has to be considered here.

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      • Judy D. says

        Funny! The nutters are out there, all right! (There but by such a small degree go us…) Well, at least my psycho “friend” picked on a living guy. BTW, thanks so much for your Holmesian (I refuse to ever say Sherlockian, because Conan Doyle for one would disapprove) efforts tracking down the Foreman marriage, and your other discoveries. While I’m taking up space here, I think BR in his autobio stated that he would not dish any dirt on anyone (dang, made for a rather mild book, but also avoided any possible revengeful counterstrikes), and as to son, daughter, grandkids, parents, etc., he may have just wanted to respect their privacy, especially if they were having any of the usual difficulties of life.

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  26. My Basil was someone who seemed duty-bound to a demanding,wild-spending wife.When she was overheard referring to him as my next husband,he was hooked.He probably never mentioned grandkids because there was no dirt to dish,he was a gossip,according to Joan Fontaine.He seemed to be docile to the mrs,probably because he liked to think he met the perfect match and love faded fast the first marriage with an almost instant family.He was responsible to family,had high ideals as a Rathbone scion,always for the underdog,which may also explain his defending “Ouida”.I don’t believe him gay,either,just incredibly sensitive to those who didn’t dare speak up for themselves given the prevailing atmosphere in LaLa Land.She wanted the perfect life and perfect husband,and got it,but he said they separated at times over “folly”.Whether his or hers,I say her killer spending,and he wouldn’t elaborate out of solidarity with her and more maturity at taking vows a second time.

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  27. The communist thing..He was brought up before some sort of panel on it..HE wasnt..but he had donated to some cause he called “the starving lettuce pickers of selinus” [i belive i have that right prob. misspelled ] It was soon found out that he was telling the truth. and that was the end of it.So that ball is out of play.

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  28. roesbette says

    I’m beginning to formulate another theory. Perhaps Basil, even with those early successes with The Swan and other theatrical roles, was still insecure and at loose ends. Here is this young man who has been through the war and even describes his own vulnerability after that experience, who has a broken marriage and young son, who has just been in an affiar with his co-star that ended (for whatever reason — perhaps he was even at fault for telling other in the the theatrical troup he had slept with Eva, and when she ended it, he felt awful). Perhaps he does feel that his life is a mess and that he is in some ways a failrue. Ouida comes along and gives him the self-assurance and guidance he needs. Then, later he learns that Ouida herself is vulnerable; she is not who she has said she was and has her own need for protection. Now, it is his turn to step in and shield her. Her spending could also stem from her own insecurity and humble roots, kind of like those country singers from poor backgrounds who dress and spend extravagantly. Could the relationship between Basil and Ouida be not one of deception and subterfuge, but one of two people mutually protecting each other in their vulnerabilities and flaws.?

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    • Margaret G says

      I like that idea very much. It’s both positive and plausible. I think perhaps her spending does have to be seen as a psychological affliction an could be a “comfort” response to trauma. Perhaps after his brother’s death he felt a powerful need to “save” people – since he had been unable to save John. John was his younger brother, and younger siblings promote almost the same protective instinct in their older brothers and sisters that children do for the parents. He says in one of the war letters that he thought John had taken his place by dying, and he probably felt as the eldest it was his duty to protect his baby brother and to sacrifice his own life if necessary to do so. The fact he – as he saw it – failed might have created a terrible sense of guilt, and perhaps by trying to be there for Ouida he was assuaging that.

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      • roesbette says

        Survivor’s guilt is a common experience with returning soldiers, and I would assume it would be more intense with the loss of a brother. I also attribute the end of Basil’s marriage to Marion to the war. Regarding the marriage to Ouida, I’d like to quote William Willimon on mariage: “Marriage is an everyday experience of living in the red — debtors to someone whom we have just begun to know.” Perhaps Basil and Ouida were both in each other’s debt to some extent, emotionally and in Ouida’s case, financially.

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    • But then why would he have not mentioned her previous husbands and her real place of birth? Saying “I don;t know if she believed in divorce” makes no sense as the article says if h knew she’d already been divorced before so it really looks as if he still do not know that in 1940 or whenever the article was published.

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      • surly he had to know she was divorced from FitzMaurice. But the lie about her age..now that I dont know? and she/or /he, did say she was from ark. in the 1940 cencus.Ive spent the afternoon looking for there marriage licence..no dice. I wanted to see what she wrote on it.

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  29. Thomas Dekker says

    Fascinating article. Whoever the unnamed actress was she was clearly highly intelligent an insightful. Did she say any more about this subject?

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    • I think you are so right.He and his mother were sensitive,possibly telepathic in some way (his being present when Jack Miltern walked into traffic and was killed,his mother sensing demise of original ship they were to sail on sinking,as well as being there for Eva until their breakup).He didn’t want to interfere with a relationship he thought existed between Ouida and Jack M.Did he feel in the way because the Rathbone’s to quote Baz had a year like a second honeymoon,unbelievable with all the houseguests,Jack over the garage,her niece,soon to have Rodion for 2 years.

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      • Mabey he was keen for the Ouida loves Jack thing to happen… Mabey the perfect out… Wonder if Jack could have affoderd to keep ker..oh i’m so bad I realy didnt say that did I?

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  30. Anita says

    “Maybe she intuitively sensed the rather lost, vulnerable, romantic and gentle young Rathbone would respond well to this suggestion she was an old-school virtuous woman, alone and in need of protection. So she simply turned on what he wanted to see.”

    That is totally heartbreaking, I so hope it isn’t true!

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  31. Masked Madman says

    Hmmm…it seems to me either he was doing this out of love/affection/duty or out of fear/extortion/blackmail. Either he adored her or believed he owed her (as he said) or he was being coerced by things she had over him.

    if the latter, what would have been sufficiently “dangerous” he felt he had no choice but to keep playing her game for her?

    Some suggestions (I’m not saying any of them are true,just grabbing things that might be a motive for “blackmail”)

    1: He’s broken the law some time in the past and she knows it.

    2: He’s gay and she has info about that (this would also include 1, since homosexuality was a criminal offense until the 1960’s).

    3: He has had political affiliations that would cause him problems in Hollywood. Did he join the Communist party at some point? (though this wasn’t a problem for anyone until the late 1940’s)

    4: It wasn’t him, it was someone else Ouida had stuff on and he was shielding them. A married woman he’d had an affair with? If she was in a prominent position then the scandal would have wrecked her life.

    Just throwing stuff out there so go easy 🙂

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    • Jimmy says

      Hi, well, my great uncle was Sidney Greenstreet a quite well known actor out in Hollywood. He had a lot of Hollywood gossip he used to tell my grandmother and I remember one story about Basil which might be helpful to you but also might just be nothing. The story was he was mostly straight but also occasionally had a weakness for men and had an affair with a gay actor who was closeted like they all were then, and then later had an affair with the gay actor’ s wife and it was a juicy bit of gossip for a few months. I can’t remember the name of the actor unfortunately.

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      • Judy D. says

        Interesting, if true. Scotty Bowers’ book “Full Service,” Grove Press 2012, a fun beach read, claims that the author, among the many stars he says he serviced in the 1940s, had a few sessions with Spencer Tracy. Big surprise to me. Guess Hollywood will always be Hollywood.

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          • roesbette says

            Internet died before I could finish my sentence. Bower wrote a lot of nasty things about people who are no longer around to defend themselves. I’ve seen exerpts, and I wonder about both the integrity and veracity of someone who would share that level of detail.

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            • HEAR! HEAR! You cant libel the dead. Bet he woulnd try it on say..Sean Conery. Scum like that can make up any old tommy rot they want..with there fingers crossed that the prurient and gulible will buy it. Sadly some do. They dont care if you belive it as long as you buy it! There like the salesman that will prommise you anything to make a sale! It dices slices and cures your dog your hampster and your granny from haveing worms…just saying!

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  32. Hot Chick says

    Am I the only one who ends up feeling just very sorry for this man? The idea Ouida tricked him is just very awful. But it’s hard to avoid the possibility when you look at what he said about her compared with the truth. Either she tricked him or he was lying for her sake. I hope the second

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    • You’re not the only one! I feel very sorry for Basil! I think that if World War One had never happened, Basil’s life would have been very different. He might have remained in England and stayed married to Marion. But most of us wouldn’t have heard of him if he hadn’t made the Sherlock Holmes movies! He might have been happy, but we wouldn’t know who he was.

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      • Margaret G says

        I wonder what broke up his marriage to Marion and if they were happy before the war. he might have attained fame anyhow and perhaps a better kind of fame. I am thinking of Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud and Sir Anthony Quinn who all attained fame through the stage, and in the case of Sir Laurence went on to make films too. I believe that Basil could have had the same career path. I believe Neve has said something about that.

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      • IMHO. i think he would have been famous either on the british screen,they make movies there too. or perhaps even bigger on the stage.I personly think his talent far beats Olivier because Basils talent is more varried.Cream rises to the top.

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  33. Judy D. says

    One of the BR letters to home written during the War strangely doesn’t mention his mother. Then after Johnnie’s death his autobio states that his sister was institutionalized. Was there mental illness in the family? Perhaps in Ouida he saw the same illness and instinctively reacted in sympathy. Maybe after the War he never again really cared about the small things, and Ouida’s temperament may have been one of those small things. Maybe the press, or press agents (hired by her??), supplied the “loving” verbiage for those magazine stories…as they still do today for sales and publicity. Since we couldn’t be with these two 24/7, we can never really know the dynamics of the relationship, but simply try to compare it to others we know or have read about. Get out the psychiatry manuals!

    As to a straightlaced life with Weedy, don’t forget they lived at The Garden of Allah for a while, a place which totally rocked (Gloria Grahame, wasn’t it, wrote an obviously laundered history of the place years ago), and which was run by Valentino’s lesbian pal Nazimova. I think BR associated with many gays and lesbians (by the way, looking at the photos, are we sure LeGallienne wasn’t a hermaphrodite??) and was perfectly open-minded about them (the play where he got arrested), as he was about religion (his play “Judas”). I’d sure like to know whether the photographer of that fabulous “James Agee” quote photo with the leering eyes and other assets was male or female, but if I had to bet serious money (over a buck is serious) I’d bet he was straight…or as straight as one can be after graduating from one of those interesting boys’ boarding schools.

    I guess your “this is the end of part III” is a big hint for us to all shut up for now. Know I’m being bad–first time ever for a chance to dish on my man. There are other actors, and certainly many other movies, I’d rather watch (due mostly to the inferior roles and scripts), and ixnay on the sinister mustache, but there is just something so special about him that hits a responding chord for so many years, and the more I read here and get to know ever so much more about him, the more I like and respect him.

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    • Hey Judy -Gosh no, I don’t want you guys to shut up. I love all the ideas coming in. It’s amazingly helpful to me in trying to understand the Baz and I am guessing it would be to a biographer too.

      I totally agree with you about him being a long way from strait-laced AND about respecting him more as we learn more. He was complicated and baffling – but decent and so often trying to do right.

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    • Amomwholovesbasil says

      His sister was institutionalized? I did not know that! But his family was decimated by the war – his mother died in 1917, and his brother the next year, so maybe it was too much for Beatrice and she had a nervous breakdown? Basil does say he was all alone after the war. His marriage had ended too.

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      • Very true the sister took the mother’s death,John’s death in the war,and Basil’s marriage disintegrating quite poorly,but it was his decision,and from what I intuit,his best for all that his heart wasn’t in the marriage after all he’s experienced in the War.The father also relied heavily on Basil for everything after losing wife and son.His wife he’s quoted as saying always believed he’d come to his senses and come home to her.I think he felt trapped in a quickly regretted marriage,and saw something different in the compulsive-spending Ouida.

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    • Baker Street Babe says

      He was also good friends with Martin Kosleck – who was as openly gay as was possible at the time

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    • I’m not sure tbh. It could have been sent in by a reader or I could have found it somewhere. There’s an inscription in it, but it’s hard to read. Anyone decipher it?

      Hee, we are playing Worms and have a team made up of Sherlock-actors – Basil, Jeremy, Benedict and Jonny. They’re all wearing little deerstalkers 🙂

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  34. Let’s see how many times I can restart my comment. I almost understand Baz. I can’t quite climb into his skin on this one, but it seems like we want him to at some point turn on her and point and shout, “Imposter!” and see her unmasked like the Phantom of the Opera. I think the key to the character and his entire life story is why he didn’t. That’s a mystery worth unraveling.

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    • Yes I think that’s very true. But don’t miss out how devious she could be. You don’t know how much he knew or what lies she was telling him. She lied as easily as most people tell the truth. This article gets that down but if anything it’s too kind to her. This woman accused my father of stealing from her when she feared he was getting on too well with Basil. And she did it so underhandedly she came off as being very kind and wanting to keep it quiet and when my father protested his innocence he was dismissed as a brat. It used to still upset him to remember it fifty years later!

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      • Judy D. says

        “….a brat.” HRD. Bobby Driscoll? If they ever played together, on movies, radio, in plays? Just trying to be useful.

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        • So are you? Judy Driscoll? and If HRD Dad realy was Bobby Driscoll,Then please tell me what they were in togather?IMBD dosnt help. Also let me say..your Dad has given me many happy hours.And oddly enough i bought some vido tapes this afternoon 1 of them was Peter Pan..how odd.

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            • Judy D. says

              The Druxman book doesn’t list Bobby Driscoll as being in 1940 “Rhythm on the River.” Unfortunately there’s no index of actors. Maybe if we Google Bobby Driscoll something will pop up. Maybe some radio show guest shot?
              By the way, is the revised Druxman substantially different from the original–should we be buying it?

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                • Judy D. says

                  Unfortunately, no. That was Bobby Breen, who sang at Jack Miltern’s funeral. Checked out Bobby Driscoll online but can’t find any obvious connection. They could have simply met at a studio. Driscoll had a very sad adult life and death.

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                  • Poor Bobby had a horribal death,I didnt know about it till I looked into him. How trably sad for his family. HRD if he is your dad my condolences.Oh and what you said about Ouida acuseing your dad of stealing from Basil..how erily simular to what she had Basil tell to Kat Corrnell.About someone stealing his paycheck so would she pay him again.Funny how Ouida seems to be around when money dissapeers hunn. At least Kat didnt seem to be snowed by it..

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              • roesbette says

                The other “D” child associated with Basil Rathbone is Donnie Dunagan, who was in Son of Frankenstein and Tower of London. He was also the voice of “Bambi.” Donnie came from a very poor family and was famous for a short time, but after WWII was once again in poverty, living in a boarding house as a teen-ager. He eventually joined the Marines in the 1950s and served in Vietnam. Donnie has been interviewed about his experiences making Son of Frankenstein and Tower of London. He spoke very highly of both Basil and Boris Karloff but made some unsettling accusations of child abuse against Lionel Atwill. Here’s the link to the interview.

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                • Wow – well DD never came out with anything that blunt about Atwill in previous interviews I’ve seen. He said he disliked the man but never gave the abuse suggestions as a reason. Icky.

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                • Judy D. says

                  Trying to reply to your Donnie Donegan item but can’t seem to find it! Anyway, bingo, that must be the guy. Was an interesting article to read, too; great reminiscences. As to Lionel Atwill, here is one more bad story about him to add to the 1940 “orgy” allegation. No wonder he makes such a good villain. Glad Donnie had the sense to get away from him, and it sounds as if the word got around the set. As to Atwill being called Pinkie, Michael Hoey’s “Sherlock Holmes and the Fabulous Faces” (pg. 57) writes that actress Josephine Hutchinson was in this movie, and when asked about the origin of the nickname in a later interview, said, “I think it was because he had red hair when he was young.” Yeah, right.

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                  • What a sweet kid he sounds like.Wonder what would have happend if he had told Basil and Boris on Atwill.Wonder if pinky would have been the colour of Atwills brusies? I always thought Atwill was a total miscast in that show, He just comes over as prissy and goofy.He always sent us into fits of laguhter with that stupid arm. I dont think tht was quite what they had in mind.We kept wanting Basil to take it off and hit him over the head with it.

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                    • Judy D. says

                      Actually, we owe Pinky a debt of gratitude: for supplying the character so ably acted out in Gene Wilder’s still-hilarious “Young Frankenstein.” Judging by Donegan’s interview, some version of his encounter with Atwill seemed to come to the attention of Bazz and the other actors.
                      Basil reading Kipling to Donnie between scenes–it shows what a wonderful father he could have been to his own son had he had the opportunity. He probably brought in the book he had read to his own Cynthia. Imagine hearing that voice telling bedtime stories; never to be forgotten. I so loved his Oscar Wilde and Poe tales on Caedmon, but haven’t heard for years due to my record player not being set up and their not being available on cassette or CD, at least not by himself. Abe Books has some of them, at least with others, and I meant to check more closely. If anyone’s willing to buy albums and runs into the Caedmon recordings, they are worth every penny.

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                    • Considering “Pinky” was supposedly homophobic,what a surprise to learn the rumors of his being involved with molesting young boys had been hard to believe,but now DD has spoken,I don’t doubt him.Baz and Boris were good to child actors they worked with,and why do otherwise.To be a professional is to be supportive of all co-stars.

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                • Wow. Glad I’m not an Atwill fan. Never really cared either way, but that certainly sheds some light on the man that is none-too-pleasant. Ew.

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                  • Yeah, I kind of hope DD was exaggerating or something. Though it seems unlikely. What a hell on earth it must have been to be a child star in some ways. Did any of them have functional parenting?

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                    • the countess says

                      I cant imagin why he would lye about it. He stands to gain nothing from telling the truth.

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      • Curious – did HRD ever say who he/she is? I thought maybe one of Rodion’s children or grandchildren? There are so many comments in each of these blog posts, it’s easy to lose one’s way! 🙂

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        • I always assumed (s)he was one of Rodion’s children, but I don’t think it was ever said so explicitly. I believe Heloise Rathbone has stated somewhere that Ouida kept Basil from seeing his children.

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          • the countess says

            She/He? saddly seams to have gone back into the woodwork dosent She?/He? I hope if HRD is one of Basils decendents? He She likes what we are doing here. And isnt offended by us. I hope folks understand that if I come down hard on Weedy its because, I mean to come down hard on Weedy!..See you all though I was gonna say I was sorry didnt ya. No Chance!

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    • Karoline says

      Yes, very true. It annoys me hugely that she seems to have gotten away with being a liar and a grade A bitch most of her life.

      Like

  35. Alyssia says

    You have completely made up the idea she was Eunie from Little Rock. I think you are probably being paid by someone, perhaps his ungrateful grandchildren who always hated her. I am going to write the book that sets it straight.

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      • Alyssia says

        Yes, she reunited their father with their grandfather. She sacrificed everything for him and for them

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    • Sorry, Alyssia, but it’s all documented. Though if anyone wants to pay me to run this blog – then donations will be gladly received! 😆

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    • His grandkids didn’t even know she was originally from Little Rock! No one knew that until it came out on the internet. Rodion knew some things about her didn’t add up as did many people, he may have done some investigating, but the fact of her real birth name was not known for a long time. If Basil knew he didn’t tell anyone that I know of.

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      • so my post was eaten AGAIN.Please pray tell Alyssia, what did she sacrifice for Basil? a huge career wrighting dilaoge for silent movies? a piano?..some old BF of her’s said he’d give her a piano if she’d not mary Basil..i rember reading that. She gave up what to mary the handsomest,and sweetest man in the world? She married into history.she married into a life of money, fame, furs, fancy clothes ,partys, and rubbing elbows with folks like movie stars and J.F.K. You make her sound like st.joan of arc..st. Eula of Ark. i’d take her life over mine anyday…

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        • All I can say is anyone who has insight into that marriage,thanks for sharing.He deserved better,but got someone he was devoted to.We all appreciate the info,whether we agree with it or not,it is enlightening.

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    • Well I can flat out geaurenteeeee! I am NOT being paid buy ANYONE! I do not know Basils grand kids..I’d like to but I dont!I have never met any member of his family.I am not related to his family and the info I found is all public information.I did not invent any of the things i posted nor did i somehow invagel The Mormon Church to post just what I needed to find at the right time..I’d like to see anybody do that.I didnot find a way to go back in time and rewright the cencus,or make up a marriage licence fron before my parents were born. Alyssia,I would LOVE to read your book.Please wright it.Also how do you know his grand kids are ungratefull..are you one of them?If you are I REALY REALY REALY want to read your book.Please get this strait..I am NOT makeing up anything I found on Eunie from Little Rock.Please re read the 1940 censeus that I posted a link to.Quidas birthplace….Arkanas Good greife if it walks like a duck..and it quakes like a duck..just saying!..

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  36. A real puzzle, Ouida’s hold over Basil and his enthrallment to her. Perhaps in spite of all his success he was an extraordinarily insecure man, and somehow she bolstered his confidence and he became dependent on her approval. It would certainly make a great story!.

    Like

  37. Barbara says

    Wow, this is a terrific conclusion. And what mysteries it exposes! Please someone write the biography!

    Like

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