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IN & OUT OF CHARACTER: an attempt at analysis Part I

The first part of my thesis is an analysis of certain chapters or portions of Basil’s autobiography IN AND OUT OF CHARACTER, and I’m going to be posting the analysis on the blog over the next few weeks.

Rosemarie’s overview is very good, and I would have to agree with almost all of it, which is why I posted it as a sort of kick-off point. Here I’m going to start digging more into the detail of what he says, and what he might reveal – intentionally and unintentionally – about himself, his life and his reasons fro writing the book.

So, let’s take the King of Hearts’ advice and begin at the beginning – with his Preface. I agree with Rosemarie that it’s actually really interesting, and possibly, in its way, the most revealing portion of the entire book Here it is in full except for the last para:

“I have heard it said that if one writes a book in which one’s thoughts and experiences play a major role, it is no good doing so unless one can be “sensational.” A very well-known newspaperman – a good friend of mine – and I were talking one day, shortly after my return to New York from the West Coast in 1946. I was commenting upon the thousands upon thousands of happy families in the motion picture industry, and especially I mentioned in the name bracket, – Irene Dunne and her husband – Claudette Colbert and her husband – Jack Benny’s marriage – Sir C. Aubrey Smith and his wife – the Nigel Bruces, to name but a few. Why was it, I asked my friend, that, at least so it seemed to me, successful marriages were not news. His answer shocked me, but when I had time to think it through I had to agree with him. He said, “My dear Basil, in my business the only good news is bad news.” Cynical? Perhaps, but I am much afraid it is the truth.

My wife and I have been married for thirty-six years. No two strong-minded, healthy, normal individuals live together that long in a romantic paradise! There have been times when clashes of personality and human folly have temporarily disrupted our lives. But because we happen to be in the public eye, does this entitle us – or you – dear reader, to an expose of our weaknesses and problems? To what end? To destroy your illusion? – to insinuate that my problems are greater than yours and worthy of your consideration? – to feed my ego under the glaring light of publicity? – to expose a friend or acquaintance in circumstances that I have learned of by chance or been exposed to in confidence? No! For me, indeed no! Where within the dictates of my conscience, I can speak with you of those I have known and oftimes loved, I will do so respecting respecting their confidence in me and my regard for them.

I launch myself upon this project with a light heart. I am a frustrated writer anyway, and I’ve nothing to lose; not even my time for I shall enjoy writing this book. Add to a frustrated writer a frustrated musician and most surely you will end up a frustrated actor. The author of this book is all three…”

A few things about this strike me. Firstly – although it has been suggested others (well, Ouida) may have written some of this book, or at least heavily edited it, I think this Preface is all Basil’s work. That extensive use of dashes as punctuation, suggesting a hasty, slightly frantic rush of thought, is very characteristic of his style in the personal correspondence I’ve seen. It’s literate, and in its way almost touchingly honest. “I am a frustrated writer anyway, and I’ve nothing to lose; not even my time for I shall enjoy writing this book,” is a very unguarded thing to say, and again very characteristic of his lack of pretentiousness and artifice about himself, and nothing like the egomaniacal self-promotion that seems to be Ouida’s hallmark. I think if she’d written this it would have looked a lot more like an overdone sales pitch for Basil as Legendary Actor turned Great Memoirist.

Secondly…well, how odd is it to start your book with a discussion of what you’re leaving out of it?

Generally speaking, if you’re going to leave stuff out then you’re doing so because you don’t want to talk about it, so drawing attention to the fact you’re leaving things out is kind of counter-productive.

The text here gives the impression – to me at least – that these omissions are, for him, almost more important than the book itself. It reads to me as if he’s kind of obsessing over what he’s left out and why, and almost feeling bad about it; as if he’s judging himself in some way and overcompensating with a lengthy public explanation that isn’t really necessary and that reveals more of his inner workings on the issue than he realizes. I think he’s using the Preface to justify something, not to us (or at least not just to us), but to himself. It’s almost like we’re reading a transcript of his internal thought process. He’s a little defensive, protesting just a little too much about “conscience” and “confidence,” and comes over as uneasy within himself on the subject.

I think we need to hold that thought.

Thirdly – he makes it glaringly obvious that at least some of the stuff he’s omitting has to do with his marriage. Which is again quite odd. I mean, why is he telling us? As he says, no one lives in a romantic paradise for thirty or forty years, and no one would assume he and Ouida had either. Nor would we expect (or want) him to tell us about every stupid minor fight they ever had. He doesn’t have to write a Preface telling us he’s leaving that stuff out; we take it as a given. So, the mere fact he’s bothering to tell us he isn’t telling stuff about his marriage is, at the same time, also saying there’s something significant enough to be told.

I think it’s paradoxical and quite important that, without this Preface, we would simply take the book at face value, and assume nothing major was missing in his relationship with Ouida. It’s only the fact that he says he’s leaving things out that acts to change that perception. By putting that statement at the front of his book he has sort of obliged us to read the rest of the book with the question in our minds “what isn’t he saying?” I highly doubt that’s completely unintentional on his part.

With this in mind, let’s look a little closer at the text and break it down. It might be a bit more subtle than it first appears.

He starts with the general question – posed to a possibly real, possibly literary symbolic, journalist friend – “Why was it, I asked my friend, that, at least so it seemed to me, successful marriages were not news.

He gets the answer “because bad news is good news.”

He claims to have found this shocking, but I think we can assume this “shock” is again a literary device, since I doubt anyone could have been that naive after eleven years in Hollywood. Of course bad news is good news for journalists, and Rathbone must be well aware of it. Does he really expect to see headlines saying “Irene Dunne Still Married” or “No-One Shot in Mall Today“? Of course not. In fact, in my view, this whole paragraph is simply a device he’s employing. It has the effect of planting in our minds the idea that his marriage is one of the “successful” ones that are – by definition – not news. And it’s easy not to notice he never says so, or that his own marriage isn’t included in the “happy list” he supplies.

But the most strking thing is the next paragraph, where he suddenly jumps straight from deploring the fact that happy marriages aren’t news to revealing the fact that his own marriage actually wasn’t always happy but he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“My wife and I have been married for thirty-six years. No two strong-minded, healthy, normal individuals live together that long in a romantic paradise! There have been times when clashes of personality and human folly have temporarily disrupted our lives. But because we happen to be in the public eye, does this entitle us – or you – dear reader, to an expose of our weaknesses and problems?…No! For me, indeed no!

This is actually a near 180-degree reversal of his original point. He’s gone from “why aren’t happy marriages news?” to “my marriage wasn’t always happy but I’m not going to talk about it,” but he pulls it off so gracefully and cleverly we hardly notice the bait and switch being pulled on us and are somehow carried through it still thinking he’s saying his marriage was a “success,” even though he hasn’t at this point said a single positive thing about it!

Strange but true. Read it carefully, and it’s undeniable. And in fact the entire Preface actually contains not one positive word about his marriage to Ouida at all. It’s a great example of a text that appears on superficial reading to say one thing but on closer analysis reveals itself as saying, if not the exact opposite, then something much more ambiguous and murky.

Does all this mean or imply he wasn’t “happily married” whatever those most broadly defined words might mean? I don’t think we can say that, no. At least not at this stage, if at all. But it does imply a lot more ambiguity, both in his own feelings about his marriage, and in his intentions in writing his book. This is not a stupid man, or a blunt and unsubtle man. If he includes these ambiguities and pointed insinuations we have to assume he’s doing so at least with partial intent.

For me the most important message of his Preface is – whatever he chose to leave out of his book was important enough to him for it to be the first thing he wants us to read about.

He wants, either consciously or unconsciously, this absence to frame everything else we subsequently read. The reasons for this are probably pretty central to his life story, and someone needs to try and dig them out from wherever they are hiding.

To me, this makes his autobiography a fairly unusual volume for a Hollywood memoir. They aren’t generally noteworthy for their depth, subtlety or mysterious allusions – yet, beneath its rather bland and gently smiling surface, IN & OUT OF CHARACTER is absolutely ripe with all three. It’s more like the memoir of a Victorian man of letters, where more can be found between the lines than in them. It’s fascinating for the glimpses and hints and glancing allusions it offers.

And that’s why I want to turn a magnifying glass on some of its most curious or interesting or puzzling passages. This is just the beginning bit. There’s a lot more to come.

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114 Comments

  1. Flimbo says

    Good analysis I must say. I read this book fifteen years ago and it left me unsatisfied though I couldn’t say why. It felt odd and unfinished. Not insincere at all, but quite strange also.

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    • Everything,every comment worth it on this site.Such a treat after reading nasty comments,haters on other sites.And thanks everyone for sharing your Baz stories and admiration.Can’t believe that he wouldn’t have made a better decision to do film and stage after 1946 if he knew about us,his real fans!

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      • Roberta says

        I haven’t seen anything really nasty about him yet, where is this stuff? It will make me so mad!

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      • Elaine Drury says

        He probably felt pretty much forgotten and a failure by the end of his life I should think. How ironic that it was his Sherlock Holmes persona that has continued to make him iconic! I wonder how he would feel about that.

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    • Very well presented and thought out.I haven’t had a chance to reread his book in a while,and appreciate the insight everyone has.And I’m so thrilled to see everyone presenting such great info on my hero,even if mortal,unlike some of his epic characterizations.He was a great actor.But why did he defend OR as not being the party queen,esp with all she cost him for her extravagance.My granny gave some parties in the 40s and 50s that didn’t cost my grandpa a paycheck.Was he just defending home & hearth,or her OCD or other habits.I sure hope he used his den and the kitchen more often to get away from her photogs invading the peaceful home.No wonder Rodion didn’t look overly happy in the photos with OR and BR

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      • Hot Chick says

        Ellen Foley said:

        “But why did he defend OR as not being the party queen,esp with all she cost him for her extravagance.My granny gave some parties in the 40s and 50s that didn’t cost my grandpa a paycheck.Was he just defending home & hearth,or her OCD or other habits.I sure hope he used his den and the kitchen more often to get away from her photogs invading the peaceful home.No wonder Rodion didn’t look overly happy in the photos with OR and BR”

        Isn’t that the million dollar question. God, I wish I knew the answer! Why did he stick with her, why did he defend her and promote her stupid lies, why did he let her take him way from his son? – Why didya do it Basil? Why??

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        • Elaine Drury says

          “Why did ya do it Basil?” I hear those words to the tune of John Wilkes Boothe’s ballad in Assassins!

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            • It’s from Sondheim’s musical “Assassins” – here’s Patrick Cassidy as the Balladeer and the amazingly wonderful Victor Garber as Booth:

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                • Cant get youtube or any video to play on my computer..but I’ll see about getting it from the lib. Victor Garber as Booth Who woulda thunk it?

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                  • Booth is a totaly handsome man. Funny about conecting Basil and Booth as the other coupe who went to the show with Abe and Mary that night were Henry Rathbome and Clara Harris.I belive he is some relate to Basil but dont ask me to figuer out how right now. Henry did marry Clara then later went off his head and murrdered her very tragic all around.

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      • So, according to this database, his first Juliet was an actress called “Dorothie Pidcock” (1915) and his second was one called “Joyce Carey” (1919) – can’t remember offhand which of these was the Juliet he seems to have been romantically involved with. If it was Juliet no.1 then this was less than a year after he married Marion and while she was pregnant.

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        • roesbette says

          I’m wondering whether it was “Joyce” since that would coincide with those theater days he describes in which he had a few affairs.

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          • Yeah, just looked in his book (would it have hurt him to get it indexed dammit?) – it was the 1919 Juliet – Joyce. Might be interesting to see what can be turned up about Joyce Carey.

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            • roesbette says

              Joyce Carey is listed in imdb and wikipedia as an actress who got her start in various Stratford productions in the late teens, including as Juliet, and later in the 20s, began acting in many Noel Coward plays. She was a close friend of Coward’s. She also appeared in some films in the 40s and 50s. She never married. Most of the pictures of her show her in middle or old age. Those of the younger Joyce show someone with what I might call soft, sensitive eyes.

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              • A helpful reader emailed me this pic of Joyce from 1919, the year she played Juliet to B’s Romeo. It’s pixely but better than nothing

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                  • Perhaps he liked her for her beautiful mind – though she must have been pretty enough at that age to play Juliet! I can only think of her as the refreshment lady in Brief Encounter!

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                • Alyssia says

                  He was never involved in a physical relationship with this woman, she is totally not his type and not beautiful enough and he was married to Marion.

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                  • Apparently Basil thought that she was his type. He said that he fell in love with her, and they would sail in a punt on the Avon, and walk in the fields picking flowers. Their relationship went on for several months. (See pages 42-43 in his autobiography.) Basil was separated from Marion at that time.

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            • He so should have had an index in the book.Always a plus when an actor includes one,oh,but maybe OR didn’t want one.Joyce Carey sounds like a very positive person,and would be a great partner for Baz,no matter how long they were together.This is such a great blog,and appreciate the limited number of “haters”.

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              • Judy D. says

                I believe prep. of book indexes greatly increases the cost of production, so that’s probably why so many books maddeningly don’t have one. I don’t know how it was done before word processing with Tables of Authorities and all that other totally aggravating crap we had to do in the office, but it probably was extremely difficult.

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          • I would go for it being Joyce too, cant see him cheating on Marion so soon after the marriage

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      • Ooh thanks! This is a great source. So, who was the Irene Rathbone, playing Lady Montague in Romeo & Juliet in 1919?? A relation?

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        • Yes. dau of George Rathbone and Ruby Mathews george is the son of Benson Rathbone,Benson is the son of Richard Rathbone and Hannah Reynolds Richard is the Bro of William Rathbone he married Elizabeth Greg there son is Henry Philip Rathbone he married Jane Stringer Steward they had a son named Edgar Phillip Who of course is Basils dad. So basicly if I can try to make this a bit easier for everyone its William Rathbone, William Rathbone, Philip rathbone Edger rathbone Basil for Irene its William rathbone, Richard Rathbone, Benson Rathbone, George Rathbone Irene Rathbone.

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          • If I havent given everone a headache by now heres how Irene is related to Frank.William Rathbone who married Rachel Rutter has a sister named Sarah Rathbone[of course] She married Robert Benson,they had a son also called Robert Benson he married Mary Dockray they had a son names William Benson Who is Sir Franks dad. So for Frank it’s William Rathbone. Sarah Rathbone, robert Benson,William Benson,Sir Frank Benson.

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        • No No Nanette! says

          His wife? (Hi, this is my first post, I’m Nanette and quite a new Bas fan!)

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  2. Caroline Panthers Fan says

    I’d never really questioned anything about Basil until I started reading this blog. His biography (I mean the one by M Druxman) presents him as a quite uneventful person who was happily married and a good actor and not much else. So this is all very fascinating. It’s like rediscovering my favorite old time actor all over again! 🙂 It’s so cool there was all this depth to him I hadn’t known before. Does anyone else feel like that?

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    • AnnaPindurka says

      Absolutely agree with you. He seems to have been stereotyped very much (most notably as best-as-villain and as Sherlock Holmes) but when you look more closely, he defies all stereotypes. And then he goes on defying your second impression. So yes, very excited to see what else will come up and how it will all hang together. Really looking forward to the rest of Neve’s series about the autobiography, too.

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    • Absolutely.He was quite deep in many ways from what I’ve read,and believe,as he himself related premonitions he had or his mother that he was the perfect Holmes,not only in looks,but Doyle’s spiritualism,too.I really think he would’ve been a perfect friend,in spite of OR’s possessiveness and insecurity.

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    • Elaine Drury says

      Indeed yes. I’m stunned by how much Druxman seems to have missed. Did he even talk to Basil’s first wife, son and grandchildren? And what about Eva le Gallienne who was very much alive when his biography came out. Did he try to locate the various lovers Basil glancingly mentions? Kitten, June, Juliet etc? I don’t men to criticize him but it’s incredibly frustrating to know thee people were probably all alive when he was doing is research and now are all passed on.

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        • No, he didn’t, trust me. if you read his book you get the impression Basil never had a life at all apart from marrying Ouida and making films!

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          • Elaine Drury says

            Very true, unfortunately. I don’t know if people just refused to talk to him or if he didn’t ask. Quite strange, always thought so.

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      • Judy D. says

        The trouble biographers come across (and perhaps Druxman’s book wasn’t meant as a thorough bio but more as a movie review) is that many sources simply do not want to cooperate, whether because “if I can’t say something nice I don’t want to say anything,” or because the source is now old and senile or ill, or for many other reasons. Including the legit fear of having their words taken out of context or misquoted. And some of these folks are darned hard to find. If a writer has a contract for his work he may also simply run out of time to deal with these reluctant people.

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        • Margaret G says

          That is a fair point and we ought to remember it. I dare say the challenges facing a biographer are a lot greater than they might appear to those of us on the outside. From what Michael D said in his interview I understand Cukor for one refused to say anything about Basil’s private life

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          • Judy D. says

            Wasn’t George Cukor gay?? Nothing negative meant; if I were a guy I would be gay also!

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            • Claude Rains says

              George Cukor was indeed gay. And in this context his comment to Druxman is interesting. I’d like to know if Druxman ever considered Rathbone’s sexuality from the point of view of the persistent underground rumours about his being gay or bisexual?

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                • embechtel says

                  I just finished a tell all book about Bogie .The early years.It is very explicit and outs alot of actors and actresses on Broadway and Hollywood who had Bi and Gay affairs.Basil is ref. in their 6-8 times.But,not once does it say he had any homosexual affairs.I know it puts him in the company of Elissa Landi and Lilyan Tashman but,does not come right out and say he slept with them.This would be after his marriage to Ouida.There’s a quote he is to have made to Bogie after his marrige to Helen Menken-who as you know starred in the Captive with Baz-“I think you and i are destined to love many different women”Could he be insinuating to Bogie that Ouida was Gay like Helen Menken or what?Food for thought!The book supposedly gets alot of its info from Kenneth Mackenna.Who was married to Kay Francis at one point.It mentions that Helen wanted to make a movie of a watered down version of the Captive.Bogie was mad that she was choosing Basil over him for the lead.Ouida is mentioned also.She played a dirty trick on Constance Bennett and Tashman at one of her parties.She got someone to ask Lilyan to come to her table for a photo.But,instead she had Constance there.The two apparently hated each other and had no choice but to smile and look friendly.Ouida could be a PR in the phonebook!
                  Well thanx for reading.

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    • Don't Ask My Name says

      I very much feel this way, I have only just begun reading posts and am already feeling surprised by several details of his life

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  3. Amomwholovesbasil says

    I find it hard to believe Mr Rathbone intended for people to question the state of his marriage, rather it was just imperfect wording. He celebrated his marriage so frequently in interviews, why would he do that if he was ever seriously unhappy or wanted out? I also do not believe he was gay or bisexual, if this is where you are heading. It’s not really fair of you to impose your theories on us in this blog. Many of us have been his fans longer than you have been alive (I am assuming), so we are protective of him.

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    • Thomas Dekker says

      That’s understandable, but we also have to accept he was a flesh and blood man who lived life on his terms not ours, and we have to be prepared to alter our perception of him in line with the fact that are uncovered. if BR didn’t want people to question the state of his marriage then I think he probably wouldn’t have so publicly stated there had been problems he wasn’t prepared to discuss. As Neve said, he had no need to say that, and if he hadn’t we’d have no evidence now that his marriage had been anything but perfectly happy.

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    • The Baz is Neve’s blog, so it’s perfectly fair of her to express her opinions and theories on her own blog. If she were unfair, she would block the posts of people who disagree with her. But she doesn’t do that. She welcomes discussion–as long as we are civil!

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  4. Pingback: How Things Change « The Velvet Closet of a Lesbian

  5. Granny Gingrich says

    Interesting textual analysis. I am guessing you are an English major? You do it very well.

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  6. Petronella says

    I’m not sure it’s quite fair to suggest he was manipulating his readers. I think of Basil as above all a very honest and sincere man. Have you seen his face when he is being just himself? it’s so open and his eye shine so clearly. I think that indicates an intensely good soul.

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  7. Celery Queen says

    Just dropped back here after being away for a while with work – wow! This is an amazing site! So much great reading to do. Great for a winter weekend!

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  8. Jenny says

    Just because they were married and living together doesn’t have to mean it was the generic “normal marriage” we all think of as being standard. In reality “normal” marriages are one of those myths we tell ourselves about ourselves. Marriages are all different, as different as the people in them. Some of the most “successful” (ie longstanding) marriages can tend to be the most unorthodox in terms of personal relationships. We can’t just assume they were the standard husband and wife, just because they both wore a wedding ring.

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    • HelenMorrisson says

      I would like to know what your evidence is they weren’t happily married in a “normal” way? And why is “normal” a dirty word?

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    • Thomas Dekker says

      Very true and very well put. We assume everyone has a “normal” marriage, unless shown otherwise, because we also assume the “normal” marriage as defined by our cultural mores, is what the majority of marriages are. But of course we have no evidence for that, and to that extent it is indeed a myth. It’s perfectly possible most marriages aren’t “normal” at all in the standard definition. I think there’s already a good bit of evidence the Rathbone marriage was not entirely “normal” in that sense.

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    • Claude Rains says

      Absolutely. In the gay community successful longterm pairings are very common, possibly more common than in hetero pairings, but they are rarely based on monogamy, but rather on mutual liking, affection, companionship and trust. Although this is an aspect played down in recent years in order to make the gay community more acceptable to the straight majority, there are few gay men who would deny this if asked directly. Fidelity is very important to us in relationships, but that fidelity isn’t taken as necessarily involving a sexual component. This may be why our marriages can tend to be as solid as they are. I suspect, beneath the surface, the same thing is practised by many hetero couples.

      Though, before Alyssia tracks me down and takes a contract out on me, I am NOT suggesting this was the case with BR and his wife.

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      • Judy D. says

        On “normal” marriages: my local bartender announced the other night that 3/4 of the guys in our “normal” club hate their wives and she knows which ones are screwing around and her lips are sealed! I guess the “Seven-Year Itch” can last a lot longer than a marriage was ever intended to last, one of the misfortunes of longer living. Question: are there more homosexuals in the arts, as most non-artistes seem to think, or are they just more open about it?

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        • Claude Rains says

          It’s a hard question to answer – possibly a bit of both? There is still so much prejudice against the LGBT community that people in less forgiving walks of life tend to suppress such aspects of themselves which makes statistics hard to correlate.

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  9. Roberta says

    This is marvellous! I am reading Basil’s biography for the first time right now so this feels very immediate to me. I had never read the Preface that way before,but once you point it out it’s very clear. He actually doesn’t say he was happily married does he! And yet you feel as if he does when you don’t read it closely enough.

    Very much looking forward to this series. Will it be frequent or infrequent?

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  10. kendrick says

    I hope you can continue to do this analysis regularly! I am in a sort of in between state about what I think of Basil’s marriage. I think there are some things that don’t make sense and I wonder if there might be buried secrets that ought to come out. Nothing would dim my admiration for him, if anything if his life was more difficult than I thought then I would admire his professionalism and his reticence even more!

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    • all sherlies are welcome says

      I agree with that. Whatever happened he handled his public life very gracefully and discreetly and this counts for a lot. Those celebrities who, then and now, live their lives through media coverage could learn a lot about class from him

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        • It seems to be gone from everyday life,period.I’m so glad we have our hero to show us class,and while I can’t understand why he chose to turn his back on Hollyweird,I think you’ve helped me see some reasons.Maybe it was his temperment,and dedication to The Stage,but you seem to have summed everything about what The Baz stood for in your reply quite succinctly.Many thanks!

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    • I don’t think his life was difficult apart from Ouida and her spending, which was a headache, but you get the impression he was happy to tolerate it through love

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  11. Hilary says

    I always had the feeling that there was something a bit strange about the preface and actually the whole book. As it were more of a covering than a revelation, if that makes any sense?

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  12. Margaret G says

    How extraordinary! I was making almost the same point about the Preface acting like some sort of warning flag yesterday to my husband! But you put it much more succinctly. And I absolutely agree about his book being more like a Victorian memoir! It’s so full of single-sentence references and strange little elisions. I’m very glad you have decided to do this analysis and am hugely looking forward to it.

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  13. Judy D. says

    Since the story is included in the book I guess I can comment on it here, as to BR’s way of slipping in a bit of honest opinions among the things he leaves out: in his short story of meeting Holmes in old age, he has Holmes referring to a detective he knew (the “author” here is the ‘tec’s son) as a less than lovable guy. When one reads Michael Hoey’s references to his father in his own books, one finds Dennis Hoey to be a pretty unlikeable guy, at least as a family man. Was Basil referring to Dennis in the story? And also, who was the real “Cheedie”? And did any of his other writings survive??
    Good work on the bio analysis! He could have written the intro last–even in the publishing agent’s office–without any chance of Ouida working it over!

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  14. I think he also says in his book that Norma Shearer helped them when they were having marriage problems

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    • roesbette says

      Having just finished the book a couple of weeks ago, I would say I don’t recall anything about that, just that he speaks well of Shearer and her husband, Irving Thalberg.

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      • Coincidentally Marcia and I were talking about this a while ago. I think this is the quote, Amy might mean:

        “On the Coast, in New York, London, or Paris, Norma would always find us and see us. The warmth of her affection was most genuine, and there was an occasion when things were not going so well with us when a visit from Norma changed the whole color of our perspective.”

        I’ve always assumed, like Amy, that “things were not going so well with us” meant their marriage was having some problems.

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        • roesbette says

          Ah,there’s something I missed! It could just mean they were having a “bad day”, like many of us have had, or it could be something deeper.

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        • Yes that’s what I mean. I just took it as being about them having marriage problems because it seemed like he must mean that

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            • It totally has to mean they were having marriage troubles, though it’s also good they fixed them and remained happy together, their marriage was a rare success story, and you can see how much in love they are in every photo

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  15. roesbette says

    Fabulous textual analysis of the Preface. I absolutely agree on all points, Neve. Also, the Preface shows what a skillful writer Basil really was, expressing something, yet not saying it at the same time.

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    • Elaine Drury says

      Yes that’s true. It doesn’t do to underestimate his subtlety, or his ability to very gently elide and mislead. Great article!

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  16. Congratulations on an absolutely fascinating first step on the journey. Brilliantly analyzed. You have expressed exactly the feeling I always had on reading that part of his book, but never succeeded in distilling into words. Well done, keep it up.

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  17. So far this thesis is an A+. As I read Baz’s Preface contained within that box, I saw the same thing you did, but you articulated it better than I could have. It’s almost as if he were writing in code for all those friends of his who had to suffer Ouida. He wrote his message, “this hasn’t been a bed of roses, believe me,” so subtly and delicately that perhaps it slipped right past her red pen. OR she made the mistake of thinking the Preface wasn’t worth bothering to review at all.

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  18. Alyssia says

    What complete gibberish. Basil’s book is full of how happily married he was and you conclude he wasn’t just because he doesn’t say so in his Preface? That’s insane. Basil was blissfully happy in his marriage for 41 years! How dare you suggest otherwise!

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    • Actually, Alyssia, I specifically said we *can’t* conclude BR was unhappily married based solely on the Preface of his book. If you missed that then I think you may possibly have not been reading carefully enough. Your claim he was blissfully happy for 41 years is noted, and may indeed be true. Time and evidence will tell 🙂

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      • Alyssia says

        I have evidence. I have his own writing,letters, diaries, and his autobiography. It’s you who has no evidence

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        • I’m calling your hand Alyssia. If your holding aces,play them! I for one have been honest I’ve done research here too. I have shared all of it with all of you.I suspected Ouida of being a compleat phoney,and I have proved it.None of it is made up or fake and except for the one website I cant link to,I have shared all the links with you an evryone else here. I have laid my cards on the table. If you have all this inside info show us. I have proved my case Your turn to prove yours..

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    • Neve dares becaue Basil dared to wright this,please reread his own words.”My wife and I have been married for thirty-six years. No two strong-minded, healthy, normal individuals live together that long in a romantic paradise! There have been times when clashes of personality and human folly have temporarily disrupted our lives. “Exclmation point!!!!!did you miss his !!!!!? I dont see the words Ouida and I have never had a fight. Ouida and I have been blisfully happy and totaly agree about everthing so much that we ought to be a set of simies twins. Dont you wonder just as Neve and the rest of us what isnt he saying Neve It’s a wonderfuul begining and I cant wait to read the next insatalment.Bravo!..

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