BIOGRAPHY, BOOKS
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IN & OUT OF CHARACTER: an attempt at analysis Part II

The second part of this series is going to look a bit more closely at the claim that portions of this book, maybe even the majority of it, were written, not by Rathbone, but by Ouida Bergere, his somewhat “controversial” second wife.

The claim was actually made to me quite recently in an email from a reader who has provided pretty good evidence of having known the Rathbone family fairly well (I don’t want to say any more about this at present as I believe this person is not keen on being publicly identified). This is what she said to me:

“By the way, Basil didn’t write In An Out of Character. According to his son Rodion, most of it was concocted by Ouida. I’ve read Basil’s letters and know his writing style and believe me, she wrote that book. He only gave her a few details and she heavily embroidered the rest…”

It certainly wouldn’t seem out of character for the second Mrs Rathbone to have felt compelled to meddle in the creation of her husband’s memoirs. She was rather prone to see herself as a superior talent whose ability was needed to “improve” other people’s literary endeavors (the woman who set about re-writing THE HEIRESS would probably need to think less than twice about doing the same with her own husband’s autobiography). You might even say it’s virtually impossible this supremely ego-driven, appearance-conscious woman would have been content to sit back and let hubbie create her image for posterity without dipping in to make sure he was staying on message about how young, brilliant and successful she was.

To that extent I think we can take her role as editor of those memoirs almost as a given. At the same time I find it pretty hard to believe Ouida wrote all of that book, simply because I too have read many of Basil’s letters, and the flowing, lyrical style of some sections of IN & OUT OF CHARACTER is pretty much identical to them.

But did Ouida maybe write some of the text? I think there are some suggestions that she may have done.

When you look at her presence in the book a few things stand out. For one, she is almost universally mentioned with praise. Sure, maybe this is because BR wrote the book and he adored her. Except I don’t see so much tenderness or affection. Just praise. As in ego-affirmation. The very thing that Ouida seems to have craved unendingly.

Basically we are told how good she was at things far more than we are told how much he loved her. And in this book she is good at almost everything. She can cook wonderfully, design costumes, ride a horse, is a brilliant scenarist, ran the Hollywood Canteen singlehanded (all these just off the top of my head, there are probably a lot more). She has Sam Goldwyn begging her not to desert Paramount, Jack Miltern hopelessly in love with her, Jed Harris beaten at his own game. No virtue seems too ridiculous. She’s even credited at one surreal point with making a “carefully guarded budget,” which implies either a great deal of irony, or a great deal of self-delusion on the part of whoever wrote this passage.

And self-delusion does seem to have been Ouida’s leitmotif.

Let’s note how “June” BR’s lover at the time, describes Ouida to him in the text of this book. She tells him, (so the text says), that Ouida is, “Paramount’s top scriptwriter“ and that she was “young, petite, strongly opinionated – very successful,” which just happens to convey the very image of herself (young, and massively success) that Ouida seems to have been almost obsessed with emphasizing to the world.

OUIDA_BERGERE_From_Who's_Who_on_the_Screen

Given the fact that the real Ouida was 37 at the time of this encounter, it seems a bit unlikely the real June would have thought of “young” as the primary adjective to apply to her, because while 37 is far from old, it’s not in any way unusually youthful. Wouldn’t “red-haired” or “recently-divorced” or “financially insane” have been more obvious choices for a kick-off descriptor? And since the real Ouida was by no means a “top scriptwriter” at Paramount or anywhere else (was she even a scriptwriter at all, as she wrote only for silent films?), it’s strange June should tell the same lie about this that Ouida herself was telling for most of her life.

It’s fiction, obviously, and, to me, intuitively, this has the hallmark of a woman idealizing the way another woman might see her, rather than a husband flattering his wife. The gaucheness and overkill of the wording also reminds me a bit of Ouida’s artless style of self-promotion. I think if the man who wrote the Preface to this book had also written this passage, he would have done a better and more subtle job of selling her, rather than simply making “June” parrot a collection of favorite flattering adjectives.

So, I can see reason for thinking Ouida may have concocted this sentence – and just possibly the whole passage. In fact, with a bit of close-reading I can spot a possible join.

In telling the story of his first meeting with Ouida the current text begins like this (p. 53 of the latest paperback edition)

“Nothing is very distinct about the occasion, because afterward it had seemed to me like just another big party, and I have never liked big parties very much, especially with a lot of people I don’t know, but I’ll remember as much as I can. Clifton called for me after the play and we picked up June…”

It then, in the very next para, proceeds to prove the author actually remembers everything, from the “large curving stairway” in the hall, to who was there, where they were standing and what they said and what the heroine of the hour was wearing. Edmund Goulding is dispensing drinks, Ouida the mysterious hostess is “having supper with the Italian ambassador and some friends,” so June has to fill in the gap before her entrance by describing her to BR, in the best tradition of dramatic construction.

It’s that sudden switch. “I don’t really remember” giving way to a detailed account in which everything is remembered, that smells slightly fishy. Could this possibly indicate an interpolation? Ouida may well have had a much more vivid memory of that encounter anyway, since she had developed a crush on BR after seeing THE CZARINA. Perhaps she simply added her recollection – and some imagination – to the story.

Which of course would make all of that passage after “and we picked up June” Ouida’s description of herself, not a doting husband’s description of his wife.

Let’s read it and see what we think:

“Nothing is very distinct about the occasion, because afterward it had seemed to me like just another big party, and I have never liked big parties very much, especially with a lot of people I don’t know, but I’ll remember as much as I can. Clifton called for me after the play and we picked up June.

There was a large curving stairway that led up from the hall to Ouida’s apartment on the first floor at Fifty-third and Madison. It was a beautiful old house, which has long since given place to the CBS studios. At the top of the stairs stood Edmund Goulding, a self-appointed bartender! Eddie was lavishly dispensing drinks. “Where’s Ouida?” asked Clifton Webb. “Damned if I know,” replied Eddie. “Have a drink?”

Clifton went off in search of Ouida, but he did not return. It seems that Ouida was having supper with the Italian ambassador and some friends in another room. June and I had a drink and some supper and settled down in a bay window … Nobody bothered us.

It was from June I learned that Ouida was Paramount’s top scriptwriter (Paramount was then known as Famous Players Lasky). Young, petite, strongly opinionated – and very successful…June’s description of Ouida had a touch of vinegar about it.

Some time later there was a hustle and bustle as a door opened and Ouida and her friends came out to rejoin (sic) the party. We were introduced and she kissed June. She was indeed young and petite, with the most beautiful natural red hair I have ever seen…eyes that danced with the joy of living, and a skin texture like alabaster.

She wore a low cut yellow organdie evening dress that flared at the waist. She was the perfect Renoir. A moment later she was gone, but not before she had said, smiling sweetly, “enjoy yourselves won’t you.”

So, this was the bold Cossack from The Czarina that she had said she would one day marry! At least I imagine this was what she was thinking…”

— Basil Rathbone “In & Out of Character,” p. 53

Ouida was definitely young. We get that, if nothing else, right? 🙂

I think we have to agree this passage does read very well as an interpolation by a possibly insecure, over-compensating woman who didn’t think the text as originally written flattered her sufficiently. This is especially interesting:

“So, this was the bold Cossack from The Czarina that she had said she would one day marry! At least I imagine this was what she was thinking…”

Hmmm. It reminds me of that moment in LOVE FROM A STRANGER when Basil and Ann Harding are supposed to be talking about the killer in the third person, and he slips up and answers in the first, then weakly corrects himself. “The situation never arose….I should imagine.” You can easily interpret it as Ouida getting carried away and actually writing from her POV, realizing her error and adding the rather lame second sentence to cover it. It also seems to fit with her rather naïve style of self-promotion that she’d simply add the rather blatant covering rather than simply cut that section as a more sophisticated or subtle writer would probably have done.

That is a very Ouida-esque bit of weirdness in my opinion.

Once you start looking, I think you can identify numerous “joins” like this where style and content seem to shift suddenly, and most of the more obvious examples seem to concern Ouida herself. She is introduced into situations where she doesn’t really seem to belong (such as the night he was arrested for performing in THE CAPTIVE; was she really there? Does any independent account confirm this?), the strange way that “we” is used so often when talking about BR’s career, implying that she was somehow a part of that career, to a far greater extent that she ever seems to have been. This was Ouida’s fantasy, we know that. In private letters to her family from 1950 she talked of “our work” and claimed she was designing sets for BR’s plays and movies, and even writing those plays for him. The claims are false or exaggerated. In truth the only play she ever wrote “for” her husband was the disastrous SHERLOCK HOLMES in 1953, which seems to have bankrupted several investors and all but destroyed BR’s reputation on Broadway. The claim she designed sets seems to be based on THE COMMAND TO LOVE from 1927, for which – according to a Google summary of Theatre magazine – she did indeed design the decor, though without reading the whole thing it’s hard to know if this is independent confirmation, or just Ouida saying it for herself.

What comes through from a synthesis of her letters and early magazine articles is a woman desperate to almost parasitize her husband’s success and fame, and claim as much responsibility for it as was humanly possible. So when the same false or exaggerated claims start appearing in his autobiography it’s reasonable to wonder who is putting them there.

With that in mind, look at this passage from the chapter entitled “Ouida” (p.58) which describes her alleged decision to give up her alleged high-powered writing career after she married him:

“She felt strongly that two professionals in a family were one too many! If we had been able to live and work, like Mr and Mrs Alfred Lunt or Katherine (sic) Cornell and Guthrie McClintick, that would have been one thing, but our work would have separated, us. I was making a career for myself on Broadway, while Ouida would have to spend most of her time on the West Coast in the motion picture business. So Ouida asked for a release from all pending and existing contracts, one of which would have paid her $1500 a week, in order to marry an “up and coming” actor who was earning $500 a week, but had not yet actually “arrived.” This may, in retrospect , sound like good sense, but it also required a courage and devotion that many of Ouida’s friends considered to be considerably “beyond the call of duty“! Samuel Goldwyn was disgusted with Ouida’s decision and promised to buy her a grand piano if she would give up the idea of marrying “this actor!”

—“In & Out of Character”

Photoplay1938 03-13-08-1My regular readers might recognize some of this as almost a direct reprint of the claims BR (or someone) was making on Ouida’s behalf back in the late 1930s, when she was trying to get back in to screenwriting again. It was untrue then, and it was just as untrue twenty-something years later. Sadly, when she met Basil, Ouida hadn’t had a screenplay produced for a year, and her last effort had been a flop. By the time she married him she hadn’t worked in Hollywood for three years and she was bankrupt. Her friends were not begging her to hold on to her great career, because she didn’t have one. Sam Goldwyn wasn’t trying to buy her back with pianos (and since he’d stopped working for Paramount in 1916, why would he?).

Like so much else, it was a fantasy. And in 1960-something when this book was being written, it was a thirty-year old fantasy that had long since ceased to have any meaning to anyone – except Ouida. I mean, can we believe BR, almost seventy years old, tired, virtually destitute, broken by Ouida’s constant insane spending, with a sick daughter’s medical bills to pay, was worrying about bolstering his wife’s ego with childishly irrelevant stories like this?

I don’t think so. It’s one thing to be forty-something and tell a bit of a falsehood in a magazine interview in order to help revive your wife’s career, and quite another to repeat and embellish this falsehood twenty years later in your own personal memoirs – your last word to posterity. There’s no evidence he lied about his own career to beef himself up. Why would he do it at this stage of his life – and so transparently badly – for his wife?

Ouida, on the other hand, used lies – and silly, extreme lies – as a matter of course to flatter and console herself. So, I suggest this passage has her mark all over it.

Unless of course – and this is almost worse – he went through his entire married life believing she really had sacrificed her career for him!?

These are just a few examples of passages where I can see a good case for Ouida having edited or written portions of the text, I don’t have the space to include anything like all of them. They’re numerous, and once you get your eye in, so to speak, you can spot them everywhere. Which leads me to think my correspondent is partly correct, and Ouida did indeed have quite a hand in writing her husband’s memoirs.

This is kind of significant, because that book is a principal source of information about BR, and about his relationships and his work. We tend to read it as being his own voice, unedited and undiluted. And if it’s not, if someone else, particularly someone as partial, ego-obsessed and downright strange as Ouida, was editing and interpolating, then we have to approach it differently, and be a lot more cautious about what it says (especially about her), and what it might be leaving out.

And of course if that were true it’s also another huge question about the real nature of BR’s marriage and the psychology that underpinned it.

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122 Comments

  1. Howie says

    I was lucky enough to meet Mr Rathbone in the late 1950’s while he was I believe living in England. He was at a performance of the original production of Look back in Anger at the Royal Court in 1956. I treasure the experience even now as it was like meeting a little piece of the Golden Age of Hollywood on Sloane Square.

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  2. Total Baz Babe says

    Oh My F*****g God I can’r beleive I found this amazing site and all this stuff. I am reading my way through all your wonderful analyses of Basil “the God” Rathbone. isn’t he just the most beautiful hunk of man and he’s also a BRAIN. My uterus is about to explode! And I have a load more stuff to read. Gawd help me.

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    • GRETCHEN says

      HA-HA-HA!!! 🙂

      That’s the FUNNIEST comment I’ve read on this blog so far— GOOD ONE!!

      (And YES, he WAS quite a “HUNK”…and pretty darn SMART, too. Why can’t a guy like HIM exist in our world NOW?? I REALLY miss the OLD days!) 😦

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      • Hot Chick says

        “why can’t a guy like this exist in the world today?”

        THAT is the question we’d all like to get answered. Very few guys as beautiful. None as cultured.

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  3. malibu says

    Thanks for an excellent post. I just discovered this blog. Such a Basil fan. What a tragic man though.

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  4. Margaret G says

    I hope you recover quickly, flu can be so debilitating. Many Basil-adherents are thinking of you!

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  5. Hannah says

    I have the flu too and I’m watching all my Baz-collection on my laptop. I’m on “SH Faces Death” right now, which is one of my fave Sherlock films ever. Hope you are up to watching movies Neve

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    • I always said Basil was a good choice for the part.He looks like the paintings.I think he’d pass for a 14th cent pinup boy. Oh and if I could change 1 thing about that beautiful reconstruction..why on on earth so much rouge? It make him look like one of those lil old ladies that over do make up.Or alternetly a young teen trying to look older.

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  6. Thanks for a really interesting and professional article. I’m looking forward to the next one

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  7. roesbette says

    I hope you recover Never. Meanwhile, I recommend you hold nothing heavier than the remote to your TV or DVR.

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  8. lemony Snicket says

    This year’s flu is grim, take care and get some antibiotics for the chest infection ASAP

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  9. Hey guys – I have the flu and a chest infection and a temp of 103 this morning, so this blog is on hiatus for the rest of this week! Apologies to all

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      • They both look slightly frail,but at least he looks healthier than Tales Of Terror.How many swag bags did she return with I wonder.Must’ve cost him more than those 2 missing paychecks.Maybe she learned how to please her man and new party planning strategies.My granny looked better at 90,and she was a heavy smoker for 50 yrs,quitting cold turkey in 1980s.And with only one lung!

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        • If she ended up this side of poorhouse after his working in flicks he felt beneath him,like Son Of Frankenstone,who was keeping an eye on balancing the checkbook?Did she think she only had to go to the garden of eating to pull off a few million or thousand?Why kill him with overwork and demands.Let him do what he loved and pull in the grabby hands.IMHO

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          • I agree. Is this how you show your husband that you love him? Spend all his money, forcing him to work into his old age? It seems as if she was punishing him.

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          • She should’ve stayed home and let him have fun,not her spend as she goes.Wonder if Bea gave him a hard time because of the daughter in 1920s,or did she cut him some slack.If the 1st marriage failed,she shoul’ve been the supportive sister,not sister-in-law,after all,he still looked after his wife and child.Only so much anyone can take,war,loss of immed family,dependent aging father,wife and child,/\?sister’s condition.She seems more highstrung than Baz.Wonder how it was with John recovering from his serious wound,did she help or just hold it against someone,like the enemy like she should,even look after the Homefront,did she help care for Rodion?Just musing on a Sat afternoon,waiting for more snow.Sorry for extra long ramble

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        • Changed my mind on that pic,he looks DANGED good.Interesting hat,did it match everything.She should’ve BOL for scenarist ideas and started work as such when they got back home to stay out of Macy’s/Gimbell’s/Russian Tea Room/21.My father worked there in 30s,wonder if he ever met either of them there (no longer with us to ask,unfort).He did meet the battling Bogies somewhere.Loved seeing Edgar’s info from census,thanks so much for sharing everything.I’ve rambled on too much.

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    • roesbette says

      I have to admit his age really shows in this picture you posted. He actually looks older than Ouida, while when they were both younger, it was the reverse. Of course, she was always a little plump, and plumper women don’t wrinkle as much as thin ones. That’s why I keep that extra 10 lbs.!

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      • Roberta says

        After he finishes with Hollywood in the late 1940’s he starts to look tired and careworn, which ages him. Was he perhaps suffering from depression? I have wondered if there was some underlying reason for him suddenly quitting Hollywood that contributed to him ageing. As others have commented, he loses a lot of weight quite suddenly around 1945, which might indicate either depression or some other problem.

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        • In a YouTube scene from Milton Berle show,he looked quite thin,prob usual look for him.In the candid with Marlene Dietrich with Baz in only Towel/Boxers,he looks quite fine.Would love to see him in Berle episode with him totally flustered,swearing because of all the ad-libbing,swearing never to work with those people again.Welcome to world of tv comics.The Berle sketch was on a pirate ship,hilarious.

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          • rosebette says

            I’ve seen the Berle sketch and Bas looks like he’s having fun if you ask me. He’s still pretty quick on his feet with comebacks and such.

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        • Just imagine what else she was driving him with,probably to drink with nagging,too.More and more I hear about how domestic life prob was with a narcissitic person,the clearer the picture comes to me of family members who had to tolerate some similar,tho’ not as excessive spending.Was someone overly spoiled as a child and took adv of a more passive personality.I imagine she whipped out the old red pen/pencil to his memoire.Agree that she must’ve wanted to present in most favorable light to the public.He could’ve spoken up,maybe had serious arguing from Marion,and chose to be more placid second time around.Maybe was the “folly” he talked about in memoir.Still,if he didn’t ask her to complete his book,wasn’t that what publisher would do,edit/correct text,request rewrites?HS STORY,she could’ve done her own another time.I think his life was more interesting with all that’s come out on this site.

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    • Hannah says

      I don’t think he looks old, and he still has his looks, but he does look kinda stressed out and a bit too thin. I think Ouida looks like a gargoyle got reanimated

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    • Was JB a realy strenus play? I read it, but honstly cant recall much about it xcept that its about Job and Basil plays the devil.Of all the pics I see there seems to be alot of scafolding.Did Basill have to like climb all over it and run around on it ..like Paul Young on tour or something? About the letter I’m glad you refound it,I hope you saved a copy.Theres one of Basils on ebayuk now. I copied it lastnight. The seller seams to be basicly a stamp dealer. Trying to make sence of what it says? Of course we only have his reply to someone else and it is a bit weird trying to fig. what it’s about. Sure looks like his handwrighting.I’ll see if I can refind the link.

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  10. roesbette says

    Actually, I tried to access the letter again, the site did take me back to the original listing. In fact, later in the letter, Ouida writes “Thank God it isn’t as bad as expected. He is desperately tired after playing JB in New after the long hot summer.” So, perhaps you are right, it wasn’t a real heart attack.

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  11. All that stuff about their first kiss which plays like something from a women’s romance novel – once you know what sort of person she was you just _know_ she wrote that bit.

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    • David says

      I agree that does read very forced and false, my first thought on reading it was that it was the sort of thing a woman writes for other women!

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  12. what about the section where he tells how his pay check got stolen by two different people two weeks in a row. At the time I read it I thought “Ouida nicked ’em, son.”

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      • Interesting! Have you got a source for that? I was planning to look at that weeeeird little episode in the next post 🙂

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        • Yes its in her auto or it was a bio about her.It was a lib book.Pretty sure I owned a copy at one time. But If so It was one of my books that got threw out…sad story that. But in one of my moves, a bunch of books in boxes got mixed up with boxes of other junk and got tossed..grrr. The book wasnt all that memorable for me .I tend to read or buy any book that mentions Basil.It was only his parts that I rember.and of them that was the part I rembered best. I havent read the book in at least 10 years. But that parts sticks with me.

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  13. Margaret G says

    I share Rosebette’s sentiments. I am re-reading the book as a result of these articles and one you begin to look for signs of Ouida’s authorship, they seem to be everywhere. I agree that the early sections read so much more honestly and fluidly than most of the later content, and the most forced and awkward passages seem to be about Ouida.

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    • What time-frame were his “Evening With Basil R” lectures?Was he losing ground mentally then?Picture of them preparing to go to Australia on tour he looked pretty healthy,but 1st time seeing a picture of Tales Of Terror my thought was he’d had heart prob,namely Congestive Heart Failure and Emphysema.

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      • Granny Gingrich says

        Is there any evidence he did lose ground mentally? His memory for lines seems to have gone, but is there anything beside that to suggest he was losing the plot?

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        • Never thought he looked out of sorts in Ghost In Inv Bikini and he was almost 75.Looked pretty good in that.Looked awful tired in TOT.Thought Cong Heart Failure because of so many centuries working in nursing.Didn’t look too happy//healthy in Magic Sword,but having an impossible spender to support could be why

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        • Where did this getting ‘oldtimers’ idea come from? He seams to be quoteing “the scottish play” with amazing accuray in “Comedy Of Terrors”.Not to mention dashing about like a 19year old,with a sword and an ax.

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          • Oh and when I suggested “I rember it well” I wasnt sugesting he didnt rember due to old timers, I was sugesting that ouida was rewrighting everthing he was saying.Because from the words “We Picked up June…” it sounds like a total rewright.

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      • I’m not a Dr.[I just play one on tv] seriously..What about his performance in TOT would indecate that to someone that would know what to look for. Because I have always felt he looks dreadfull in TOT[by that I mean unhealthy, still just handsome as ever,to me anyway]But not so bad in Comedy Of Terrors or Ghost In The Invisibal Bikinie[sp?]

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      • Reagan says

        I think his tours started in the mid to late fifties, but don’t quote me. Judging by the way he was prancing around in “Autopsy of a Ghost” I doubt he was suffering from congestive heart failure.

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        • I’ve never seen it was it good? I have seen “Hillbillys in a Haunted House” but under a dif title.[the title escapes me.] on the realy late show.It was more like a bunch of performances by country stars strung togather by a bit[smallbit] of plot.The music was good.

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        • My comment on CHF was only for the time TOT came out.The bags under his eyes,looked like he’d been sick.But Comedy Of Terrors he looked better,voice a little weak,but he seemed in his element,Magic Sword wasted his talent what little I could tolerate,Ghost In Inv Bikini,loved Baz and Boris,both looked pretty decent,Baz thin as ever,but did his best.It was said that all but the last 2 Sherlock/Universal pics he made no secret of his boredom with series,but always thought he always gave it all,and had fun doing so.Maybe if he appeared bored it was because of other roles he didn’t get because of scheduling,but I’m sure H’wood could accommodate any hot property,and he definitely was.Can see him so vividly in many other films,good or evil parts.Def should have been given honor of retiring and enjoying end years.Was he allowed to see his son on the last birthday he was around for,I wonder?Did OR express how much she missed him when he was gone forever?

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          • Acording to Everthing Iv read and Hearing Vincent talk about it COT was filmed in like a week and alot of it was made up as they went along…and bless the director for haveing enough comon sence to know when you have all of that talent on hand what they come up with might be way better then what was orig.wrighten. So I have always put Basils little voice problem down to a cold or laringitezs[sp?] Hisvoice sounds better in GITIB. Was he giving thoe talks at that time? Could also cause horseness too. Magic s.word as we call it. my copy is purple..yup purple. the whole thing.Not B&W or colour its varing shades of purple. Not conducive to fun watching at all.

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          • If he had an MI during the run of JB,it could certainly dev into other cardiac issues over time,esp him smoking,being taken to the cleaners,excess work to keep up with bills,lack of good roles,being older,having trouble learning lines.Can’t believe he worked until 1 month of his passing if he couldn’t remember lines,pass physical as insurance on pics being completed.No matter what,he was a man,good provider and no matter how much OR may have denied she needed counseling,if ever suggested,she NEEDED counseling,mainly a psych,and there’s no shame in adm to seeing or needing to see one.

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      • While on subject of his health,he seemed awful winded after the 1st duel with Danny Kaye in Court Jester,and in an interview talking of Errol & his sword fights,he sounded like someone with emphysema then (think it was 1959,per TCM)

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        • roesbette says

          I actually thought he looked great in The Court Jester. Come on, the guy was 64! Most of BR’s peers were all dead by 1960 — Flynn, Gable, Colman, Bogart. Of course, all these guys including Basil were smokers. It’s a wonder BR lived to 75; neither of his parents reached that age.

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          • Kendrick says

            I think he looks good in the CJ as well, certainly he looks healthier than he did in the final Sherlock Holmes film

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        • I hadn’t meant the long duel,just the one where they barely cross swords.Interesting that because Danny was a fast learner that the scenes Baz has his back to camera were all someone standingin,stuntman,as Danny too fast for him.Love that he always praises others efforts.How kind a person!

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  14. Alyssia says

    Why is it so hard for you to believe a man could simply love a woman enough to want to celebrate her in his memoirs? I think you must be very jealous of their happiness. I intend to start my own blog which will tell the truth about Basil Rathbone. if anyone wants to see extracts of his diaries they can go there.

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    • Please do start your own blog.We would all love to see Basil get more airplay. And I think Im unanimous in that.Please give us a link we all realy want to see that diary.Do you intend to just quote it it? Or perchance may we finaly get to see some of your proof.

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    • Hot Chick says

      It gets hard to believe because of the evidence that things were not that way. It’s that simple

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  15. Harriet Rufus Brown says

    When I first read Rathbone’s autobiography a few years back I actually said to my husband “I believe Ouida wrote most of this.” And mow it looks like I was right! How weird.

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    • I always thought it was uneven, but ascribed that to differences in mood and age. After all who is to say when he wrote it all? Not all of it reads as if written at the the same time and some of it really has to come from an autobiography. There is all sorts of stuff thrown together on that mix IMO. Having said that, the idea Ouida wrote some of the mishmash is not at all unlikely.

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      • Baker Street Babe says

        Very true,there is nothing to say it was all written at one time. You can imagine Ouida might have gathered together a hodge podge of fragments he had written and then tried to glue them into an “autobiography” with her own editing and additions. She would do this for money of course and maybe for a feeling of control and also to make sure his “official” life story told the right story about her. But then why would he let her do this? Out of love?

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  16. Oh if the link doset work or you like me have dial-up here is what i was talking about. GiGi: I rember it well:
    We met at nine
    We met at eight
    I was on time
    No, you were late
    Ah yes! I remember it well

    We dined with friends
    We dined alone
    A tenor sang
    A baritone
    Ah yes! I remember it well

    That dazzling April moon
    There was none that night
    And the month was June
    That’s right! That’s right!
    It warms my heart to know that
    You remember still the way you do
    Ah yes! I remember it well

    How often I’ve thought of that Friday (Monday) night
    When we had our last rendezvous
    And somehow I’ve foolishly wondered
    If you might by some chance be thinking of it too?

    That carriage ride
    You walked me home
    You lost a glove
    I lost a comb
    Ah yes! I remember it well

    That brilliant sky
    We had some rain
    Those Russian songs
    From sunny Spain?
    Ah yes! I remember it well

    You wore a gown of gold
    I was all in blue
    Am I getting old?
    Oh no! Not you!
    How strong you were, how young and gay
    A prince of love in every way
    Ah yes! I remember it well

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  17. Roberta says

    I completely think she could have written large chunks of the book. It goes on and on about her so much and barely mentions his first wife, even though she was the mother of his only son. It’s just incredible. But also as you say there are sections that seem to have so much honestly in them and are so different from the Ouida bitsI feel they come from Basil’s heart

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  18. roesbette says

    After following this blog, I ceased believing Ouida was perfect, but I did believe Basil wrote IAOOC, and that he did love her. But on rereading this passage, Neve, I can certainly see Ouida’s “marks” on it. If he wrote it himself, it was heavily colored by her edits and redactions, I’m sure. However, you may be wrong about Ouida not having a role in set design in some of Basil’s plays in the 1920s because I think I read something in the archives about her being involved in some of the set design for “Judas”. When I go back to the BU archives, I’ll take a look at the correspondence and other material related to that. It wouldn’t surprise me — she was someone obsessed with making physical surroundings look perfect.

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    • I can see how she might have done some designs for JUDAS, because that was a BR project. She might even have really done some for COMMAND TO LOVE. Maybe she was even quite good at it, but the feeling I get is always of BR indulging her, using his contacts, calling in favors with people so she can act out a little fantasy of herself as a Great Writer or a Great Designer. In fact the more I discover, the more like tragic characters from Ibsen or Chekhov or Tennessee Williams they both seem. Ouida is like Blanche DuBois without Kowalski to shatter her self-protecting lies.

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      • Oh dear,Neve you can turn a phrase.I laughed all the way through..It reminded me of this .I hope it plays for you all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sISWPzEqHLQ I still insist That parts of his book sound just like him,as if you were talking to him. But yes there are parts that sound like it’s a segue way from sceen to sceen.Or in this case chapter to chapter. Rosebette,yes. Why not let her rearange the furniter if it keeps her from doing other more anoying things..like trying to rewright the whole show.Judy, did you see the reconstruction of Richards face? My he was handsome.Basil was a good cohoice..even with that blond wig?why blond I ask? Even his portraits show a dark haired man. Even then he was discribed as looking more like his father then his brothers.[both blond].Mabey thats why Basil was upset.

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  19. Judy D. says

    Haven’t read the book in years; guess I’d better do so. Two readings apparently weren’t enough. But I always wondered, after reading the comments of his ex-fanclub president, whose name at the moment doesn’t come to me, whether he was at that time suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s or something (thought he was a she, couldn’t remember lines, looked fragile and ill), and if so, was he capable of tackling an autobiography. Of course he could have written portions of it over many years. But why a whole chapter entitled “Ouida.” What hubby does that. And the Cornell/Guthrie marriage as a possible model if they worked together!! Really, how could she NOT have been involved in the project. Nothing we know about her would make it farfetched to imagine her reviewing each chapter and adding her edits and “suggestions.” Just try to keep any would-be writer from rewriting!! And why did he say so little in it about his pre-Weedie love life. I do have some information on plays, etc. by Ouida, which I finally dug out of hiding yesterday, but I only glanced at it; will give it a more thorough decko. So–another week, another fantastic twist in the Rathbone saga!! Hoping, by the way, that Tower of London will get a lot of play now that Richard III has been positively identified.

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    • Having a chapter called “Ouida’ would be reasonable if all or some of the others were also named after people, such as “Marion,” “Rodion,” etc. But having a chapter all about Ouida when his first wife is barely mentioned is really strange. And who would have greatest motive to exclude Marion? Why, Ouida of course. It’s so obvious i don’t know why it never occurred to anyone before.

      Was he just a weak man? Or was there something else going on that really put him in her grip?

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    • roesbette says

      The edition I have of IAOCC has a copyright 1962. B. was exactly 70 at that publication, but he was still very active and actually performed Shakespeare at the White House in 1963, hardly senile. Also, there are interviews with him during that timeframe when he is very sharp. Perhaps the person of the BR fan club met him later, closer to the time of his death in 1967.

      Regarding whether he was a “dunce” in school, I wouldn’t say BR was “stupid”, but just not that interested in study and more interested in athletics. Obviously, he was bright and well-read, but perhaps like many active young men, not that interested in academics at that point in his life. Anyway, someone who is capable of understanding and performing Shakespeare is hardly an idiot — but this perception of himself is I think typical of his self-deprecating character and innate modesty.

      Regarding references to physical passion with Ouida, on another re-reading, I find none, except the account of their first kiss which, as Neve states, may be Ouida’s work. However, I do wonder about the fact that Ouida insisted on BR and she not staying together in the same hotel rooms, etc., until after they were married; he calls her “conservative” in that regard (and we know from Marcia’s work that he had no scurples about staying in hotel rooms with other ladies without benefit of marriage!). But there is another sentence, which I had originally interpreted as a subtle statement that they had both come to the marriage as sexually experienced and so were compatible in that regard, but now I wonder if the hidden meaning is that their relationship may have been more of a partnership/agreement than a purely passionate one: “By the time Ouida and I met we had both lived full lives and had had much valuable experience, beyond the average that should enable us to live together ‘until death do us part.'” Could this be an acknowledgement of the “been there, done that” aspect of their sexual lives in the past and that the marriage was actually existing on other grounds, where sex may have not been primary? I do not get the sense of Ouida as a sexual person, but do get the sense that BR was.

      Excuse the long post! Sometimes I say nothing for a while because I get busy with work and then go on and on….

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      • Things are really starting to make more sense in figuring out this non-Romeo & Juliet marriage.She only seems to succeed in making herself what she was lacking in her early years by her need to control a grown man like our Baz,at least to me in the analysis and posts on IAOOC.

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        • Regarding his 1946 H’wood departure,did he maybe have nervous exhaustion being such a high-strung person,and to cover a “heart on one’s sleeve” existence leave to recover to one day return,as he did in “Casanova’s Big Night”,he looked good in that,even if I thought he was poorly used.At least he wasn’t pushed down stairs as in Frenchman’s Creek.

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  20. I was one of those suckers who went for IAOOC hook, line, and sinker and believed that Ouida was perfect and that the Baz worshipped her. Now I find your analysis of specific sections of the memoir to be fascinating. Judging by his letters, BR was a gifted writer and when he was on (and he was always on when he wrote), the passages were so lyrical that it could bring tears to your eyes. But the first meeting with Ouida reads like a newspaper account, or dialogue from Dragnet. If he was still in love with her 40 years later, this would have been his chance to prove it in a retelling that dripped with passion and featured those sweeping Rathbonian sentences. Long and tender and poetic. He would have written the scene directly to her and for her and it would have resonated for the ages. In other words, sign me up: I’m convinced.

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    • Well,I think this account is right.Maybe she was becoming senile.Still think his 1946 decision to return to NYC was “right back at ya” for 1930s decision to go West.He was a good provider,and maybe to justify her spending considered everything “hers”.And trying to gloss over the courtship and marriage when you put him and his family thru heck?

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      • I also find it hard to believe he graduated near the bottom of his class,unless there were only the three students.Sounds like Alan Napier thought he was always young for his age,and wanted to be liked.Which could confirm speculation that his sister and mother were characters,too.Why didn’t the sister come to see him in Amer instead of going to So Africa?She could’ve helped with his daughter.And why should she feel depressed over the breakup of his marriage,unless she was interfering or too opinionated?Gee,if I acted like that to brothers,I’d get told where to go and we were all brought up very Old World.

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        • Harriet Rufus Brown says

          I never understood his claim to have been an academic dunce at school. Everything about him shows not simply intelligence but _learning_.

          Like

        • Reagan says

          I get the impression Beatrice may have slightly lost her mind after the deaths of her mother and baby brother, and that her retreat was part of an emotional breakdown. It was either that or she was terribly selfish to leave her brother completely alone like that

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          • I agree with what you suspect about Beatrice.Their father was still around,and if she never married,suspect she would’ve looked after him because he sounded devastated by both deaths.Quite a toll after wartime service and disintegrating marriage for Baz.

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              • Wonder if it was ever found again,and I’m not trying to be cruel to Bea,just she does sound selfish to me,and I do feel badly for anyone whose family had such tremendous losses,but give your older bro credit for trying to get over years of hell in the trenches and feeling responsible for everyone.I think he tried to please too many ungrateful sources,and had too much to bear alone.He seemed full of fun,eyes atwinkle and not afraid to hear remarks that would seriously offend me from his co-stars (George Sanders-“I thought you died,too bad”).

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      • Maybe if she’d gone back as a Scenarist/Dialog writer,they’d have had more of a comfortable existence,2 incomes/1 overspender.Did he turn over every paycheck to her,or did it actually make it to the bank before she spent it.Wanting someone to always look their best needn’t backrupt anyone.She needed to earn a living and contribute to thehousehold,not just invite more relatives of hers to come set a spell,but needed to include his family.What qualified her to edit/write or rewrite his memoirs,esp since she only knew him from the time of her party,when she dissed June.Did she think he would live like a monk until she married him?

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        • Respectuly, I think your looking at it from a now point of view. My dad was born in 1915. The way he was raised, it was basicly a discrace to allow your wife to work and support the family. Unless of course you were a cripple or something.That was the husbands job.It made you less of a man,in folks eyes.I know people who are still like that today. Being a screen wrighter is in itself not like being a housemaid or being in service.. but Basil was born in the Victorian era.We are ‘of our times’.

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          • Could be differences due to culture/upbringing on my part (Half Sicilian),and my father 25 yrs older than mother.He hated seeing anyone sitting idle.Really held it vs my mother when she became seriously disabled after car accident,actually blaming her for becoming a virtual shutin,unable to work,never mind barely able to walk.He was a slave driver and would resort to the belt if P-O’d enough,which was pretty dang freq to me.Same attitude toward my gran who was widowed at 36 w/6 kids,1 on the way,too.My mother being expected to return to work once we were all in school was back in late 1960s,my gran 1920s.She worked as seamstress (granny),mother as dental assist and nurse.Maybe my dad’s influence makes me wonder if OR rebelling vs marriage or something leading massive spending

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    • Kaitlyn says

      When you think about it does he ever talk about Ouida with passion? There’s more hints at remembered desire in the few things he says about Kitten than in all the prose about Ouida IMO

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      • Thomas Dekker says

        Affection, yes, passion – not that I recall. In fact he was always very keen on emphasizing the non-sexual aspects of their marriage.

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