Basilrathbone.net has an interesting new look at Ouida Rathbone’s slightly infamous SHERLOCK HOLMES stage play. That great, gobbling turkey of 1953, that could be said to have wrecked Rathbone’s Broadway career almost as effectively as his decision to flee Hollywood had destroyed his movie career.
For me – and I suspect for anyone who’s been following our journey through Rathbone’s life and work – the article highlights some of those enduring puzzles and contradictions that make BR both fascinating and frustrating as a subject.
For example, why was the man who allegedly fled Hollywood because he couldn’t stand being Holmes any longer starring in a Holmes play on Broadway just seven years later? And if it’s true that Rathbone was already trying to launch this vehicle as early as 1946, then that question becomes not just relevant but crucial, because it would mean he quit his massively lucrative Sherlock movie and radio contracts, fled Hollywood, alienating friends and colleagues in the process, all because he could not stand another moment of playing Holmes – and then almost immediately began trying to play Holmes again on stage.
Which means either at this point Rathbone was not a very sane man, or his reasons for quitting Hollywood were not quite the ones he gave out. Or he didn’t really want to do the Sherlock play but was being in some sense pressured into it.
Or maybe a bit of all three.
The major question of course is – how bad was this play? It died a horrible death on Broadway. Critics vivisected it. Did it deserve that fate? Did Rathbone really think it was good? Or was he actually prepared to put his already floundering career on the line for a property he secretly knew was a turkey?
We’ll be able to answer a couple of these questions this Christmas when THE BAKER STREET JOURNAL published the entire text of Ouida’s play (subscribe to get a copy).