Basil Rathbone Eulogizes the American Actress
The Billboard, November 24 1923
When our dramatic critic, in his review of “The Swan” defined Mr Basil Rathbone as “the leading man par excellence with the looks, bearing and acting capacity which should go with the genius” we decided that we had a clue worth following in our search for interesting personalities. But getting a seat for a performance of “The Swan” was like getting poor Humpty up a again. It was only due to the cancellation of a third balcony box reservation that we succeeded in viewing that ideal couple, the fair LeGallienne(sic) and the stalwart Rathbone. We gazed so long from our dizzy heights thru the lenses of an opera glass that we became dizzy and were obliged to seek the wings backstage for a closeup(sic) of Mr Rathbone.
We found him surrounded by a bevy of femininity and reporters. Closing our eyes to everyone’s claim of prior presence we began harping on Mr Rathbone’s name in varying keys until one of them registered in that gentleman’s ear. He bowed deeply to signify that his attention was ours, but he submitted to an interview about as gracefully as a caged Bengal tiger, gliding hither and thither until we would have given our meagre kingdom for a pair of roller skates that would have enabled our five feet five to keep pace with the long sweeping six feet plus Rathbone glides.
Finally we asked him for his impressions of America, whereupon his little goat, enraged by the triteness of the question, almost broke from the leash of good breeding (??) and chased us from the theatre. After pulling up the reins on the little beast Mr Rathbone graciously promised that he would write his impressions of America and deliver them at The Billboard office the next morning.
We didn’t believe he would write them; and he didn’t. Instead he called in person to register his opinion that the question was silly and he didn’t know hat it was all about anyway.
Signalling the keeper of the gate to thrown a cordon around the building so that our magnificent quarry might not escape we coaxed him to a seat where he would have a full view of the passing Broadway show. (It’s a trick that usually works – the psychological appeal to vision). The passing show immediately caught his eye and interest and he forgot all about the SILLY question and that he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
“There,” he exclaimed, “that is what I think of America – hurry, hurry, hurry! Wonderful city, instinct with vitality! It vitalizes me, too. I f I had my way I should tour back and forth across America, gathering vitality from New York, ozone in the majestic Rockies, inspiration from the great desert, and California, gosh how I love California! I’d settle down in California to rest, if I COULD rest. But I could never be faithful to one place long. My temperament is too restless. I believe constant change is as necessary to the person of imagination as color and form variety are to nature and art. To rest mans to rust –mentally.”
“What do you think of our actor and actresses?” we asked.
“I think your actresses are far superior to your actors. Your actresses are amazingly beautiful, intellectual, imaginative and versatile. And how beautifully gowned they are. Speaking of this comparison of men and women of the profession, it applies to America generally. I feel that this is a woman’s country. Woman is by far the dominating force. While the male of the species hurries hurries hurries in his for money and more money, the woman plays, and plays intellectually. And how intelligently she dresses! Why, it is amazing how many beautifully gowned women there are in New York. Beautifully women and beautifully gowned! One feels like stopping to stare and admire, and would if it were not rude.
After thanking Mr Rathbone on behalf of the women of America, we asked him what he thought of American theatre.
“The theatre in America is as much of an institution as the railroads. It is necessary to your people’s progress an existence., for they LOVE it. They don’t go to the theatre in quest of relaxation as so many aver, but because they LOVE it and because it stimulates them. It’s the great panacea that keeps your men from becoming mere working automatons!”
How brilliant this young English actor is! And how handsome! He reminds one of Lou Tellergen in a way – the same classic head and profile, made more dominant and vital by a darkness of coloring suggesting Norman ancestry.
As to history, Mr Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, Transvaal, Africa, June 13 1892. After graduating from Repton College he chose a business career with the Globe Insurance Company. But business held no charm for his restless temperament. He decided that it made him unhappy to live in a state of gray monotony, concentrating constantly on one thing. So he sought the stage, finding in its ever-changing aspect the versatility of pursuit his……