Judging from the search terms that hit this blog and the steady trickle of emails I get on the subject, there is a fair amount of curiosity and/or puzzlement amongst Rathbone fans regarding the life and tragically early death of his adopted daughter Cynthia.
It’s true that what we know about Cynthia is surprisingly patchy, considering she was a movie star’s daughter. Even the public photographic record seems to be meagre. Only one photo of her as a baby, and probably less than a dozen all told. Here is what we do know.
She was born in California, in April 1939.
Adopted by the Rathbones shortly thereafter.
Her names were Barbara Cynthia. The above source alleges( on what authority is unknown) that “Barbara” was the name of both her adoptive grandmothers, but neither the name Ouida pretended her mother had (Marion Manners) nor the name of her actual mother (Ida Branch) fits with this claim.
According to her obit in the NYT, at the time of her early death, in 1969, Cynthia was living with Ouida at 15 W72nd in NYC, and working as an assistant art director at the Hockaday Advertizing Agency.
Her obit alleges she died of “acute anemia”. When Michael B. Druxman interviewed Ouida in 1973, she didn’t expand on that, and only commented that her daughter had died from “an illness.”
Another source (which I’m going to do a post about soon) alleges “[she] ha[d] long been ill with hepatitis.”
And, currently, that is pretty much all we have. The unanswered questions are legion. Who were her birth parents? How well did she come through a childhood spent in sometimes fraught and anxious family circumstances? How were relations with Ouida? When did she get sick, and why?
If anyone can help answer these questions, or add anything to this fairly tiny store of knowledge, we’d be incredibly grateful. We’d love to hear from anyone who knew Cynthia as a child or adult. Anyone with family connection who knew her. Anything at all.
You can leave a comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.