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Basil Films That Never Were

basilrathbone2-2My previous post, Films Rathbone Almost Made, explores films that studios either produced or at least planned to produce. This post concerns five films which existed only in the mind of one Russell Ferguson, who wrote an article called “Bruce at Bombcutta.” This article was published in the October 1938 edition of World Film News.

Ferguson imagined five historical epics that were never made, each one a colossal production. In each one Basil Rathbone plays the villain and dies at the end!

  • Plymouth Hoe
  • Bannockburn
  • The Black Hole of Calcutta
  • The Relief of Lucknow
  • The Fall of Rome

queenelizabeth

Plymouth Hoe

Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces.
The story: Queen Elizabeth (Edna May Oliver) is in love with Francis Drake (Gary Cooper) who prefers her maid of honour (Olivia de Havilland). She is a very proud queen, so the young people have to keep their love a secret. But the Earl of Leicester (Basil Rathbone) has ambitions to marry the Queen, and tells her of Gary’s love for Olivia. The Queen banishes Gary in anger, and he sails round the world capturing Spanish galleons. Olivia is sent to the Tower.

Meanwhile the Earl of Leicester presses his suit with Edna May Oliver, but makes little progress. She finally spurns him, and he begins to intrigue with the King of Spain (Akim Tamiroff), asking him to send an Armada and conquer Elizabeth.
Meanwhile Gary returns with a load of treasure, and the Queen knights him, but she will not forgive Olivia. After the knighting ceremony there is a great feast on Plymouth Hoe, and one of Shakespeare’s comedies is performed. Gary, thinking of Olivia, cannot join in the merriment. He steals away for a game of bowls with the common sailors.

Meanwhile the Earl of Leicester has sent word to Spain that now is the time to sail up the Channel, while Drake’s men are all dancing or playing bowls. The Spanish fleet is in charge of Henry Stephenson (the Duke of Medina Sidonia). The signals for attack are locked in his flagship.

olivia

Meanwhile the English sailors have gathered round Plymouth Hoe to watch the game. The Spaniards are sighted, but Drake insists on playing the full twenty-one ends, though the Armada gets nearer and nearer.

Drake wins the game. As night falls, he rows out to the Spanish flagship and gains admission by means of a trick. He steals the signals for attack out of the safe in Henry Stephenson’s cabin. The Spanish fleet is now powerless to move. Fireships are sent among them.

In the morning there is a great battle, and the English win easily. Henry Stephenson dies gallantly.

After the battle there is a showdown. Edna May Oliver asks Drake what reward he wants for saving England. He asks for Olivia de Havilland. Gary and Olivia are married, and Basil Rathbone’s head is cut off.

kings

Bannockburn

Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces.
The story: Robert Bruce (Gary Cooper) loves Olivia de Havilland, daughter of the High Steward of Scotland, but she refuses to marry him until he has delivered Scotland from the yoke of the English king, Edward I, Hammer of the Scots (C. Aubrey Smith). Bruce sets about the task, but is betrayed to the English time after time by John Balliol (Basil Rathbone). In reward for this assistance, the English king makes Basil king of Scotland, and Bruce is banished from the country with a price on his head. He goes to Rathlin Island in disguise.

Meanwhile, the Scots are preparing to rise in rebellion against Basil Rathbone, who is a tyrant, while Basil is trying to get Olivia de Havilland to marry him, in order to consolidate his position. But Olivia still has faith in Bruce, and delays giving him an answer.
Meanwhile, Bruce is lying in a cave on Rathlin Island, watching a spider trying to build a web. Six times the thread breaks, and six times the spider tries again. That’s funny, says Gary. I have been betrayed in six battles. I wonder if the spider will try again? The spider succeeds at the seventh attempt, and Bruce determines to come back to Scotland and try again to beat the English.

Meanwhile, C. Aubrey Smith dies, on his way to Scotland to put down the Scottish rebels.

Meanwhile, Gary lands in Ayrshire, and begins to rally the Scots to his banner. He captures castle after castle, until the only castle the English have left is Stirling Castle. He draws up his forces at Bannockburn and prepares for a great battle.

Meanwhile, Edward II (Henry Stephenson) has arrived in Scotland with a huge army to relieve Stirling Castle.

The night before the battle, while the English are feasting and the Scots are singing Scots Wha Hae, Bruce penetrates the English lines, gaining admission by means of a trick. He puts spokes in the ground in front of the English cavalry.

In the morning, when the English cavalry tries to charge, the horses all stick on the spikes, and are powerless to move. There is a great battle which the Scots win easily. Henry Stephenson dies gallantly.

After the battle there is a showdown. Gary and Olivia are married, and Basil Rathbone’s head is cut off.

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The Black Hole of Calcutta

Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces.
The story: Robert Clive (Gary Cooper) is in love with Olivia de Havilland, daughter of the Governor of Calcutta. Imagine his feelings when he discovers that Suraj-ud-Dowlah (Basil Rathbone) has thrown her into a dungeon with 145 others.

Clive rescues Olivia and prepares to march against Basil at Plassey.

The night before the battle, he penetrates the native lines, gaining admission by means of a trick. He breaks off points of the sharp sticks used by the elephants’ jockeys.
In the morning, the elephants are powerless to move. There is a great battle, which the English win easily. Henry Stephenson dies gallantly.

After the battle, there is a showdown. Gary and Olivia are married, and Basil Rathbone’s head is cut off.

gary-cooper-and-basil-rathbone-in-the-adventures-of-marco-polo-1938

The Relief of Lucknow

Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces.
The story: Sir Colin Campbell (Gary Cooper) is in love with Jessie Macdonald (Olivia de Havilland). Imagine his feelings when he discovers that she has been besieged in Lucknow by mutinous natives led by Basil Rathbone.

The night before the battle, Gary penetrates the native lines, gaining admission by means of a trick. He greases the natives’ cartridges with cow’s fat.

Meanwhile, Jessie dreams that he is coming to her. In the morning, the bagpipes of Gary’s highlanders are heard in the distance.

Meanwhile, the native rebels have thrown down their rifles and are powerless.
There is a great battle, which the English win easily. Henry Stephenson dies gallantly.

After the battle, there is a showdown. Gary and Olivia are married, and Basil Rathbone’s head is cut off.

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The Fall of Rome

Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces.
The story: After the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, there is a showdown. Gary and Olivia are married, and Basil Rathbone’s head is cut off.

You can download a PDF of the original article here: bombcutta

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