In honor of Basil’s birthday this year, I’m sharing some of my favorite candid photos of him. Candid photos are interesting because they show him being himself, and not playing a role. Here we see Basil unabashedly flirting with Olivia de Havilland on the set of The Adventures of Robin Hood. She clearly enjoys his attention!
Olivia was not the only woman Basil flirted with, of course. Here we see him with Veda Ann Borg on the set of Confession:
and here with Marlene Dietrich. Basil, dressed as Richard III in Tower of London, was visiting Marlene on the set of Destry Rides Again.
Basil loved children; he was especially close with 10-year-old Freddie Bartholomew. They met on the set of David Copperfield, in which Freddie played young David and Basil played David’s cruel stepfather Murdstone. They also acted together in Anna Karenina. Their friendship grew after that, and Freddie was a frequent visitor at the Rathbone home, where he was treated as an adopted son. Since Freddie’s real father was back in England with the rest of his family, Freddie needed a surrogate father. And Basil was happy to fill that role!
A few years later, Rathbone was in Son of Frankenstein, and little Donnie Dunagan played his son. Here is Donnie sharing a candy bar with Basil.
This photo shows Rathbone reading to two small boys in the hospital. The children were suffering from Infantile Paralysis (polio). In 1950 Rathbone participated in a benefit concert to raise money for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. This hospital visit may have been made to promote that concert. Even if it’s a promo photo, it seems to show that he cared for these small boys.
And of course Basil loved his own child, Cynthia, adopted in 1939. This photo shows them reading together (December 1944):
Basil Rathbone also loved animals. Mostly dogs, yes, but this photo of him and Barbara O’Neill playing with cute baby goats is really sweet. They were on location for The Sun Never Sets.
This photo shows Basil swimming with some of his dogs:
Basil getting a wet kiss from Judy (white bull terrier):
Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce playing with Bruce’s four Dachshund puppies by the pool at Bruce’s home:
And here he is with Bunty, a West Highland Terrier. Aww.
Basil Rathbone had a reputation as a prankster, so it’s no surprise to find photos of him playing practical jokes or goofing around. This photo shows him on the set of The Mad Doctor, about to pour some water on Ellen Drew’s head.
Here he is horsing round with his makeup man:
Basil in mink? I don’t know what he was doing here. Perhaps it was a charity fashion show. I can imagine that Basil good-naturedly donned a hat and mink stole, and strutted his stuff down the aisle.
Here he is celebrating Boris Karloff’s birthday on the set of Son of Frankenstein:
Peter Lorre sitting on Rathbone’s lap on the set of The Comedy of Terrors (1963):
Goofing around with Hildegard:
My final photo in this collection of favorites is one that makes my heart beat faster: bare-chested Basil getting sprayed with oil to look sweaty for a scene in Rio.