I stumbled upon a bit of intriguing information. The February 5, 1930 issue of Variety reports: “Basil Rathbone is an Englishman, a companion of the Prince of Wales when treasure hunts engaged the younger set of London. He stays in London during the season, crossing to France with his set at the socially correct time, not a day too soon, not a day too late.”
Treasure hunts in London? What is the season for treasure hunting? What is the socially correct time to cross to France? Who was the Prince of Wales? Some of these questions are easier to answer than others.
In 1930, the Prince of Wales was Edward, the eldest son of King George V. Edward had a reputation as a celebrity playboy and for having affairs with married women. He was two years younger than Basil.
We’ve all heard about this Edward. He became king of England in 1936. Later that same year, he abdicated the throne to his younger brother Albert in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced woman. Albert, the father of Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II), then became King George VI.
So Basil and Edward were friends and hung out together, treasure hunting in London. What’s that all about? “Treasure” in this case is not pirate’s booty. The treasure hunts were more like what we know as scavenger hunts. One of the ways that young, pleasure-seeking socialites of London entertained themselves during the 1920s was by treasure hunting. But how did Basil Rathbone fit in with these people? Basil wasn’t part of the wealthy social class who didn’t have to work for a living. It must have been a temporary diversion for him.
The “pleasure seeking” certainly makes sense. Basil was devastated after the war, having lost his brother and his mother. His marriage to Marian fell apart. He admitted to feeling lost and having no ambition. I can imagine Basil participating in such pleasure seeking activities.
The Variety blurb stated, “He stays in London during the season …” During the season for what? What is the season? Could it be the summer season? Note that the sentence is in the present tense, suggesting that Basil was making regular trips to London. That is puzzling because Basil was very busy in the last half of the 1920s. (The blurb was published in early 1930.) When did he have time to travel to London for “pleasure seeking”?
In 1929, Basil was busy in Hollywood.
For most of 1928, Basil was touring with The Command to Love.
In June of 1927, Basil was appearing in Julius Caesar. In July and August, he and his wife Ouida rented a home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
It’s possible he made regular trips to London earlier in the 1920s.
The last part of the blurb states that Basil crosses to France “with his set at the socially correct time.” I have no answers. Who is “his set”? Other actors? What is the socially correct time to cross to France? Why did they cross to France? Thoughts, anyone?
By the way, the treasure hunts are still going on!