I came across an interesting news item that was printed in the July 10, 1933 edition of the Liverpool Echo. Apparently, Basil Rathbone ordered a lot of flowers for someone and neglected to pay for them! It reads:
BASIL RATHBONE TO PAY £5 A MONTH
A judgment summons by Moyses Stevens, Ltd., florists, Victoria-street, London, against Basil Rathbone, the actor, was heard in the Chancery Division, today. It was stated for the creditors that the debt was £77 19s 9d in respect of flowers supplied between September and January last. The debtor, it was added, earned a minimum of £20 a week.
Basil Rathbone, in the witness-box, offered to pay £1 a month, and told the judge he was paying his first wife £700 a year alimony, free of income tax. He had no contract at present. His last film was “Loyalties,” made in March and April, and for his part in which he received £450.
Mr. Justice Luxmoore made an order for £5 a month, the first payment to be made on August 1, and he directed Mr. Rathbone to let his creditors know immediately he started work.
This raises so many questions! First, was £77 a lot of money in 1933? An online inflation calculator tells me that £77 in 1933 is equivalent to about £5547 in 2020. And 5547 British pounds are about equal to 7005 U.S. dollars. That’s how much money Basil spent on flowers in a four-month period (September to January). That’s a lot of flowers!
By the way, the florist, Moyses Stevens Ltd., is still in business. See https://www.moysesflowers.co.uk/
Why did Basil let such a large bill accumulate? Why didn’t he pay for the flowers when he ordered them? And if he didn’t have the money, why was he ordering flowers?
Why didn’t the florist insist on payment after one month before continuing to accept orders? It seems strange that he continued to deliver flowers for at least four months. What happened then? Is that when the florist cut him off (“No more flowers for you, Mr. Rathbone!”) or did Rathbone stop ordering flowers? I wonder why. Was it because he couldn’t pay for the flowers?
Who was the recipient of all those flowers? Was it Ouida? Did Basil do something to incur her wrath, so that he needed to beg her forgiveness with flowers—LOTS of flowers? (And was she mollified after four months of flowers?)
And if the flowers went to someone other than Ouida, who might that have been? Can you imagine Ouida’s reaction when the florist sued Basil, and she learned he had bought all those flowers for someone else?
How odd that Basil would have offered to pay off the debt at £1 a month. It would have taken 77 months (6 years, 4 months) to pay off the debt. Was he planning to be in England for six more years?
Basil should have had an income during the time he ordered flowers. Prior to acting in Loyalties, he had leading roles in One Precious Year and After the Ball. Rathbone also starred in the play Tonight or Never at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London from November 10 to November 26, 1932. As reported, he earned a minimum of £20 a week. Did Ouida spend the money just as fast as Basil earned it?
And here’s something interesting: according to the news report, Rathbone told the judge that he (Rathbone) had no contract at present. I understood that to mean that he wasn’t working. So did the judge, it seems, for after ordering Basil to pay the florist £5 a month, the judge “directed Mr. Rathbone to let his creditors know immediately he started work.” In fact, Rathbone was working during the period in which he appeared in court! From May 27 through August 19, 1933, Basil was appearing in a play called Diplomacy at the Princes Theatre in London. Oh, my! Basil lied to the judge?
Basil and Ouida lived in England from June 1932 to October 1933. Basil wrote a note in his record of theatre performances (in the Boston University archives) stating that he loathed every minute of his professional life over there. Wow. So not complaining about England or Ouida, but his professional life. Unfortunately, he gave no details about what exactly he loathed. Despite what he told the judge, Rathbone had steady work either on stage or making a film. Was he perhaps not being paid as much as he had been promised? Was he forced to work with awful directors?
Did Basil’s feelings of loathing have anything to do with the flowers? Maybe Ouida is the one who ordered the flowers to cheer up Basil after a miserable day on the movie set or at the theatre! We’ll probably never know.