BIOGRAPHY, general biography, Uncategorized
Comments 9

Rathbone’s Flower Bill

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:


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

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.


  1. ticobasiljd says

    And another thing….he’s earning 20 pounds per week minimum, he says, which is 1040 pounds minimum per year (is this about $3000 in 2020?); yet he’s paying 700 pounds a year alimony, which comes to about $70,000 in 2020. Weird. Don’t ever trust my math, but sounds to me as if that’s quite a price for an ex-wife (and son) in 1933. Looks like his first wife trained him well for the second one. (Please sort these conversions out if wrong!)


  2. GRETCHEN says


    Yup, it’s ME–good ol’ GRETCHEN.
    After a LONG absence, I’ve returned to remember Basil on the 53rd anniversary of his death.

    Always Loved, Never Forgotten
    Philip St. John Basil Rathbone
    June 13th, 1892–July 21st, 1967

    (It’s pretty LATE at night, so the date might say it’s tomorrow when this is posted–OOPS!!)

    Nice to see some NEW members/fans joining this blog. Also nice to find ANOTHER Vincent Price fan out there–HIGH-FIVE! (I know LOTS-O-STUFF about Vinnie, if anyone wants to ask….but then, I probably won’t shut-up!!!)

    Here’s my *SPECIAL* poem for Basil today:

    You were here but now are gone
    In my heart, a memory of one
    Who was once a breath–
    A smile, a song

    To your life’s beat
    I draw my tears
    Then take to flight
    As you did once
    Far from here

    Happy colors
    Fade from view
    With sweet sound
    Moving on & on
    An end to one
    Beginning anew

    Along the mountains
    The sea, the shore
    Around empty places
    Now you must go
    And continue on–
    Tiny one, dear

    Until one has found
    Its place to stay
    Where it is safe & still
    There, now
    Don’t fear

    With each new dawn
    The world will miss
    A little bird–
    One who was here
    But since has gone


    Hope ya like my NIFTY poem, Basil! 😀

    (I just NOW came-up with it, as I was typing….you must’ve inspired my creativity, or something–THANKS!!) Gee, this world sure needs another guy like YOU around. It would be a MUCH happier place. Like most people these days, I’ve been SO SAD lately; but whenever I see your wonderful face & hear your gentle, kind voice in a film, everything feels A WHOLE LOT BETTER. Your soul makes life endurable for anyone who’s suffering….HEY–that means even though you aren’t IN our world anymore, you’re STILL bringing goodness & JOY to it! Basil, you have yourself an AWESOME time hangin’ out with yer pals in Heaven now, okay??

    Sendin’ ya LOVE & (virtual) HUGS,
    Yer (Earthly) pal,
    Gretchen ❤

    PS–Give Vincent an EXTRA *BIG* (actual) HUG for me, too!!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Campbell Forrester says

    You know Ouida ordered those flowers.

    It seems to me to be the beginning of a life spending at her husband’s expense. I can hear her refrain in this: “Well, YOU’RE a big star now! Are we ( the royal “we”) not allowed to enjoy the fruits of our (see what she did there) labor??”

    Had he ever had a pattern of overspending? No. Had she? Look at the debt she brought when she married him. I believe he was publicly humiliated for his wife’s addiction. It wouldn’t be the last time.

    And thank you, Marcia, for your love and work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. juliebond says

    Wow, what a lot of flowers! Interesting piece. A bit damning that Basil seems to have lied to the judge! Incidentally I’m from Liverpool and the Liverpool Echo is still around; it’s the regular evening newspaper on Merseyside.

    Liked by 1 person

    • marciajessen says

      I’m grateful to the British Newspaper Archive for having digital copies of the Liverpool Echo (and thousands of other newspapers) available to the public.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Just a girl who adores Basil says

    Hi Marcia, thanks for this insightful article – I’m always fascinated where you find all this information. 🙂 I remember reading in an article here that Basil spend a tremendous amount of money for clothing during the world economic crisis.

    Right now, I’m again totally Basil-hyped (despite his extravagance), reading his love letters to X and watching Dr. Cadman and Sherlock. I love how he speaks to his unconscious wife in “Black Sleep” and the scene where he carries her in his arms to the surgery.

    Lovestoned Regards from Germany!

    BTW: Since I know he played Cricket with David Niven – which I too love dearly – I would like to read more about their relationship (I remember at least one private picture of them both). David also told that he and Ida Lupino consoled each other (after Basil gone to NY, the baby… and David’s problematic marriage after becoming a widower, he didn’t elaborate), I think it was on Michael Parkinson. Or his friendship with Vincent Price, another favorite of mine. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • marciajessen says

      If I learn anything about Basil’s relationship with David Niven and/or Vincent Price, I will definitely share it with readers of The Baz!


      • Just a girl who adores Basil says

        Thanks, Marcia, I’m definitely looking forward to it! 🙂


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