I have finished reading The Curse of Sherlock Holmes: The Basil Rathbone Story, written by David Clayton, and — Wow! What a wonderful biography of the Great Baz! Well-written and well-researched, this book is a “must-have” in every Rathbone fan’s collection.
Clayton’s book is a engrossing narrative that follows Basil Rathbone from his birthplace in South Africa, to England, to New York City, and Hollywood.
Clayton provides the full sweep of Basil Rathbone’s life chronologically, covering his professional career as well as personal relationships.
From the Prologue:
“Intrigue, drama, tragedy, mystery, romance and a sprinkling of the macabre: Rathbone was many things to many people. … War hero, son, brother, actor, husband, father, lover … Basil Rathbone was all of these and more, yet the role he would eventually become synonymous with would also become his nemesis.”
Does the book reveal anything new? Maybe not to the faithful followers of this blog. We already know so much about Basil. But the general public will discover much about the life of an extraordinary man.
Nothing in the book surprised me, but affirmed what I knew and felt about my favorite actor. I was reading stories that I knew, but the stories contained details that I didn’t know or didn’t remember. These fascinating details made the biography interesting to read even though I already know the story of Basil Rathbone’s life.
In addition to relating the events of Rathbone’s life, Clayton also quotes from interviews with Rathbone, which reveal what Basil was thinking and feeling at the time.
What about the title? Sherlock Holmes was the role that made Basil Rathbone famous. How was that a curse? David Clayton explains how Rathbone, because of his magnificent performance as Sherlock Holmes, became so identified with the detective that casting directors couldn’t see Rathbone as an actor who could play other roles. Rathbone was frustrated that no one seemed to care about his history as a Shakespearean actor. He knew he was capable of so much more!
Clayton writes, “The problem was Rathbone was instantly recognisable — he looked in real life exactly as he did in the Holmes movies. Unless he went out in disguise or avoided public places, he was stuck with Sherlock Holmes for life. Yes, it had given him great wealth and made him even more famous around the world, but he took no comfort from it. … At 54, he was still in his prime and desperate to explore new avenues.” (p. 151)
A great reading experience, The Curse of Sherlock Holmes captures who Basil Rathbone was. This insightful portrait will not disappoint!
The hardback book is available now in the UK; it will be released in the USA in November. And it is available now on Kindle in both the UK and USA!