Author: marciajessen

Dawn

One hundred years ago today, the armistice was signed that ended the First World War. The guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I don’t normally duplicate or copy information from Basil Rathbone: Master of Stage and Screen to The Baz. They are two different sites, and should therefore have different content. However, the centennial anniversary of the end of the First World War is a special occasion, and Dawn, the play that Rathbone wrote at the end of the war has never before been published. It deserves to be on both sites. Basil wrote this play at a time when his emotions were raw, having witnessed so much death and destruction. According to Silver Screen (November 1938), Rathbone recalled that when he learned that the war had ended, he cried out, “Thank God it’s all over! I hate war!” Following the end of the war Rathbone wrote a short play about a young German soldier seeking to escape the slaughter. This play reveals the remarkable empathy …

Rathbone: Handsome Villain

On June 2, 1940, the Milwaukee Journal published an article by Edith Dietz called “Handsome Villain: The Story of an Actor Who Resents Hollywood’s Assembly Line.” Dietz wrote: Basil Rathbone’s sinister looks are confined to the screen. In reality he is handsome in a tanned, sultry way, his face lighted by brilliant hazel eyes and a warm, glowing smile. He is tall, broad shouldered, of an athletic build, but he likes to slouch and relax. He wears his gray and brown sports clothes easily, smartly, effortlessly. At the moment he is enraptured with “Rebecca.” “Perhaps I’m prejudiced,” he admitted, sheepishly. “You see, Daphne du Maurier, who wrote the novel, flattered my vanity when she was a young girl of 14. I was appearing with her father, Gerald du Maurier, in her grandfather’s play, ‘Peter Ibbetson.’ She adored everything her grandfather had written and I was for the run of the play, at least, her hero. She was a lovely young girl and I was just at the age when a bit of worship did me …

Secrets of a Hollywood Hostess

Readers of this blog seem to enjoy reading about Basil’s second wife Ouida, so I am sharing here an article published in Silver Screen, August 1939. The author of the article, Leon Surmelian, seems to have been smitten or besotted by Ouida. His description of her oozes with admiration. I hope you enjoy reading these “Secrets of a Hollywood Hostess”: It is generally admitted that the No. 1 Hollywood hostess is Mrs. Basil Rathbone. This brilliant wife of a brilliant actor has a genius for spectacular and original parties. Whether it’s a formal dinner-dance, a wedding or a garden fete, a party by her is well nigh a work of art by the sheer beauty of its conception and setting. She was a writer on the Paramount scenario staff for seven years and has worked in New York as a scenic designer and interior decorator, and her flair for the dramatic has stood her in good stead as a hostess. She is a little titian-haired woman with high cheekbones, and is vital, electric and straightforward, …

Basil Rathbone: Treasure Hunter

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 …

Favorite Candid Photos of Basil Rathbone

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 …

A Year in the Life of Basil Rathbone — 1930

1930 was a busy year for Basil Rathbone. Let’s take a closer look at where he was and what he was doing. Where did he live? What was he doing? What did he earn? Rathbone spent most of the 1920s performing in plays, and when he wasn’t touring with a play, he lived in New York City. In 1929 MGM signed Rathbone to make The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. His performance was so good that MGM offered Rathbone a contract to make more pictures. In his autobiography, Rathbone wrote: The original contract that my agent had presented to me Ouida had torn up, and herself had visited MGM’s top representative in New York, Mr. Robert Rubin. Before she had finished with him he had doubled my weekly salary! … Ouida had a very strong argument. She didn’t want to go to Hollywood–she could hardly be said to have been in love with her previous experiences out on the coast, and she threatened not to go with me if I accepted the contract as offered! … …

Writer and Wife

Today I want to share an article written about Ouida Bergere about a year before she met Basil Rathbone, in 1922. She was married to George Fitzmaurice at that time. Barrett C. Kiesling wrote the article below, which was printed in the St. Petersburg Times, October 22, 1922. Writer and Wife A few years ago a clever woman writer and a rising motion picture director were finding their professional cooperation so complete and perfect–that they decided to make it permanent. Since their marriage the joining of two talents has proven extraordinarily successful, carrying them both to a point among the real leaders of their professions. Such couple then, are Mr. and Mrs. George Fitzmaurice (Ouida Bergere) responsible, respectively for the direction and scenario of George Fitzmaurce productions for Paramount. But here, this is a story primarily about Mrs. Fitzmaurice, a woman who has given the lie to the old tradition that artists should never mate. “For seven years Mr. Fitzmaurice and I have been working together,” says Miss Bergere, as she is professionally known. “And it …

Rathbone Plays the Crosby Derby

One of Basil Rathbone’s sports passions was horse racing. He could often be found at the race track. Here we see Basil Rathbone with Robert Montgomery and Jimmy Stewart at the Santa Anita race track in 1939. “Offstage Rathbone is an enthusiastic sporting fan, and he prefers horse racing to all other sports, though he follows them all.” (quote from “Sullivan on Rathbone“) Another horse racing fan was Bing Crosby. Bing had always loved horses and even owned a few horses out on his private ranches. He bought his first racehorse in 1935, and in 1937, he became a founding partner of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and a member of its Board of Directors. Given Bing Crosby’s passion for horses, it’s no surprise that a horse racing board game was named for him — the Crosby Derby! Made by H. Fishlove Co. (Chicago, Illinois) in 1947, the game features the top race horses of the era including Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Alsab, Gallant Fox and Assault. The game was advertised as the closest thing to a real …

Robin Hood vs. Marco Polo

I recently came across an article that was originally published in Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin on July 30, 1938.  David J. Hanna, the author of the article, compares and contrasts two films: The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Marco Polo. Basil Rathbone, of course, played a major role in both of those films: Sir Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood and Ahmed the Saracen in Marco Polo. The article appears below. Enjoy! ROBIN HOOD vs MARCO POLO One of the greatest box office successes of the year, if not the greatest, is THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Throughout the country, reports from class and deluxe houses, from city neighborhoods and rural locations, from the cheapest action spots, tell conclusively that the Warner production is at or very near the top of the season’s grossers. THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO, Sam Goldwyn’s contribution to the year’s adventure program, met with far less success. While neither Mr. Goldwyn nor most exhibitors apparently lost money on the film, it failed to hit the “big money” class. …

Sullivan on Rathbone

I am old enough to remember a television variety show hosted by Ed Sullivan, who typically announced, “We’ve got a really big shew tonight!” Many of his shows were really big — The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show February 9, 1964. Prior to becoming a television show host, Ed Sullivan was a reporter and syndicated columnist for The New York Daily News and The Chicago Tribune. And in 1938 he wrote a lovely article about Basil Rathbone, which I share with you here. Cad No Longer, Rathbone Gets Sympathetic Role by Ed Sullivan Basil Rathbone, as a result of his intelligent, purposeful, and talented portrayal in “If I Were King,” has won a pardon from the rogues’ gallery of Hollywood. Hollywood’s rogues’ gallery is that sinister collection of villains and menaces who go from one reel to another spreading ruin and chaos, upsetting the marriage plans of heroine and hero and in general behaving caddishly. Mr. Rathbone has been a rogue ever since he came west of the Rockies to emote for the cinema. …