Author: marciajessen

Basil Rathbone: Union Man!

Throughout his career, Basil Rathbone was active in the Actor’s Equity Association, the union that represents the interests of stage actors. The Actor’s Equity Association is governed by its own members through an elected Council. In 1948 Rathbone was elected Vice President of the association’s Council. The following year he was elected to serve as recording secretary. Today’s post, however, concerns an exchange of letters between actor Frederick Kerr and Basil Rathbone in 1922. At the time, both actors were appearing on the Broadway stage in The Czarina: Kerr as the Chancellor and Rathbone as Count Alexei Czerny. The letters were published in the New York Times. Mr. Kerr’s letter appears first: I wonder if the opinion of an old actor, who in the course of his long career has been everything from a utility man at Wallack’s Theatre to manager of London theatres, and who is now chiefly occupied in playing elderly statesman, would have any weight in regard to the perpetual quarrel which is going on between actors and managers both in England …

What the Fans Think of Basil

As popular as Basil was, I’m sure he received an enormous number of fan letters. The following letters are just a few of those that were published in fan magazines: BASIL NO BAD MAN It seems to me Hollywood is making a mistake in continually casting Basil Rathbone as a screen menace. The fact that he is such a good actor is certainly no reason for typing him. Although he has played every role from Pilate to a modern butler, his characters have all been black-souled scoundrels. On the stage he played Romeo and Robert Browning, but when he went to Hollywood he was cast as the stony-hearted Mr. Murdstone in David Copperfield. And then, when Romeo and Juliet was filmed, was Mr. Rathbone cast in the role he so well portrayed on the stage? No indeed! He was cast as Tybalt, the villain of course. Since Mr. Rathbone is really so attractive looking, and has such a charming manner and engaging voice, it is a shame that he isn’t given a role worthy of …

Birthday Cake for Basil

One loyal follower of The Baz got very creative and baked a birthday cake in memory of Basil Rathbone—and his dogs! As Rockhyraxx described it, “The cake is frosted in vanilla buttercream and in the left corner there are from left to right Judy, Moritza, Toni, Bunty, Cullum, Leo (who turned out way to dark) and Happy made out of fondant and in upper right corner there is a gramophone and a lot of notes flying around to symbolise music.” And here are the photos of this special creation: This looks delicious! Basil would be pleased with this cake! Thanks for sharing the photos!

The Mystery of Tree Tops House

News sources reported that the £5 million Tree Tops House in Henley-on-Thames in England burned down on March 19, 2019. Arson is suspected to have caused the fire. The news reports about the fire included the information that the house was once owned by Basil Rathbone! Really? The house is located in Oxfordshire, about 60 km (37 miles) west of London. Built in 1915, the three-story house featured a galleried landing and had five bedrooms. It sits on a 2.6 hectare site across from a school on Gillotts Lane. The outbuildings include a garage, stables, a former tennis court and swimming pool and an unfinished timber pool house. A gravel driveway leads to the front of the house. The following photos were sent to me by a relative of former owners of the house. Is Rathbone’s former ownership local legend or actual fact? Did the news sources check the ownership records? If Rathbone really did own Tree Tops house at one time, when did he own it and for how long? Did he ever live …

Basil and Rodion

In the 1930s, when Basil Rathbone was very much in demand as an actor, few people were aware that he had grown son living in England. Silver Screen magazine published an article informing the public of this “secret son”: Hollywood took another surprise jolt when it learned that the very fine English actor, Basil Rathbone, had a “secret son.” At nineteen, Basil was swept into an impetuous World War marriage, and later, a son was born in London, whom he named Rodion. After his romance crashed, he set forth to win fame as an actor, while the boy remained in London with his mother. Coming to America, Basil remarried, and few knew of this early chapter in his life. There have been a few brief meetings between father and son and last summer it was planned that Rodion should journey to Hollywood for a real visit. Then occurred one of those ironical incidents that frequently punctuate the life of the screen player; before his son arrived, Basil was called to London for an important film …

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 …