Author: marciajessen

A Year in the Life of Basil Rathbone — 1940

In 2018 I created a post about the events in Basil Rathbone’s life during 1930. Let’s jump ahead ten years and take a closer look at where Basil was and what he was doing in 1940. Where did he live? What was he doing? What did he earn? In 1940, Basil was living and working in Hollywood. Basil, his wife Ouida, and their daughter Cynthia had moved from their house on 5254 Los Feliz Blvd. to a new house in Bel Air. Due to the addition of baby Cynthia to the family in the spring of 1939, the Rathbones moved to a larger house “with a room and a bath and a kitchenette for the baby and a larger garden to care for” (In and Out of Character, pp. 165-166). The new house was located at 10728 Bellagio Road, high in the wooded hills of Bel Air, 1260 feet above Hollywood. The French chateau type house sat on four acres, surrounded by a fence. One side overlooked the San Fernando Valley, and the other side …

Huck Finn

In this post we will examine one of Basil Rathbone’s television appearances. On November 20, 1957, CBS broadcast a teleplay called “Huck Finn,” which starred Jimmy Boyd as Huck, Basil Rathbone as the Duke, and Jack Carson as the King. An episode of the U.S. Steel Hour, it was a musical version of an episode in Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Young Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, are heading down the Mississippi River on a raft when they meet two scoundrels who pass themselves off as a King and a Duke. Jim is completely taken in by their fakery, but Huck goes along with their lies and swindles until they try to bilk the Wilks sisters. They have learned of the death of one Peter Wilks, who left a fortune in property and cash. Since Wilks has two brothers in England who are not known locally, the King and the Duke decide to pose as these brothers and claim the brothers’ portion of the inheritance.  Huck knows it …

The Violent Deaths of Basil Rathbone

Yes, you read that right — “deaths.” I’m not writing about the actual death of Basil Rathbone, but rather the many deaths of his characters on film and on the stage. On film, Basil met a violent death 23 times! He was run through by a sword in five films and fatally shot by a gun in six films. His deaths in the other twelve films occurred as a result of poison, stabbing, suffocating, falling, and a few other unfortunate incidents. We will take a closer look at these below. Here is the final duel in Captain Blood (1935), in which Errol Flynn skewers Levasseur (Rathbone): Errol Flynn also dispatched Rathbone (as Sir Guy of Gisbourne) in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): In the 1935 film Romeo and Juliet, Rathbone played Tybalt, one of Juliet’s relatives. After Tybalt killed Mercutio in a duel, Romeo (Leslie Howard) challenged Tybalt to a duel and killed him: And then there is that wonderful duel in The Mark of Zorro (1940), where foppish Don Diego (Tyrone Power) reveals …

The Rathbone Family History

Basil Rathbone wrote about starting his acting career in the Shakespearean company led by his cousin, Sir Frank Benson. This post will take a closer look at the Rathbone family. Just how closely were Basil and Sir Frank related? Not close at all, as it turns out. Basil’s great-great-great-grandfather, William Rathbone III, was also Frank’s great-great-grandfather. The Family Tree diagram below shows that William had two children: William and Sarah. He actually had more children, but we are focusing on William and Sarah because Basil Rathbone is descended from William, and Frank Benson is descended from Sarah. William Rathbone III, who lived in Liverpool from 1726 to 1789, built his fortune in merchant shipping. The company traded in a variety of products, including timber, salt, iron bars, linen, leather, tobacco, tallow, wheat, rye, and rice. The Rathbones (William and his son William IV, who joined his father in the family business) never became involved in the lucrative slave trade. In fact, the Rathbones were ardent abolitionists. Both father and son were founding members of the …

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Rathbone fans! I apologize for not having an exciting new blog post ready to start the new year. Rest assured that I am on the lookout for interesting items about Basil Rathbone to post on this blog. I appreciate your patience. What kinds of posts would you like to see? Please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts about future posts. I also welcome guest posts! If there’s some aspect of Basil Rathbone’s life that you’d like to explore, please do! Contact me about posting it on The Baz: gisbourne@basilrathbone.net.  

A Subsidized Theater

I found an interesting article in the September 9, 1936 edition of The Era. Written by Margery Rowland, it’s called “The Salvation of the Stage,” and features lengthy quotes from our favorite actor, Basil Rathbone. She writes that Rathbone displays enthusiasm and love for the theater. Here, then, are Rathbone’s comments on the subject of a subsidized theater: There are two ways in which the theatre can be saved. By “saved” I don’t mean financially prosperous. I mean reestablished as a rich and fine art that has almost the prestige and significance of a religion. And one of the ways is the return of the patron. The theatre isn’t a broad popular entertainment on the people’s own level. It shouldn’t be—it won’t be in the future. We’re moving forward to the time when it will take its place side by side with the arts of music and painting at their highest. It is not becoming more popular. It is becoming more select, more exclusive. It won’t be of and among the general public. It will …

Basil’s Photo Album

Many years ago, someone offered a photo album for sale on the auction site eBay. It was Basil Rathbone’s personal photo album, full of photos that he had taken. I wanted it badly, but the price was too steep for me. All I could do was download the images that accompanied the listing. Unfortunately, the images — snapshots of album pages — are not very large, and the individual photos are unclear. Nevertheless, I am sharing the images with you in this post. Maybe the person who bought the photo album will see this post, take pity on us, and send better images of the album photos! In this first image, we see seven (7) photos. (Click on the thumbnail below to see the largest version I have. The larger photo will open in a new window.) The photo at the top is labeled “Lands Cricket Ground.” “Lands” isn’t clear, but I think that’s what it says. But where is this cricket ground? This photo appears to be three separate snapshots carefully arranged in the …

Review: The Curse of Sherlock Holmes

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. Does the …

New Book: The Curse of Sherlock Holmes

At last we Rathbone fans have a new book about our hero to read! David Clayton’s book The Curse of Sherlock Holmes: The Basil Rathbone Story has just been released in the U.K., and is scheduled to be released in the U.S.A. through Trafalgar/IPG Book distributors November 2020.  I haven’t seen the book yet (my copy is on its way), but I’ll post an update after I’ve read the book. Here is the press release: The first definitive biography of Basil Rathbone, from the trenches of WWI to Hollywood fame New biography The Curse of Sherlock Holmes is the first complete account of one of Britain’s most loved actors. Though Basil Rathbone had a long and distinguished acting career, it was as Sherlock Holmes that he achieved worldwide fame. Appearing in fourteen Holmes films, Rathbone made the role his own, and every actor who has since played the ingenious detective has been compared to him — almost always failing to live up to Rathbone’s legacy. He continued his career in Hollywood, appearing in numerous roles, …

A Soldier Recalls Serving with Rathbone

On July 21, 1967, the great Basil Rathbone died. When a man named William Roberts learned of Rathbone’s death, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Liverpool Echo. It was published in the July 24 edition of the newspaper. Mr. Roberts wrote: To the Editor of the Echo Sir, —I had some little association with the late Basil Rathbone when he served with the Liverpool Scottish in the first world war. At that time I was the N.C.O. in charge of the 55 division theatre—then called “The Roses Theatre Co”—and for some little time he was attached to that unit. His charm of manner and unfailing cheerful disposition made it a pleasure to have him in our little band of barn-stormers. As a Shakespearean actor he was a delight to see and listen to and at all times. His audience of weary mud-stained troops, were assured of a finished performance. He was a great actor and his passing has robbed the stage and screen of one of its greatest stalwarts and as one …