Author: marciajessen

Remembering Basil Rathbone

July 21 is of course the anniversary of Basil Rathbone’s death 50 years ago. On July 22, 1967, the New York Times announced, “Basil Rathbone, the suave Shakespearean actor who won motion-picture fame in the early nineteen-forties as the detective Sherlock Holmes–and regretted the identification the rest of his life–died of a heart attack yesterday. The tall, impeccably mannered actor, who was 75 years old, was found dead on the floor of his study at his home, 135 Central Park West by his daughter, Cynthia. She said her father had suffered a heart seizure several years ago, but had appeared to be in good health.” Here’s the New York Times article about the funeral service, published July 26, 1967: RATHBONE RITES ATTENDED BY 350 Cornelia Otis Skinner Reads Actor’s Favorite Poems About 350 people attended a funeral service for Basil Rathbone, the actor, yesterday morning at St. James’ Episcopal Church, 865 Madison Avenue. The Rev. Dr. Arthur Lee Kinsolving, the rector, in a prayer spoke of Mr. Rathbone’s “singular gifts of person and personality; verve …

Basil’s 125th Birthday!

A Rathbone fan in Spain, Jaime Gabaldà Méndez, has sent me a drawing that he made for Basil Rathbone’s 125th birthday. I’m sharing it with everyone here: This is Jaime’s explanation of the drawing: We are in 1939, in the set of The Hound of the Baskervilles. A behind-the scenes candid moment. The movie set reproduces the beautiful Devon countryside in the South-West of England, near Dartmoor and the South Devon coast under a full moon night. An area or mystery and legend. We can see the main characters of the movie celebrating Basil Rathbone Birthday. They are dancing in a kind of “Ring around the Rosie”, the classic nursery rhyme that was favorite of children of past times. They are dancing together, hand to hand around Birthday delicious cake. Happy faces, following the rhyme. So cute! The happy dancers of this countryside are Basil Rathbone dressed in tweed as Sherlock Holmes with his deerstalker and his foulard of vivid colors on his neck, besides him, on his right Nigel Bruce as good old Doctor …

The Show Goes On

Tomorrow is Basil Rathbone’s birthday, so of course I’ve been thinking about him. I came across an amusing article telling about how Basil Rathbone was being mistaken for other celebrities while he was vacationing in New York City in 1938. Here is a link to the article: TheShowGoesOn_Hollywood_Dec1938 One of the celebrities he was mistaken for was Philip Merrivale. Basil was understandably baffled. He didn’t think he looked anything like Philip. Neither do I! Another celebrity doppelganger was Ian Keith. What were the people thinking? Basil and Ian look nothing alike! The confusion continues today. A photo recently found on eBay was identified as Basil Rathbone. I don’t know who the man is, but he is not Basil: And this photo of another actor who actually did resemble Basil was discussed earlier on this blog (see the post  https://thegreatbaz.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/sunday-pic-16/ ): Here, of course, is the real deal: I’ll end this post with this lovely description of Basil (from the article mentioned above): “Quite effortlessly, quite unself-consciously, he gives an impression of great sophistication and great …

Spring Cleaning

In March 1940 Hollywood magazine did an article about spring cleaning at the Rathbone house (“How to Do Spring-Cleaning,” pp. 26-27, 44-45). Kay Proctor, the author of the article, paid a visit to Basil Rathbone, whom she described as “one of my favorite people.” She added, “and I like his tea and toasted crumpets.” It’s an amusing article, and perhaps it will inspire you to do some spring cleaning, too! In a merry frame of mind I whanged the iron knocker of his home which sits on a hill overlooking the sixth hole of a swank golf club. Something lean and tall opened the door. I knew at once it wasn’t the butler (I catch on quick that way!) because it wore a white cap which said “Simpson’s Paints Are Better Paints” in red letters on the visor. Moreover, it was wearing a striped English four-in-hand, the latest style Mexican huraches, a pale tan shirt, and white denim overalls which hit its legs amidship knee and ankle. A harassed look around the eyes and a …

Rathbone the Poet

When I was in Boston a few years ago, I visited the Howard Gottlieb Archive Center at Boston University. It houses a collection of Basil Rathbone papers. To my great delight, I discovered some poetry written by Basil Rathbone. Did you know he was a poet? Here is one of Rathbone’s poems: I looked at myself in the mirror, and my life passed by like a sliver of light through a closing door, that would open again, once more … once more and then … no more! I had known the face for many a year, the face of the man who was standing there, and he looked at me with eyes that said, “You will soon be dead … you will soon be dead”! “The sooner the better,” I grimly replied, “If I look like you with your egg-shaped head I would sooner be dead”! Then he smiled at me from the mirror’s surface and I seemed to sense his evil purpose. So I smashed the mirror in many pieces Hoping thereby to prolongue …

Remembering Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was a world-famous African-American contralto who performed in concerts between 1925 and 1965. One of her fans was Basil Rathbone. Twice in 1939, she appeared with him on the radio show The Circle (February 14 and March 12). In spite of her fame, Anderson had to deal with prejudice and discrimination as she toured the USA. She was often refused service in hotels and restaurants because she was African American. One such example of discrimination occurred in 1939, when Marian Anderson’s manager, Sol Hurok, tried to arrange a concert for her at Constitution Hall in Washington DC. The owners of the hall, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), refused permission for Anderson to sing in Constitution Hall because they had a policy of allowing only white performers. In response to this act of discrimination by the DAR, Basil Rathbone sent a telegram to Sol Hurok. It reads: “As a resident alien I have no voice but as an artist I keenly protest the discrimination shown against Miss Marion Anderson one of the …

Party with the Rathbones!

This is the season of Christmas parties and, of course, New Year’s Eve parties. Thinking about parties reminds me of the Hollywood parties hosted by Ouida and Basil Rathbone. Ouida was in fact known as “The Hostess of Hollywood.” Here’s a magazine article about one such party that took place in April 1930: Starry Masquerade by Grace Kingsley Read about the Party that Had all Hollywood Talking! “I’ll just bet that man over there, dressed as an army cadet, is Irving Thalberg!” exclaimed Patsy the Party Hound in an inspired tone. “But who can the other one, dressed the same way, be? It just can’t be Norma Shearer!” But it was! Billy Haines, that terror of social functions in Hollywood, went over and pinched Irving on the arm, and said, “Oh, excuse me! I thought it was Norma!” Then Norma laughed an embarrassed and astonished little laugh, and we knew her. “But isn’t it just too gorgeous!” exclaimed Patsy, catching her breath at the beauty of it as we looked around. Basil Rathbone and his …

The Horror of War

November 11 is Veterans Day in the USA and Armistice Day in the United Kingdom. It’s an appropriate time to look again at Rathbone’s military service. The most terrifying experience Basil Rathbone lived through was The Great War, now known as World War I. He served his country in the 2/10 Liverpool Scottish battalion and was awarded a Military Cross for bravery. Rathbone downplayed his heroic actions, though, and would have preferred to stay out of the war. He wished that there would be no war. In late 1939 (with World War II soon approaching), a journalist from Modern Screen magazine interviewed Basil Rathbone for an article called “Horror Men Talk about Horror” (published in the January 1940 issue). Here is an excerpt from that article: I began with Basil Rathbone. I said, “What constitutes real horror to you?” “War!” screamed Rathbone, instantly. And I mean he screamed the word at me, horribly, so that its echoes hung around the room we sat in. “Going into an attack, paralyzed with fear, knowing that if we had …

Basil Films That Never Were

My previous post, Films Rathbone Almost Made, explores films that studios either produced or at least planned to produce. This post concerns five films which existed only in the mind of one Russell Ferguson, who wrote an article called “Bruce at Bombcutta.” This article was published in the October 1938 edition of World Film News. Ferguson imagined five historical epics that were never made, each one a colossal production. In each one Basil Rathbone plays the villain and dies at the end! Plymouth Hoe Bannockburn The Black Hole of Calcutta The Relief of Lucknow The Fall of Rome Plymouth Hoe Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces. The story: Queen Elizabeth (Edna May Oliver) is in love with Francis Drake (Gary Cooper) who prefers her maid of honour (Olivia de Havilland). She is a very proud queen, so the young people have to keep their love a secret. But the Earl of Leicester (Basil Rathbone) has ambitions to marry the Queen, and tells her of Gary’s love for Olivia. The Queen banishes …

Films Rathbone Almost Made

Have you ever thought about movie roles that Basil tried out for, but didn’t get, or roles that he was offered, but declined? And then there were films Basil was contracted to do, and for some reason the film wasn’t made, or it was made and Rathbone wasn’t in it. In this post we will take a look at Rathbone’s close encounters with the following films: The Hurricane The Gamblers The Knight and the Lady Victoria Docks at Eight The Hunchback of Notre Dame It Can’t Happen Here Lady of the Tropics Dark Victory The Boudoir Diplomat Reunion in Vienna Blood Beast Terror One of those films was The Hurricane. (See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029030/) In 1936 producer Sam Goldwyn was eager to give Rathbone a role in the film, but he wanted Rathbone to sign a four-year contract with his company. Rathbone didn’t want to sign the contract, so that role went to someone else. See “Was Basil Rathbone a Diva?” In April 1937 The Film Daily announced the following: “Feodor Dostoievsky’s celebrated novel ‘The Gamblers,’ will be directed …