Author: marciajessen

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 …

Basil’s Best Friend

August 26 is National Dog Day! Basil Rathbone would have loved that, as he was a dog lover. His favorite dog was a black German Shepherd named Moritz. Basil devoted several pages in his autobiography to this beloved dog. He also wrote an article about Moritz, which was published in the December 1936 issue of Hollywood magazine. I’m reprinting this loving tribute here, for your reading pleasure. He Was My Friend by Basil Rathbone This is a tribute to the memory of Moritz von Niklotsburg, who was a gentleman. He was graceful, loyal and an individualist. Today he must be enjoying the progress he has earned in the great scheme of things as they are, and have been, and always will be. For what wrongs he committed, he suffered. For what good he did, he was rewarded. He lived and died with his great pride intact. And for the time he was with us, he gave us such devotion that his passing left a streak of bleakness across our days. Moritz was my very dear …

Was Basil Rathbone a Diva?

Sometime in 2015 a handwritten letter from Basil Rathbone to Sam Goldwyn was offered on eBay. I didn’t have the money to bid on it, but I saved the pictures of the letter from the auction listing. This letter is fascinating for what it reveals about Basil. Here’s the text of the letter and the pictures: Grand Hotel Dunapalota Budapest Dec. 2, 1936 Dear Sam, I would not for the world have you misunderstand why I have not signed the contract with you. There is so much to talk about, which even in a letter cannot be fully covered & I want to talk to you before doing anything as drastic as signing a 4 year contract. To you Sam, it is just another contract along with other artists engaged to you. To me it is the one & only contract & it has so many “ifs” to it. I have been very happy freelancing & to me freedom is almost irreplaceable. Five years ago I was under contract to MGM & I was miserable. …

Basil’s Citrine Ring

Hat tip to a fan named Rani, who told me about a recent episode of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. On this episode, which aired June 27, 2016, Berj Zavian (from Cluster Jewelry in New York) appraised a ring with yellow diamonds, rubies, and a large citrine. According to the owner of the ring (who didn’t even know who Basil was!) Basil Rathbone gave the ring to his wife Ouida . Watch a 30-second clip from the show: http://www.pbs.org/video/2365784160/ http://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365784160 I tried to embed the video clip on this page, but it’s not working. Sorry! Here’s a transcript of the video clip: APPRAISER: Did you know Basil Rathbone? GUEST: Uh, no, I did not. APPRAISER: Well, he was Sherlock Holmes in the old B movies, and he was quite a prolific collector of good jewelry. GUEST: Really? APPRAISER: This is yellow diamonds with rubies and a citrine. Who did he give it to? GUEST: Uh, his wife, Ouida Bergere. APPRAISER: That’s the ring that she was wearing. It’s roughly 1945. A ring like this could easily bring from …

Heat Wave

We’re having a heat wave, A tropical heat wave, The temperature’s rising, It isn’t surprising, I’m sweating like a … no, no. That isn’t right. Right now much of the USA, including where I live (east coast) is experiencing a blistering heat wave. Basil Rathbone knew how to cool off in the hot weather. Here are Basil Rathbone and Marlene Dietrich cooling off in a rain shower on a hot day at the studio (1939). He couldn’t have been prepared for a rain shower, could he? Did he just strip down to his boxer shorts (or is that a towel?) and run outside when it started raining? At home Basil cools off by swimming in his pool. Here he is climbing out. Basil also frolicked in the pool with his dogs. Ah, that’s the life! I feel cooler already.