All posts filed under: BIOGRAPHY

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …