All posts filed under: BIOGRAPHY

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 …

Rathbone’s Flower Bill

I came across an interesting news item that was printed in the July 10, 1933 edition of the Liverpool Echo. Apparently, Basil Rathbone ordered a lot of flowers for someone and neglected to pay for them! It reads: BASIL RATHBONE TO PAY £5 A MONTH A judgment summons by Moyses Stevens, Ltd., florists, Victoria-street, London, against Basil Rathbone, the actor, was heard in the Chancery Division, today. It was stated for the creditors that the debt was £77 19s 9d in respect of flowers supplied between September and January last. The debtor, it was added, earned a minimum of £20 a week. Basil Rathbone, in the witness-box, offered to pay £1 a month, and told the judge he was paying his first wife £700 a year alimony, free of income tax. He had no contract at present. His last film was “Loyalties,” made in March and April, and for his part in which he received £450. Mr. Justice Luxmoore made an order for £5 a month, the first payment to be made on August 1, …

A 1914 Letter from Basil Rathbone

While doing some research on Basil Rathbone I came across this gem that was published in The Liverpool Daily Post on April 8, 1914. It’s a detailed letter written by Basil to his father. When he wrote the letter, Basil was in El Paso, Texas, touring North America with Frank Benson’s Shakespeare Company. Basil was 21 years old and unmarried. What a wonderful snapshot of this moment in Basil Rathbone’s life! Just two years later, he would be in the army, fighting in the First World War. The portion of the letter that was published begins just below this map showing the locations of El Paso and Juarez, which are mentioned in the letter. Never in my life have I spent such days of wonder! These last three days in El Paso have been, in certain ways, the most wonderful in my life. I think the sight that struck me most in San Antonio was that of all these fine broad-chested, tanned-faced, healthy, strong Mexicans, working all over the town in their particularly picturesque blue …

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 …

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 …