All posts filed under: BIOGRAPHY

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’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 …

Cynthia at Hockaday – by David Leddick

In the first real post of 2014, we’re looking at the brief memoir of Cynthia Rathbone given to us by David Leddick her friend and colleague at Hockaday Associates. Answering some of our questions, though also adding several more, David tells us Cynthia died of “drink and drugs.” I think more investigation is needed to explain how this poor girl’s life could have imploded like this, aged just 30! Much thanks to David for letting us use this… I worked with Cynthia Rathbone at Hockaday Associates in the early 1960s. Perhaps 1962 and 1963. Hockaday was then one of the new small front-edge advertising agencies in New York. We had perhaps 30 to 40 small clients, all of them selling expensive top-of-the-line products. Crane Papers, Elizabeth Arden, Grant’s Scotch. Miss Hockaday, the President, wanted her staff to be young, smart, fashionable. Clients liked the agency as much as they liked the advertising. Cynthia Rathbone was part of this young but adult world. Rock and Roll, The Beatles, and Mick Jagger hadn’t come on the scene …

Friends & Co-stars: Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt 1893-43 This is a re-style of an earlier post (hence the 45 already extant comments). It’s being re-issued and extended as the first of an occasional series I’ll be doing about the people in Basil’s life who weren’t family, lovers or wives. People he worked with, people he loved or was close to or who impacted his existence in some kind of meaningful way, good or bad. I’m doing this partly because it helps to throw light upon Ratbone to know how he interacted with those around him. Partly because as a lifelong movie buff I”m keen to include as many aspects of Vintage Hollywood as I an in this blog. Why I’m starting with Conrad Veidt I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because I am slightly haunted by him, or because he happens to be in some of the great old films I most enjoy. But for whatever reason, we are starting with Conrad Veidt. “Connie” as his friends called him. The Soundbite Life Story Born in Berlin, Germany in 1893 to a …

Auction Madness…

Slightly less than two years after the reading at the White House, Rathbone contacted the auctioneer/”entrepreneur and graphologist,” Charles Hamilton, with the purpose of selling the three letters Jackie Kennedy had written him. In his book AUCTION MADNESS, Hamilton preserved his recollections of that meeting, and the the press furore that followed the auctioning of the letters…