All posts filed under: WW1

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 …

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 …

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 …

Armistice Day 2013

Last year we marked Armistice Day (Veterans’ Day in the USA) with an interview with Richard Van Emden, author of Famous 1914-18. This year we are looking at some of Rathbone’s own words about his experience of war. For those of you who may not be familiar, Rathbone joined the army in 1916, initially with the London Scottish, and later with the 2/10 Liverpool Scottish, as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 “for conspicuous daring and resource on patrol.” His younger brother John was killed in the trenches in June 1918. From his autobiography IN AND OUT OF CHARACTER… Vive la France. Vive l’Angleterre. Vive l’Ecosse. Ypres. Festubert. Mademoiselle from Armentieres, “pinky pinky parlez-vous” When England declared war on Germany I had been very young and had been dreaming of prodigious accomplishments in my chosen profession…I felt physically sick to my stomach as I saw or hear or read of the avalanche of brave young men rushing to join “the colors”; and if needs be to give their lives for …

Interview with Richard Van Emden

Today, to mark Armistice Day (Veterans’ Day in the US), THE BAZ is talking to Richard Van Emden, WW 1 expert and author of numerous books, including FAMOUS 1914-18 that features the war experiences of various well known people. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are two of those featured. Richard van Emden has been interested in the Great War since his teens. He interviewed 270 veterans of the conflict and has so far written twelve books on the subject. His latest, Boy Soldiers, is due out now. Richard also researches, produces and directs television programmes about both World Wars, including the award-winning Roses of No Man’s Land and Veterans. His most recent television programme Shooting the War, was broadcast earlier this year (2010) on BBC4, and he has also appeared as an expert on programmes such as The Boy Soldiers of the Great War (Channel 4), and most recently The Real War Horse on the History Channel TB: Ok – let’s kick this off by asking you to tell me briefly about your work on …

Biography Week: Two Unidentified WW1 Letters

Frank has informed us about the provenance of the letters in more detail. Apparently he bought them in a sale in London in 1980 and had no idea they might be by Rathbone until he read the book Famous 1914-18 which features Rathbone and gives details of his family. Initial feedback from a WW1 author suggests additional grounds for thinking the letters might be genuine. Apparently, Rathbone’s brother John was injured at the Somme in 1916 – and this fits with the comments made about “Johnny” in letter 1. All in all it does look distinctly possible these letters might be the real deal, and if so they are pretty significant, particularly the second one. If “July 26” refers to 1918 then it was written on the morning of Rathbone’s heroic action in No Man’s Land that won him his MC. We continue to want to hear from anyone who knows anything more about the origin of these letters. Email the Project (basilrathboneproject@gmail.com) or post a comment here. Sunday 15th Dear all, Bea’s letter arrived …