All posts filed under: MOVIES

The German Versions of Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes Films

In 2009, film historian Amanda Field wrote England’s Secret Weapon: The Wartime Films of Sherlock Holmes, a book that explores the Sherlock Holmes films in their historical context. From the back cover:“Though the first two films were set in the detective’s ‘true’ Victorian period, Holmes was then updated and recruited to fight the Nazis. He came to represent the acceptable face of England for the Americans — the one man who could be relied upon to ensure an Allied victory.” It’s no surprise, then, that Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes films were not released in German theaters during the war years. Even those films that did not feature Nazis as Sherlock Holmes’s foe would have been deemed unacceptable in Germany because Sherlock Holmes was a British hero, symbolic of England. By the mid 1950s, however, West Germany had a friendly relationship with Great Britain, and German attitudes towards Sherlock Holmes had changed. But, instead of simply releasing the Sherlock Holmes films, Argus Filmverleih put together four composite movies, each of which is made using footage from …

The Violent Deaths of Basil Rathbone

Yes, you read that right — “deaths.” I’m not writing about the actual death of Basil Rathbone, but rather the many deaths of his characters on film and on the stage. On film, Basil met a violent death 23 times! He was run through by a sword in five films and fatally shot by a gun in six films. His deaths in the other twelve films occurred as a result of poison, stabbing, suffocating, falling, and a few other unfortunate incidents. We will take a closer look at these below. Here is the final duel in Captain Blood (1935), in which Errol Flynn skewers Levasseur (Rathbone): Errol Flynn also dispatched Rathbone (as Sir Guy of Gisbourne) in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): In the 1935 film Romeo and Juliet, Rathbone played Tybalt, one of Juliet’s relatives. After Tybalt killed Mercutio in a duel, Romeo (Leslie Howard) challenged Tybalt to a duel and killed him: And then there is that wonderful duel in The Mark of Zorro (1940), where foppish Don Diego (Tyrone Power) reveals …

Bad Men and Good Acting

In the 1930s Basil Rathbone played a series of villain roles so well that he was in danger of forever being typecast as a villain, and never being offered other roles. Film historian William K. Everson has called Rathbone “the best all-around villain the movies ever had.” In 1938 Bosley Crowther of the New York Times interviewed Basil Rathbone and asked him about playing villains. Rathbone admitted that villainy does not come to him naturally; it has been thrust upon him. He does not relish a reputation for villainy, but neither would he choose a bed of saccharine heroics. He continued: “The only thing for which I have affection is acting. I want to play people who think—characters in whom there is some conflict. And, beyond that, I don’t care whether they classify as hero or villain. The only thing I dread is being typed. Oh, yes—I know that the motion picture business has been built on type casting. And, in one way, you can’t blame the producers for working an actor or actress over …

Robin Hood vs. Marco Polo

I recently came across an article that was originally published in Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin on July 30, 1938.  David J. Hanna, the author of the article, compares and contrasts two films: The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Marco Polo. Basil Rathbone, of course, played a major role in both of those films: Sir Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood and Ahmed the Saracen in Marco Polo. The article appears below. Enjoy! ROBIN HOOD vs MARCO POLO One of the greatest box office successes of the year, if not the greatest, is THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Throughout the country, reports from class and deluxe houses, from city neighborhoods and rural locations, from the cheapest action spots, tell conclusively that the Warner production is at or very near the top of the season’s grossers. THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO, Sam Goldwyn’s contribution to the year’s adventure program, met with far less success. While neither Mr. Goldwyn nor most exhibitors apparently lost money on the film, it failed to hit the “big money” class. …

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 …

Pre-Code Rathbone

An occasional series giving you a chance to see and discuss some of Basil Rathbone’s pre-1934 talking films. The period in filmmaking known as “pre-code” because it predates the enforcement of the highly constraining Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. This code had actually been put on the statute books in 1930, but remained all but unenforced until the Production Code Administration was established – on Basil Rathbone’s 42nd birthday – and Joseph Breen was appointed to run it, with powers to censor or suppress any film it considered to have inappropriate content. Breen enforced these powers to the max. The effect this had on filmmaking was sweeping and fairly horrendous, and resulted in the butchering and infantilising of many story lines. Remember how in REBECCA (1940) Maxim de Winter doesn’t kill his first wife, but instead she dies by the totally lame method of falling down and hitting her head? Thank the Code which stated “the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin,” requiring …

Tower of London (1939)

Part of the Vincent Price Blogathon hosted by Nitrate Diva We have a lot of Vincent Price fans as regulars here on The Baz. I’m one myself in fact, so it seems appropriate to take part in the VP blogathon and celebrate Vincent’s talent. I thought about looking at A COMEDY OF TERRORS, a movie I actually like quite a lot (though many deplore it), but I want to leave that to a more general consideration of Basil’s later movies. So, today I’m talking about that strange hybrid film, TOWER OF LONDON. Part faithful historical exploration. Part Universal Horror. Featuring fine nuanced performances from the likes of Price, Basil Rathbone and Ian Hunter on the one hand, and Karloff with a club foot and a bald wig on the other, TOWER OF LONDON covers the life of Richard III, from the second accession to the throne of his brother Edward IV in 1471 to his own death at Bosworth in 1485. Much as I love it, I have to concede it’s a car crash of …