All posts filed under: THEATRE

“Basil Rathbone Eulogizes the American Actress” – 1923

This article first appeared in THE BILLBOARD, November 1923. Just a few weeks later Rathbone would be taken to a party by Clifton Webb, where he would meet unemployed screenwriter “Ouida Bergere” (as she called herself). Click on pdf button to download a copy of the original article Basil Rathbone Eulogizes the American Actress The Billboard, November 24 1923 When our dramatic critic, in his review of “The Swan” defined Mr Basil Rathbone as “the leading man par excellence with the looks, bearing and acting capacity which should go with the genius” we decided that we had a clue worth following in our search for interesting personalities. But getting a seat for a performance of “The Swan” was like getting poor Humpty up a again. It was only due to the cancellation of a third balcony box reservation that we succeeded in viewing that ideal couple, the fair LeGallienne(sic) and the stalwart Rathbone. We gazed so long from our dizzy heights thru the lenses of an opera glass that we became dizzy and were obliged …

Sherlock on Broadway

Basilrathbone.net has an interesting new look at Ouida Rathbone’s slightly infamous SHERLOCK HOLMES stage play. That great, gobbling turkey of 1953, that could be said to have wrecked Rathbone’s Broadway career almost as effectively as his decision to flee Hollywood had destroyed his movie career. For me – and I suspect for anyone who’s been following our journey through Rathbone’s life and work – the article highlights some of those enduring puzzles and contradictions that make BR both fascinating and frustrating as a subject. For example, why was the man who allegedly fled Hollywood because he couldn’t stand being Holmes any longer starring in a Holmes play on Broadway just seven years later? And if it’s true that Rathbone was already trying to launch this vehicle as early as 1946, then that question becomes not just relevant but crucial, because it would mean he quit his massively lucrative Sherlock movie and radio contracts, fled Hollywood, alienating friends and colleagues in the process, all because he could not stand another moment of playing Holmes – and …

The Captive (1926) – NYT Review

The Play by J. Brooks Atkinson The New York Times September 30 1926 Expertly written and admirably played, M. Bourdet’ tragedy, “The Captive,” put on at the Empire last evening, may be set down as a genuine achievement in dramatic producing – a long, engrossing, haunting play. Most of the theatrical news from Eruope for several months has hung about this drama, known in Paris as “La Prisonniere.” Vastly popular, sensational in its theme, and recriminations. But whatever emotions the Parisian performance may be conveying, Mr Hornblow’s adaptation, staged perfectly by Mr Miller, emerges as a hard, brittle chronicle, horrible in its implications, terrible to contemplate at times, but sincere and cleanly finished. Seldom has a play been so intelligently cast; nor do we often see a performance so thoroughly disciplined in every detail. For the American version of “La Prisonniere,” does not truckle no smirk. It tells its unpleasant story in a straightforward manner, without evasion or sordid emphasis. And the splendid spirit of the production may protect it from being misunderstood. Like a …

THE HEIRESS 2012

The new production of THE HEIRESS opened in NYC yesterday, at the Walter Kerr theatre on West 48th, starring Jessica Chastain, David Strathairn and Dan Stevens. This is the second or maybe third revival since the Baz created the role of Austin Sloper on Broadway almost exactly 65 years ago, in September 1947. Here’s Ben Brantley’s NYT review , which also links to Brooks Atkinson’s review of the original with Rathbone. Brantley doesn’t altogether like the production or Strathairn’s interpretation of Dr Sloper, describing him as “surprisingly low-key and deferential.” Rathbone, by contrast, won a Tony for his performance and was described by Atkinson as playing “perfectly with irony and arrogance.” And yet,interestingly, Brantley doesn’t compare Strathairn with the Baz, even though they both played the part on Broadway. No, indeed, with wonderful irony, Brantley ignores Rathbone completely and instead compares Strathairn with none other than Ralph Richardson who played in the 1949 film, opposite Olivia de Havilland, after Rathbone was inexplicably passed over for the part. Rather a neat little illustration of how fate …

RATHBONE & LE GALLIENNE

The Q&A with Helen Sheehy about the Baz’s relationship, professional and otherwise, with Eva Le Gallienne continues to get a lot of feedback and there have been several interesting points raised in the comments. Opinion seems scattered over a wide spectrum between those who refuse to believe Rathbone would sleep with a lesbian and those who think he and Eva were lost loves for one another. I’m inclined to agree with Helen that the truth lies somewhere in the murky middle ground between. I think it’s probably pointless to refuse to believe Rathbone had a physical affair with Le Gallienne, when Le Gallienne herself and her friends all said he did. Likewise I think the chance they were ever in serious danger of marrying each other seems remote. Their affair only lasted for something like five or six months. Le Gallienne moved fairly swiftly on to other lovers, and Rathbone was already involved with Ouida Bergere when it began. So it’s important to remember this in order to keep it in proportion alongside other events …

The Captive (1926) redux

Since I did the post on The Captive a few days ago, references to the play seem to keep popping up on Tumblr. So I thought I’d revisit to link to this site:Out History which includes the Brooks Atkinson review quoted on this blog and goes into quite a bit of depth about the incident. Anyone interested should definitely go there. There have also been more photographs from the production surfacing, and here are a couple of them:

The Captive (1926)

Time for a look at another of the Baz’s theatre-credits today. This time it’s the deeply controversial (in its time) play THE CAPTIVE. Written by the French dramatist Edouard Bourdet and known in French as La Prisonniere, translated by Arthur Hornblow Jr, it was the talk and scandal of New York when it opened on September 29 1926 – because its central theme was lesbian love and the struggle of one woman (the “captive” of the title) to live within the constraints of a society that could only condemn. The great Broadway Diva Helen Menken played the heroine, Irene; Rathbone her tortured and conflicted husband Jacques. There was also an appearance by Arthur Wontner as a mutual friend (which makes this play a landmark for Holmes buffs). Despite its controversy, and “unpleasant” theme, Brooks Atkinson, the New York Times’ no.1 critic (the Ben Brantley of his day) loved the play and raved about it in his review. He loved the Baz too, describing him as acting with “rare dignity and understanding” as the unhappy Jacques. …

“The Jew on the Stage and the Screen” – 1929

A photo recently surfaced on Tumblr, of the Baz from the 1929 stage play Judas (co-written by Rathbone and Walter Ferris). I’ve decided to feature it here because it signifies a notable period in Basil’s life. It’s very high res, click on the images and enlarge them to full size and you can see all the details of the dust on the floor, the vein running over his forearm, and the homespun weave of…whatever that thing is he’s wearing. It makes it all quite immediate and real. A frozen moment in great clarity. The moment was in January 1929. Things must have looked pretty great to him right then. Judas might not have been a hit with the critics (it only ran for twelve performances), but his theatre career was riding high; the year before he’d been touring The Command to Love all over America and playing in a festival of Shakespeare in New York. At 37 he was looking forward to a long and distinguished stage life on both sides of the Atlantic. Later …

Watchman, What of the Night?

I’ve been  preparing for this blog for a while, asking friends and collectors for tidbits and morsels, doing a lot of web exploring, which can occasionally bring up nicely unexpected things. And just today I found one. A little book written by Jed Harris, Broadway producer/director, called Watchman, What of the Night?. I’ve linked to a pdf file, but  at Archive.org  the text is available in various formats, including a Kindle version. The book is notable for fans of the Baz because it’s all about the struggle (and such it really seems to have been) to get The Heiress onto Broadway for its first outing in 1947. The whole book is interesting but there’s one passage that’s just pure gold for Rathbone-admirers or would-be biographers, so I’m going to quote it in full. But first a little background on Harris, taken from the book’s flyleaf: “A producer-director whose name is synonymous with perfection in the legitimate theatre tells the story of an Opening Night. When Henry James’sWashington Square was first made into a play, it died a …