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Basil Rathbone in Summer Stock

In the 1950s, Basil Rathbone supplemented his income by performing in some summer stock productions. What’s “summer stock” you ask? The name refers to productions staged during the summer months (the off-season for professional theatre). Theatres hosting such “summer stock” productions are often located near resort areas. Productions are often outdoors or under tents set up temporarily for their use. Stars of Broadway, film, and television would regularly spend summers performing in the “Straw-Hat Circuit” (another name for summer stock). Below is a map that appears on the cover of the July 1934 issue of The Stage. Click on the small image below and a larger one will open in a new window. Then you can see the locations of the summer theatres where Basil performed. On the southern tip of Maine you’ll see the town of Ogunquit, home to the Ogunquit Playhouse. Rathbone was there August 27 through September 1, 1951, performing in The Gioconda Smile, by Aldous Huxley. He returned to the Ogunquit Playhouse July 29 through August 3, 1957, playing the role …

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 …

On Playing Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone, creator of radio’s version of Doyle’s famous sleuth, sees character as part of old England. The following is an article written by Basil Rathbone. Titled “On Playing Sherlock Holmes,” it was published in the March 1940 issue of Radio Varieties. Many persons ask me what is the difference in your feeling when you face the NBC microphone as Sherlock Holmes and when you face the camera. I would be only too willing to oblige them through Radio Varieties except that there is really no difference. In either case, I feel Holmes to be as real as my Dr. Watson, Mr. Nigel Bruce. Like countless millions of Holmes’ admirers throughout the world, I see him as a very part of old England. As I conceive him, and my concept may differ radically with those of Editor Wilton Rosenthal’s readers, Holmes was a man with tremendous powers of concentration. His absorption in his calling was extraordinary. Very properly, he never associated with women; evinced no interest in them. (Imagine what a hell it would have …

A Year in the Life of Basil Rathbone — 1940

In 2018 I created a post about the events in Basil Rathbone’s life during 1930. Let’s jump ahead ten years and take a closer look at where Basil was and what he was doing in 1940. Where did he live? What was he doing? What did he earn? In 1940, Basil was living and working in Hollywood. Basil, his wife Ouida, and their daughter Cynthia had moved from their house on 5254 Los Feliz Blvd. to a new house in Bel Air. Due to the addition of baby Cynthia to the family in the spring of 1939, the Rathbones moved to a larger house “with a room and a bath and a kitchenette for the baby and a larger garden to care for” (In and Out of Character, pp. 165-166). The new house was located at 10728 Bellagio Road, high in the wooded hills of Bel Air, 1260 feet above Hollywood. The French chateau type house sat on four acres, surrounded by a fence. One side overlooked the San Fernando Valley, and the other side …

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 …

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Rathbone fans! I apologize for not having an exciting new blog post ready to start the new year. Rest assured that I am on the lookout for interesting items about Basil Rathbone to post on this blog. I appreciate your patience. What kinds of posts would you like to see? Please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts about future posts. I also welcome guest posts! If there’s some aspect of Basil Rathbone’s life that you’d like to explore, please do! Contact me about posting it on The Baz: gisbourne@basilrathbone.net.  

A Subsidized Theater

I found an interesting article in the September 9, 1936 edition of The Era. Written by Margery Rowland, it’s called “The Salvation of the Stage,” and features lengthy quotes from our favorite actor, Basil Rathbone. She writes that Rathbone displays enthusiasm and love for the theater. Here, then, are Rathbone’s comments on the subject of a subsidized theater: There are two ways in which the theatre can be saved. By “saved” I don’t mean financially prosperous. I mean reestablished as a rich and fine art that has almost the prestige and significance of a religion. And one of the ways is the return of the patron. The theatre isn’t a broad popular entertainment on the people’s own level. It shouldn’t be—it won’t be in the future. We’re moving forward to the time when it will take its place side by side with the arts of music and painting at their highest. It is not becoming more popular. It is becoming more select, more exclusive. It won’t be of and among the general public. It will …

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 …

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, …

Short Films and Documentaries

Basil Rathbone made a number of feature-length films — 81, if we include Crazy House, in which Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce had a 15-second cameo appearance. You can see that here: But what do we know about Rathbone’s short films and documentaries? He made quite of few of those also. Rathbone earliest appearance in a short film (as far as I know) was also a brief cameo. Screen Snapshots #9 (1936) makes a camera tour of the grandstands at the Santa Anita race track during a special running. Those on view include Joe E. Brown, Arthur Treacher, Basil Rathbone, Ann Sothern, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, Tom Mix, Donald Wood, Douglas Fairbanks and Jack Oakie.  (10 min.) Screen Snapshots was a series of short films (usually about 10 minutes long) produced by Ralph Staub (Columbia Pictures) between 1930 and 1958. Like newsreels and cartoons, they were shown in theaters before the main feature. Rathbone appeared in several of these Screen Snapshots, including: Screen Snapshots, series 18, #10 (1939). This short film shows about …