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Rathbone Plays the Crosby Derby

One of Basil Rathbone’s sports passions was horse racing. He could often be found at the race track. Here we see Basil Rathbone with Robert Montgomery and Jimmy Stewart at the Santa Anita race track in 1939. “Offstage Rathbone is an enthusiastic sporting fan, and he prefers horse racing to all other sports, though he follows them all.” (quote from “Sullivan on Rathbone“) Another horse racing fan was Bing Crosby. Bing had always loved horses and even owned a few horses out on his private ranches. He bought his first racehorse in 1935, and in 1937, he became a founding partner of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and a member of its Board of Directors. Given Bing Crosby’s passion for horses, it’s no surprise that a horse racing board game was named for him — the Crosby Derby! Made by H. Fishlove Co. (Chicago, Illinois) in 1947, the game features the top race horses of the era including Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Alsab, Gallant Fox and Assault. The game was advertised as the closest thing to a real …

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. …

Sullivan on Rathbone

I am old enough to remember a television variety show hosted by Ed Sullivan, who typically announced, “We’ve got a really big shew tonight!” Many of his shows were really big — The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show February 9, 1964. Prior to becoming a television show host, Ed Sullivan was a reporter and syndicated columnist for The New York Daily News and The Chicago Tribune. And in 1938 he wrote a lovely article about Basil Rathbone, which I share with you here. Cad No Longer, Rathbone Gets Sympathetic Role by Ed Sullivan Basil Rathbone, as a result of his intelligent, purposeful, and talented portrayal in “If I Were King,” has won a pardon from the rogues’ gallery of Hollywood. Hollywood’s rogues’ gallery is that sinister collection of villains and menaces who go from one reel to another spreading ruin and chaos, upsetting the marriage plans of heroine and hero and in general behaving caddishly. Mr. Rathbone has been a rogue ever since he came west of the Rockies to emote for the cinema. …

Remembering Basil Rathbone

July 21 is of course the anniversary of Basil Rathbone’s death 50 years ago. On July 22, 1967, the New York Times announced, “Basil Rathbone, the suave Shakespearean actor who won motion-picture fame in the early nineteen-forties as the detective Sherlock Holmes–and regretted the identification the rest of his life–died of a heart attack yesterday. The tall, impeccably mannered actor, who was 75 years old, was found dead on the floor of his study at his home, 135 Central Park West by his daughter, Cynthia. She said her father had suffered a heart seizure several years ago, but had appeared to be in good health.” Here’s the New York Times article about the funeral service, published July 26, 1967: RATHBONE RITES ATTENDED BY 350 Cornelia Otis Skinner Reads Actor’s Favorite Poems About 350 people attended a funeral service for Basil Rathbone, the actor, yesterday morning at St. James’ Episcopal Church, 865 Madison Avenue. The Rev. Dr. Arthur Lee Kinsolving, the rector, in a prayer spoke of Mr. Rathbone’s “singular gifts of person and personality; verve …

The Show Goes On

Tomorrow is Basil Rathbone’s birthday, so of course I’ve been thinking about him. I came across an amusing article telling about how Basil Rathbone was being mistaken for other celebrities while he was vacationing in New York City in 1938. Here is a link to the article: TheShowGoesOn_Hollywood_Dec1938 One of the celebrities he was mistaken for was Philip Merrivale. Basil was understandably baffled. He didn’t think he looked anything like Philip. Neither do I! Another celebrity doppelganger was Ian Keith. What were the people thinking? Basil and Ian look nothing alike! The confusion continues today. A photo recently found on eBay was identified as Basil Rathbone. I don’t know who the man is, but he is not Basil: And this photo of another actor who actually did resemble Basil was discussed earlier on this blog (see the post  https://thegreatbaz.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/sunday-pic-16/ ): Here, of course, is the real deal: I’ll end this post with this lovely description of Basil (from the article mentioned above): “Quite effortlessly, quite unself-consciously, he gives an impression of great sophistication and great …

Spring Cleaning

In March 1940 Hollywood magazine did an article about spring cleaning at the Rathbone house (“How to Do Spring-Cleaning,” pp. 26-27, 44-45). Kay Proctor, the author of the article, paid a visit to Basil Rathbone, whom she described as “one of my favorite people.” She added, “and I like his tea and toasted crumpets.” It’s an amusing article, and perhaps it will inspire you to do some spring cleaning, too! In a merry frame of mind I whanged the iron knocker of his home which sits on a hill overlooking the sixth hole of a swank golf club. Something lean and tall opened the door. I knew at once it wasn’t the butler (I catch on quick that way!) because it wore a white cap which said “Simpson’s Paints Are Better Paints” in red letters on the visor. Moreover, it was wearing a striped English four-in-hand, the latest style Mexican huraches, a pale tan shirt, and white denim overalls which hit its legs amidship knee and ankle. A harassed look around the eyes and a …

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 …

Basil Films That Never Were

My previous post, Films Rathbone Almost Made, explores films that studios either produced or at least planned to produce. This post concerns five films which existed only in the mind of one Russell Ferguson, who wrote an article called “Bruce at Bombcutta.” This article was published in the October 1938 edition of World Film News. Ferguson imagined five historical epics that were never made, each one a colossal production. In each one Basil Rathbone plays the villain and dies at the end! Plymouth Hoe Bannockburn The Black Hole of Calcutta The Relief of Lucknow The Fall of Rome Plymouth Hoe Criticism: A magnificent spectacle: should do well in the suburbs and provinces. The story: Queen Elizabeth (Edna May Oliver) is in love with Francis Drake (Gary Cooper) who prefers her maid of honour (Olivia de Havilland). She is a very proud queen, so the young people have to keep their love a secret. But the Earl of Leicester (Basil Rathbone) has ambitions to marry the Queen, and tells her of Gary’s love for Olivia. The Queen banishes …

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 …