All posts tagged: biography

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 Closer Look at the 2nd Mrs Rathbone

When you read Basil’s autobiography you get the impression of Ouida, his second wife, as a devoted and selfless woman who rescued him from failure, gave up a brilliant career as a thousand-dollar a week screenwriter to help him become a star, and was instrumental in reuniting him with his estranged son… Is this impressive portrait the true story?….

X Part VII

Continuing the transcribed interview with Madame X from PART VI [tell me about [NAME REDACTED]] ……[NAME REDACTED] was crazy. But you know insanity is an amazingly good distraction. I was…Basil and I had called it off as we did periodically. And [NAME REDACTED] just made all the moves. And, you know, he was attractive and charming and wondering what this crazy man would do next was…well it filled up time. And he was good company on a good day. Nothing much more to say…the press crawled all over the stupid things he did. It was painted very lurid, really it was just ridiculous. He was tinged with farce. Tattooed with it maybe. In big letter…right here. But…when all that came out [Basil] was mad as hell with me. He was saying “he’s a degenerate, what’s the matter with you.” He was a degenerate. But…I guess I wasn’t being all that rational or together myself by then. It was hard…the situation was so hard. Being detailed off by the man you love to find happiness with …

X Part VI

Continuing the transcribed interview with Madame X from PART V [so during most of the war years, we’re talking 1941-45 your marriage to David was increasingly a front and behind that he was……homosexual] It wasn’t a front exactly. Before he went away to war we…David and I enjoyed what we had in our way… [but he was involved with various men] Yes. But it’s up to him to say anything more about that. [but the various magazine articles we can pull from the time, 1941 until the end of the war, depicting your idyllic life together…] Oh God they’re fiction, but they were always fiction. I mean who the hell would believe those? The rictus smiles, the so-called interviews put together by the studio publicity department. When you were under contract you had to do them. But yes, fiction. [so what was reality?] He had his relationships. I suppose for the first year or so I waited, in my naivety for him to start liking girls and wanting to sleep with me more than…never. [were …

X Part V

Continuing the transcribed interview with Madame X from PART IV “…You know, one of the first things [Ouida] did was get in touch with David. He came in one day and said, “Well, darling, guess who wants to have lunch with me tomorrow.” I think maybe she thought he didn’t know and she was going to…you know…but…she…she…So they had lunch and she said, “Do you know about my husband and your wife?” And David said, ‘Ouida, what are you implying? I’m there whenever Basil visits and we just sit round making raffia table mats for the war effort.’ [laughter] And he said to me, after he had lunch with her, he said “Darling, you need to realize she’s never going to divorce him, because if she isn’t Mrs Basil Rathbone, what is she?” And of course he was right. The whole divorce thing was just…it was just shock and rage…and Ouida being Ouida. She was Mrs Basil Rathbone. That’s what her life was. [and when the shock and rage subsided she was going to do …

Letter from Fitzroy Davis to Michael Druxman

Recently Michael B. Druxman, Basil’s distinguished biographer was kind enough to send me a scan of a letter he received in 1975, just after his book was published. It’s interesting for the bit of extra light it throws on The vexed question of Rathbone’s second wife, and perhaps for another reason. The writer of the letter was named Fitzroy Davis, and this also happens to be the name of the author of the novel Quicksilver, which has been discussed here from time to time and which apparently features BR as a closeted gay man, insinuated to be having some kind of affair with an older man easily identified as Jack Miltern. Is this the same Fitzroy Davis? It might be informative to find out. The whole letter can be seen below, but here is an extract of the most relevant part: “I knew Mr Rathbone only slightly,but he did live near me in the Dakota, and I would sometimes chat with him when he was taking that old “cocktail spaniel” out for a walk. My …

Handwriting comparison

I don’t have much faith that it will resolve anything, but here as requested is a side-by-side comparison of the “X letter” with one known to be from Rathbone. The “control” letter was written to Mary Manners Sandmann (why did I say Manners? Who the hell is Mary Manners? :roll:)in October 1942. The X letter (allegedly) was written around December 1941, so they are pretty close in date. The full size file is quite big – around 2000px wide, so feel free to download it and blow it up and generally analyze the shit out of it. And if any of you know any document examiners prepared to work for no fee, please pass it on to them. We’d love to hear what they have to say 🙂

X Part IV

Continuing the transcribed interview with Madame X from PART 3 “…[so you said, after he spent most of July with you he went to Canada?] On a War Bond drive. [and Ouida went with him] Yes. She wasn’t going, but then at the last minute she said she was. And…and when he told me that, something just flickered on and off in my mind…in the back of my mind. Some kind of little psychic warning thing. I just had a moment of…bad feeling about it. [and how long had you and he been lovers by this time?] Since February. So six or seven months. [the time you told me about, the time she spoke to you at the War Relief function, when was that?] Oh. Yes. That was in the fall, just before they left. [and after he’d spent all that time with you at your beach house] Uh-huh. [so that all knits together] Yes it does. When I told my mum she said, “I told you he’s trouble.” [she didn’t like him?] She liked …