All posts tagged: LETTERS

Armistice Day 2013

Last year we marked Armistice Day (Veterans’ Day in the USA) with an interview with Richard Van Emden, author of Famous 1914-18. This year we are looking at some of Rathbone’s own words about his experience of war. For those of you who may not be familiar, Rathbone joined the army in 1916, initially with the London Scottish, and later with the 2/10 Liverpool Scottish, as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 “for conspicuous daring and resource on patrol.” His younger brother John was killed in the trenches in June 1918. From his autobiography IN AND OUT OF CHARACTER… Vive la France. Vive l’Angleterre. Vive l’Ecosse. Ypres. Festubert. Mademoiselle from Armentieres, “pinky pinky parlez-vous” When England declared war on Germany I had been very young and had been dreaming of prodigious accomplishments in my chosen profession…I felt physically sick to my stomach as I saw or hear or read of the avalanche of brave young men rushing to join “the colors”; and if needs be to give their lives for …

Letters to Madame X c.1940 – 1963

These are all the letters we currently have that were allegedly written by Rathbone to “Madame X” between c. 1940 and 1963. They’re numbered as they were when received by us. Nos. 13, 15 and 16 are currently missing. We’ve only received one letter in autograph. The rest are typed copies, seemingly quite aged and pretty hard to read. Some are annotated, but not always legibly. Everything in black is original text, my notes are in blue and the annotations are in red. LETTER 1: no date, possibly 1939-40 Dearest X – what an extraordinary amount of enquiry crammed into such a small and charmingly violet note. How do I begin? 1. Tell him Dietrich is an angel – for the first week that you know her. Thereafter all bets are off. Her self-interest is boundless. Her sense of ensemble non-existent. If she can erase you in front of the camera she will. She is legendary for being very accommodating in other ways, but it barely compensates for the sheer flaming hell of working with …

full(er) text of letter quoted in “a life divided”…

As suggested by a couple of readers,and after consulting with the owner, I’ve decided to publish a larger part of the text of one of the letters quoted in my blogpost “a life divided” (March 12 2013). Names and portions of text are being withheld by request. There’s no date on the original, but there is a later annotation that says “written from Canada, around September 1941.” If anyone has any info that can verify he was in Canada at this time then please let us know. “Darling girl – I found your letter this morning, but I think it arrived yesterday or the day before. Don’t fret. I’m well, really. Much much better than when you last saw me. It’s exhausting, and my voice is struggling with all the speechifying, but people here are wonderful… As to everything else, oh my dear girl, no one has ever questioned me so closely or made me realise how pitifully few answers I can provide. You look at me with those eyes and you see through every …

A Life Divided

I think BR’s life can be divided roughly into (slightly uneven) quarters. “Before the war” (1892-1914), “after the war” (1919-23), “The Ouida years”),1923-46, and the “post-Hollywood years” (1946-67). Each one of these segments or chapters is divided by a crucial event that shaped him, made him the man he was, for good or bad, gave him his successes and failures, his joys and his pain. The first of these crucial events, I think, was (unsurprisingly) the Great War. The second was meeting Ouida. The third was….well the thing that culminated in him quitting Hollywood so abruptly in 1946. We’ve talked about Ouida already, and we’ll certainly do so again. I’ll come to the whole “Leaving Los Angeles” thing later on. It’s a big subject, and a sensitive one. Today I’m going to talk about World War One, the “war to end all wars.” Of course war is always crucial in people’s lives, it always defines moments and experiences, and it always leaves scars. The Great War in particular cut a huge and bloody gash across …

Interview with Richard Van Emden

Today, to mark Armistice Day (Veterans’ Day in the US), THE BAZ is talking to Richard Van Emden, WW 1 expert and author of numerous books, including FAMOUS 1914-18 that features the war experiences of various well known people. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are two of those featured. Richard van Emden has been interested in the Great War since his teens. He interviewed 270 veterans of the conflict and has so far written twelve books on the subject. His latest, Boy Soldiers, is due out now. Richard also researches, produces and directs television programmes about both World Wars, including the award-winning Roses of No Man’s Land and Veterans. His most recent television programme Shooting the War, was broadcast earlier this year (2010) on BBC4, and he has also appeared as an expert on programmes such as The Boy Soldiers of the Great War (Channel 4), and most recently The Real War Horse on the History Channel TB: Ok – let’s kick this off by asking you to tell me briefly about your work on …

Biography Week: Two Unidentified WW1 Letters

Frank has informed us about the provenance of the letters in more detail. Apparently he bought them in a sale in London in 1980 and had no idea they might be by Rathbone until he read the book Famous 1914-18 which features Rathbone and gives details of his family. Initial feedback from a WW1 author suggests additional grounds for thinking the letters might be genuine. Apparently, Rathbone’s brother John was injured at the Somme in 1916 – and this fits with the comments made about “Johnny” in letter 1. All in all it does look distinctly possible these letters might be the real deal, and if so they are pretty significant, particularly the second one. If “July 26” refers to 1918 then it was written on the morning of Rathbone’s heroic action in No Man’s Land that won him his MC. We continue to want to hear from anyone who knows anything more about the origin of these letters. Email the Project (basilrathboneproject@gmail.com) or post a comment here. Sunday 15th Dear all, Bea’s letter arrived …

the Basil Rathbone Biography Project

To date, 46 years after his death there is still no full length biography of Basil Rathbone. The Biography Project is working towards achieving one. How it began As soon as you start a website about anyone or anything people begin writing to you and sending you things. Since I’ve been running this blog I’ve been getting emails and comments sent in, and a fairly significant minority of these have been bringing to light some facet of the Baz’s life, of which I was not previously aware. Some of the pieces of information coming in are tiny, others (one or two) have been quite huge in their potential impact on Basil’s life and work; some have been things that were hidden away in personal papers or family recollections, some have been published in books but yet somehow not assimilated into the “official” Rathbone biography you’ll find on Wikipedia and the IMDB – and indeed in Basil’s own elegantly allusive, poetically selective “autobiography.” Looking at some of this stuff, it occurred to me that they’re pieces …

Handwriting comparison – (the mystery letter part II)

Frank B has produced a jpeg that compares the writing in the mystery letter to a known sample of the Baz’s hand. Opinions of all kinds welcome, but if any handwriting analyst happens to be reading, we’d very much like to hear from you! 😉 Frank asks me to point out that the known sample is written with either a fountain pen or a dip pen and the mystery letter is apparently written in pencil, which he says was a common thing for soldiers to do when in the front line when ink was not available.

Fragments of a letter to be identified…

“Frank B” one of our readers has asked me to put these fragments of a WW1 letter he has in his possession to see if people agree with him it may have been written by The Baz. Apparently he doesn’t want to put up the whole letter at this time but he tells me he has selected the part that contains family references which might help identification. I’ve given it its own post because if I put it in the comments it will get lost in the tangle. Frank would like feedback so feel free to comment. And here for comparison is a sample of Rathbone’s actual handwriting: BTW – does anyone know what that last word is before the signature? I assumed it was “son” but it doesn’t look like it at all. And why (if it is Baz) is he signing himself “PSB” and not “Basil”? Update– according to reader Greg Rathbone (no relation he says) the Baz did indeed have an uncle Harold and an aunt Elfrida. The latter seems such an …