Johannesburg, South Africa
Claim to Fame
Terror by Night
Place of Death
New York City, New York, USA
Cause of Death
Profile Bio Text
He was born Philip St. John Basil Rathbone in Johannesburg, South Africa, a son of British parents: Edgar Philip Rathbone and Anna Barbara George. His younger sister and brother were Beatrice Rathbone and John Rathbone. The Rathbones fled to England when Basil was three years of age after his father was accused by Boers of being a British spy near the onset of the Second Boer War. He was educated at Repton School and served in the Liverpool Scottish in the First World War.
Rathbone was married to actress Marion Foreman (married 1914 - divorced 1926), was involved briefly with actress Eva Le Gallienne during his first marriage and was married to writer Ouida Bergere (married 1927 - his death 1967).
He and Foreman had one son, Rodion Rathbone, and he and Bergere had one adopted daughter, Cynthia Rathbone.
He died of a heart attack, aged 75, at his home in New York City. He is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.
Unlike some of his British actor contemporaries in Hollywood and New York, Rathbone never renounced his British citizenship.
During the 1920s, Rathbone appeared in Shakespearean roles on the British stage. He was in a few silent movies, and played detective Philo Vance in the 1929 movie The Bishop Murder Case.
Rathbone became famous for playing suave villains in many swashbucklers of the 1930s, including David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), Captain Blood (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Tower of London (1939 film) (1939), and The Mark of Zorro (1940). Allegedly, he was Margaret Mitchell`s first choice to play Rhett Butler in the great film version of her novel Gone With The Wind (although, when interviewed around the time of casting, she chose Groucho Marx!). He was most notable for his starring roles in fourteen Sherlock Holmes movies. To many fans, Basil Rathbone was born to play Sir Arthur Conan Doyle`s famous London detective. He also starred as Holmes with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson in an old-time radio mystery series, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939 - 1946), and did numerous other radio broadcasts.
He was admired for his athletic cinema swordsmanship, particularly in the duel on the beach in Captain Blood and as Sir Guy of Guisborne in the long fight scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Other noteworthy sword fights appear in The Mark of Zorro and The Court Jester (1956). The latter duplicates a scene in the former where Tyrone Power slices a candle in two and leaves it burning.
Basil Rathbone earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance of Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1936), and another nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance of King Louis XI in If I Were King (1938).
It was in 1939 that Rathbone first starred as Sherlock Holmes, in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Unfortunately, the many sequels, e.g. The Spider Woman, typecast him (he gained the nickname `Razzle Bathrobe`) and he was unable to break out of the stereotype, except in certain spoofs of his earlier swashbuckling villains in such movies as Casanova`s Big Night (1954) and The Court Jester (1956).
Rathbone also acted on Broadway numerous times. In 1948, he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in Play for his performance of the unyielding Dr. Austin Sloper in the original production of The Heiress (played by Sir Ralph Richardson in the film version, which won Olivia de Havilland one of her two Oscars).
Through the 1950s and 1960s, he continued to appear in several dignified anthology programs on television.
He is also known for his readings of the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe, which are collected together with readings by Vincent Price. Especially powerful and striking is his reading of Poe`s "The Raven".
Basil Rathbone has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures; one for radio; and one for television .
Repton School, Repton, Derby, England (1910)
Full Name at Birth
Philip St. John Basil Rathbone
Actor/Actress, Soundtrack, Other Crew
Has Detailed Data (New)
Edgar Philip Rathbone
Anna Barbara née George
Claude Rains, Ronald Colman, Cedric Hardwicke, Herbert Marshall, Nigel Bruce, Vincent Price
Cynthia Rathbone (adopted daughter)
Has Detailed Data (Music)
Philip St. John Basil Rathbone, MC (13 June 1892 – 21 July 1967) was a South African-born English actor. He rose to prominence in the United Kingdom as a Shakespearean stage actor and went on to appear in more than 70 films, primarily costume dramas, swashbucklers and, occasionally, horror films.
Couple Profile Source
Wiki Bio Text
==Basil Rathbone== Actor - South African-born Basil Rathbone was the son of a British mining engineer working in Johannesburg. After a brief career as an insurance agent, the 19-year-old aspiring actor joined his cousin's repertory group. World War I service as a lieutenant in Liverpool Scottish Regiment followed, then a rapid ascension to leading-man status on the British stage. Rathbone's movie debut was in the London-filmed The Fruitful Vine (1921). Tall, well profiled, and blessed with a commanding stage voice, Rathbone shifted from modern-dress productions to Shakespeare and back again with finesse. Very much in demand in the early talkie era, one of Rathbone's earliest American films was The Bishop Murder Case (1930), in which, as erudite amateur sleuth Philo Vance, he was presciently referred to by one of the characters as "Sherlock Holmes." He was seldom more effective than when cast in costume dramas as a civilized but cold-hearted villain: Murdstone in David Copperfield (1934), Evremonde in Tale of Two Cities (1935), and Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (Rathbone was a good friend of Robin Hood star Errol Flynn -- and a far better swordsman). Never content with shallow, one-note performances, Rathbone often brought a touch of humanity and pathos to such stock "heavies" as Karenin in Anna Karenina (1936) and Pontius Pilate in The Last Days of Pompeii (1936). He was Oscar-nominated for his portrayals of Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1936) and the crotchety Louis XVI in If I Were King (1938). In 1939, Rathbone was cast as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the first of 14 screen appearances as Conan Doyle's master detective. He also played Holmes on radio from 1939 through 1946, and in 1952 returned to the character (despite his despairing comments that Holmes had hopelessly "typed" him in films) in the Broadway flop The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which was written by his wife, Ouida Bergere. Famous for giving some of Hollywood's most elegant and elaborate parties, Rathbone left the West Coast in 1947 to return to Broadway in Washington Square. He made a movie comeback in 1954, essaying saturnine character roles in such films as We're No Angels (1955), The Court Jester (1956), and The Last Hurrah (1958). Alas, like many Hollywood veterans, Rathbone often found the pickings lean in the 1960s, compelling him to accept roles in such inconsequential quickies as The Comedy of Terrors (1964) and Hillbillies in the Haunted House (1967). He could take consolation in the fact that these negligible films enabled him to finance projects that he truly cared about, such as his college lecture tours and his Caedmon Record transcriptions of the works of Shakespeare. Basil Rathbone's autobiography, In and Out of Character, was published in 1962.
==Basil Rathbone=='s acting career spanned from Shakespeare to low-budget horror and in fact included both at once in the Comedy of Terrors, where he recites every Shakespeare line there is about dying. Reciting was his specialty, because he had one of the greatest voices in the history of the acting profession. There is little one could do with the human voice to make it sound more dignified than Rathbone. It is also hard to sound more intelligent than Rathbone, a skill he put to good use in his many performances as master detective Sherlock Holmes. He recorded a great deal of the Holmes tales in spoken word form, as well as the complete writings of Edgar Allan Poe, because yet another attribute of this lavishly praised voice was its ability to sound incredibly sinister. Among the bad guys portrayed by the actually charming Rathbone were the evil nemesis of Robin Hood, Sir John, and two of Charles Dickens' creepiest creations: Scrooge and Fagin. He did many of his recordings for the Caedmon label, but ventured into the recording studio at the bequest of many other labels and organizations as well. He even recorded tours of famous museums and great cities of the world for the Columbia Record Club, to be presented in conjunction with slide shows. Rathbone was also in demand for personal appearances as a narrator with symphony orchestras and chamber groups. During his career, he took part in performances of King David, Arthur Honegger's oratorio and symphonic psalm, the inevitable Peter and the Wolf, and a gala presentation of Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. He worked with classical performers such as soprano Helen Boatwright, contralto Beatrice Krebs, tenor Robert Price, and conductor Manfred Schumann. He was fond of collaborating with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, perhaps not coincidentally Edgar Allan Poe's hometown. Another musical era friendly to his on-stage presence was early music, and he took part in performances with several instrumental groups specializing in this genre, combining their musical performances with his recitation of poems from the same era.
====His acting career==== took off following his return from the first World War, and he was launched into the British public consciousness by a series of impressive roles in Shakespeare productions at Stratford on Avon. In the '20s, he relocated to New York City, continuing a theater career, but made a drastic switch to the film industry the following decade. In 1930 alone, he cranked out seven different films. He established his authority in the role of Sherlock Holmes at the end of that decade in a series of films that seemed to never end, the role of faithful assistant Dr. Watson essayed fabulously by the lovable Nigel Bruce. In the '40s and '50s, he remained a character actor in films but concentrated more on his first love, the stage. In the '60s, he was one of many older Hollywood actors lured into horror films, amassing enormous new cult followings as a result. He was not particularly happy about this part of his career, however, he did enjoy the chance to hang out with old friends such as Boris Karloff. He did do some fine recordings in the '60s, however, and in the end was more consistently comfortable in the recording medium than any other.
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