Basil Rathbone

(1892 - 1967)

A photo of Basil Rathbone
Basil Rathbone
1892 - 1967
Born
June 13, 1892
Death
July 1967
Last Known Residence
New York, New York County, New York 10023
Summary
Basil Rathbone was born on June 13, 1892. He died in July 1967 at 75 years of age. We know that Basil Rathbone had been residing in New York, New York County, New York 10023.
Updated: February 06, 2019
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Biography
Basil Rathbone
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Basil Rathbone
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Nickname(s) or aliases
New York, New York County, New York 10023
Last known residence
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Basil Rathbone was born on
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Basil Rathbone died in
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Basil Rathbone was born on
Basil Rathbone died in
Birth
Death
Heritage
Childhood

Education

From 1906 to 1910 Rathbone attended Repton School, where he was more interested in sports--especially fencing, at which he excelled--than studies, but where he also discovered his interest in the theater. After graduation he planned to pursue acting as a profession, but his father disapproved and suggested that his son try working in business for a year, hoping he would forget about acting. Rathbone accepted his father's suggestion and worked as a clerk for an insurance company--for exactly one year. Then he contacted his cousin Frank Benson, an actor managing a Shakespearean troupe in Stratford-on-Avon.
Adulthood

Military Service

. In 1915 his career was interrupted by the First World War. During his military service, as a second lieutenant in the Liverpool Scottish 2nd Battalion, he worked in intelligence and received the Military Cross for bravery. In 1919, released from military service, he returned to Stratford-on-Avon and continued with Shakespeare but after a year moved onto the London stage. The year after that he made his first appearance on Broadway and his film debut in the silent Innocent (1921).
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Born June 13, 1892 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Died July 21, 1967 in New York City, New York, USA (heart attack)
Birth Name Philip St. John Basil Rathbone
Nickname Ratters
Height 6' 1½" (1.87 m)
Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, where Basil and his two younger siblings, Beatrice and John, were raised. Their mother, Anna Barbara (George), was a violinist, who was born in Grahamstown, South Africa, of British parents, and their father, Edgar Philip Rathbone, was a mining engineer born in Liverpool.
Rathbone was hired as an actor on the condition that he work his way through the ranks, which he did quite rapidly. Starting in bit parts in 1911, he was playing juvenile leads within two years.

For the remainder of the decade Rathbone alternated between the London and New York stages and occasional appearances in films. In 1929 he co-wrote and starred as the title character in a short-running Broadway play called "Judas". Soon afterwards he abandoned his first love, the theater, for a film career. During the 1920s his roles had evolved from the romantic lead to the suave lady-killer to the sinister villain (usually wielding a sword), and Hollywood put him to good use during the 1930s in numerous costume romps, including Captain Blood (1935), David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Tower of London (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940) and others. Rathbone earned two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1936) and as King Louis XI in If I Were King (1938).

However, it was in 1939 that Rathbone played his best-known and most popular character, Sherlock Holmes, with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, first in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and then in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), which were followed by 12 more films and numerous radio broadcasts over the next seven years.

Feeling that his identification with the character was killing his film career, Rathbone went back to New York and the stage in 1946. The next year he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Dr. Sloper in the Broadway play "The Heiress," but afterwards found little rewarding stage work. Nevertheless, during the last two decades of his life, Rathbone was a very busy actor, appearing on numerous television shows, primarily drama, variety and game shows; in occasional films, such as Casanova's Big Night (1954), The Court Jester (1955), Tales of Terror (1962) and The Comedy of Terrors (1963); and in his own one-man show, "An Evening with Basil Rathbone", with which he toured the U.S.
Spouse (2)
Ouida Bergère (18 April 1926 - 21 July 1967) (his death) (1 child)
Ethel Marion Foreman (13 October 1914 - 1926) (divorced) (1 child)
Trade Mark (6)
Best known for playing suave villains in period swashbuckler films, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Captain Blood (1935).

Had one son with Ethel Marion Foreman: John Rodion.
Had one daughter with Ouida Bergère: Cynthia Rathbone (1939-1969).
Nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar twice, and lost both times to the very same actor, Walter Brennan.
Had portrayed the title character on Blue (1939-1942) and Mutual (1943-1946) Radio's "The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes".
Following his death, he was interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
Won Broadway's 1948 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for his performance as Dr. Sloper in the original Broadway production of "The Heiress". The award was shared with Henry Fonda for "Mister Roberts" and Paul Kelly for "Command Decision".
Was so frequently typecast as a villain that he literally jumped at the first few opportunities he ever got to play Sherlock Holmes because "for once, I got to beat the bad guy instead of play him". Indeed, he played the legendary heroic detective more than any other character in his career. However, by 1946, he had become so sick of the role that he quit his Sherlock Holmes film series and temporarily returned to the Broadway stage. Over the course of his career, he had played the super sleuth in 16 films and over 200 radio plays.
Although he has been immortalized as a screen villain, before he played Murdstone in 1935, he had never played a villain and he was known, both on film and stage, exclusively as a matinée idol and romantic leading man.
Fought in the British Army during World War I, and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery under fire.

He is considered the greatest swordsman in Hollywood history, superior even to on-screen foes Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. However, because he was so frequently cast as the villain, he won only two on-screen duels in his career - as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1936), for which he earned an Oscar nomination, and as Captain Esteban Pascuale against the friar (Eugene Pallette), who was so outclassed by "the Capitan" he was harmlessly disarmed in a matter of seconds, in The Mark of Zorro (1940). His last, filmed when the actor was 63, was with Danny Kaye in The Court Jester (1955). It is considered by some the best sword fight ever filmed.

He was awarded 3 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for Motion Pictures at 6549 Hollywood Boulevard; for Radio at 6300 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
He never renounced his British citizenship and was a lifelong member of the Conservative party.
Was related by marriage to the famous Huxley family. His wife's niece, Ouida Branch, whom they brought up from an early age, married David Bruce Huxley, the brother of famed writers Aldous Huxley and Julian Huxley and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Andrew Huxley.
British Army Fencing Champion.
The Sherlock Holmes-esque Basil of Baker Street in The Great Mouse Detective (1986) is named after Rathbone who was perhaps best known for the many times he played Sherlock Holmes.
Distant relative of Julian Rathbone.
Rathbone was a firm believer in ESP. When he was four, his parents booked passage on a ship taking them from South Africa to Britain. His mother had a dream that the ship would sink in the bay of Biscay and convinced her husband that they she take a later boat. She was proved prescient when the ship did sink with a loss of all hands.
He was the favorite choice of Gone with the Wind (1939) author Margaret Mitchell to play the role of Rhett Butler.
The Rathbones were a Hollywood exception in that they remained a happily married couple for more than four decades. During their heyday in Hollywood, they were known to host the most lavish epicurean parties. For many years, they (and their six dogs) lived in a house in the Los Feliz Hills, overlooking Hollywood, which had once been owned by the prizefighter Jack Dempsey and his wife, the actress Estelle Taylor.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Basil's lifetime.

In 1892, in the year that Basil Rathbone was born, on January 1st, Ellis Island opened to process immigrants. 700 passed through on the first day - in the first year, 450,000 were processed. The processing center was originally a 3 story wooden building - with outbuildings - that burned down a few years later.

In 1924, he was 32 years old when in May, wealthy college students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb kidnapped and killed 14 year old Robert Franks "in the interest of science". Leopold and Loeb thought that they were intellectually superior and that they could commit the perfect crime and not be caught. They were brought in for questioning within 8 days and quickly confessed. Clarence Darrow was hired as their defense lawyer, getting them life imprisonment instead of a death sentence. Loeb was eventually killed in prison - Leopold was released after 33 years, dying of a heart attack at age 66.

In 1933, by the time he was 41 years old, the day after being inaugurated, the new President, Franklin Roosevelt, declared a four-day bank holiday to stop people from withdrawing their money from shaky banks (the bank run). Within 5 days of his administration, the Emergency Banking Act was passed - reorganizing banks and closing insolvent ones. In his first 100 days, he asked Congress to repeal Prohibition (which they did), signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, signed legislation that paid commodity farmers to leave their fields fallow, thus ending surpluses and boosting prices, signed a bill that gave workers the right to unionize and bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions as well as suspending some antitrust laws and establishing a federally funded Public Works Administration, and won passage of 12 other major laws that helped the economy.

In 1947, when he was 55 years old, on April 15th, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing first base. He was the first black man to play in the Major Leagues. Since the 1880's, professional baseball had been segregated and blacks played in the "Negro leagues". He went on to play for 10 years.

In 1967, in the year of Basil Rathbone's passing, between June 5th and 10th, Israeli and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria fought what came to be called the "Six-Day War". The hostilities began when Israel launched "preemptive" strikes against Egypt, destroying nearly its entire air force. It ended with Israel occupying the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Other Basil Rathbones

Bio
Jun 13, 1892 - Jul 21, 1967 1892 - 1967

Other Rathbones

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Dec 3, 1883 - February 1974 1883 - 1974
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Nov 19, 1937 - Oct 12, 2006 1937 - 2006
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Jan 18, 1918 - May 8, 2002 1918 - 2002
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May 29, 1911 - Feb 10, 1992 1911 - 1992
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Feb 18, 1913 - Oct 21, 1998 1913 - 1998
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Jan 19, 1929 - Apr 22, 1993 1929 - 1993
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Aug 24, 1919 - Feb 17, 2002 1919 - 2002
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Aug 8, 1934 - Nov 30, 1985 1934 - 1985
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Nov 9, 1895 - January 1976 1895 - 1976
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Jul 31, 1889 - February 1973 1889 - 1973
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Aug 14, 1962 - April 1981 1962 - 1981
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Oct 11, 1886 - December 1963 1886 - 1963
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Oct 28, 1888 - March 1968 1888 - 1968
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Sep 29, 1933 - May 3, 2005 1933 - 2005
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Jan 10, 1942 - July 1980 1942 - 1980
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Mar 9, 1912 - Dec 31, 2006 1912 - 2006
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Jul 23, 1913 - Feb 7, 2007 1913 - 2007
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Oct 17, 1912 - Jun 3, 1998 1912 - 1998
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Apr 3, 1927 - Feb 7, 1994 1927 - 1994
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Jan 3, 1910 - Oct 15, 1975 1910 - 1975

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Jan 31, 1909 - Jun 16, 1990 1909 - 1990
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Aug 14, 1896 - June 1973 1896 - 1973
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Sep 3, 1886 - July 1963 1886 - 1963
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Dec 4, 1911 - October 1974 1911 - 1974
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Jan 26, 1912 - Mar 3, 1995 1912 - 1995
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Jun 21, 1903 - January 1985 1903 - 1985
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Nov 15, 1895 - December 1966 1895 - 1966
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Jan 28, 1889 - October 1975 1889 - 1975
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Oct 31, 1916 - Dec 15, 2002 1916 - 2002
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Feb 4, 1913 - March 1981 1913 - 1981
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Sep 25, 1901 - Nov 27, 1997 1901 - 1997
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May 15, 1917 - February 1986 1917 - 1986
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Mar 12, 1910 - April 1982 1910 - 1982
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Mar 29, 1894 - May 1981 1894 - 1981
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Mar 11, 1905 - Jul 26, 1999 1905 - 1999
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Apr 5, 1879 - December 1963 1879 - 1963
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Jun 29, 1905 - February 1973 1905 - 1973
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Jul 23, 1913 - April 1977 1913 - 1977
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Aug 21, 1908 - Sep 24, 1988 1908 - 1988
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Nov 25, 1914 - June 1972 1914 - 1972
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