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{ Cast & Crew: Basil Rathbone }

Philip St. John Basil Rathbone (June 13, 1892 - July 21, 1967) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Living there until the age of three, his family was forced to moved to England after his father, Edgar Philip, was accused of being a British spy by the Boers. This was during a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. Rathbone's mother, Anna Barbara, a violinist, raised him (and his two younger siblings, Beatrice and John) while their father worked as a mining engineer. Rathbone attended Repton School in the early 20th century having an interest in sports rather than studies, but soon discovered his love for the theater. Although he longed to pursue a career in acting after graduation, his father protested and felt he should trying working as a businessman for at least a year. He secretly hoped his son would forget about becoming an actor. Rathbone agreed with his father and was hired in an insurance company for one year exactly. He then contacted his cousin, Frank Benson, whom got him hired through a Shakespearean troupe he managed in Stratford-on-Avon.

Rathbone joined the acting troupe on the condition that he worked his way up through the ranks. He began with small parts in 1911 and eventually playing bigger leads for two years. When World War I broke out in 1915, Rathbone's career was temporarily interrupted to take part in military service. During that time, the young actor became a second lieutenant in the Liverpool Scottish, 2nd Battalion. For working in intelligence and for his bravery, Rathbone received the Military Cross. After he was released from military service in 1919, Rathbone continued acting with the Shakespearean troupe for a year, moving on to perform on the London stage. One year following his Broadway debut, Rathbone landed his first role on the silver screen in the silent film, Innocent (1921).

Acting roles began to increase within the decade of the twenties with Rathbone switching back and forth on stages of London and New York with some film appearances. The twenties were good years for Rathbone, helping him to evolve from small parts to romantic leads and dastardly villains. By the time the 1930's came around, Rathbone abandoned his first love, the theater, and became more frequent in Hollywood film roles at Universal, MGM and RKO Productions. Some famous titles during that decade were, A Tale of Two Cities, The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Tower of London (1939). It was that same year when Rathbone was given the role of a very famous literary character. Through Universal Pictures, Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes for the first time in The Hound of the Baskervilles, continuing with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Along with Nigel Bruce as Dr. John Watson, the duo worked together in a dozen more films and radio shows for the next seven years.

By 1946, Rathbone felt the super sleuth was hurting his film career rather than helping it and decided to hang up his deerstalker for good with the last film, Dressed to Kill. Rathbone returned to the stage the following year, winning a Tony Award for Dr. Sloper in the play, "The Heiress." When other stage work was not very rewarding, he began appearing on TV in dramas, variety and game shows along with more on screen roles. Some memorable films during the 1950's and 60's include Casanova's Big Night (1954), The Court Jester (1955) and the hilarious dark comedy, The Comedy of Terrors (1962) where he acted along such greats as Boris Karloff, Peter Laurie and Vincent Price.

Rathbone died of a heart attack on July 21, 1967, a month after turning 75. Nineteen years after his death, Rathbone appeared in The Great Mouse Detective (1986). Borrowed audio from a Sherlock Holmes radio show, The Red-Headed League, Rathbone's voice can be heard as he talks to Dr. Watson (voiced by Laurie Main) about a performance they're about to attend. "I observed a good deal of German music on the program. It is quite introspective, and I want to introspect," he tells Dr. Watson whom drones, "But, Holmes, that music is so frightfully dull." It has been often said that Rathbone's small audio clip was uncredited in the cast. This statement is false when his name does appear in the end credits under Additional Voice Talents.

Rathbone's love life went to two young ladies, first marrying Marion Foreman and having one son together, Rodion, followed by Ouida Bergère. The couple adopted a baby girl named Cynthia whom Rathbone adored and later took with him on his world tour show. Cynthia died tragically from an illness in 1969 at the age of 30 while Bergère died in 1974 at the age of 88. Rodion died in 1996 and is survived by three children: Heloise, Richard and Dounia. Rathbone left behind a large legacy of well-known classics from both the stage and screen, but to many, he will always be remembered as the number one actor for Sherlock Holmes.

The photo of Rathbone is from the site, Books & Radio. Used with permission. Biographical information provided by and Basil Rathbone: Master of Stage and Screen.