The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Basil Rathbone – A Bad Guy You Love to Hate

Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone - A Bad Guy You Love to Hate

Basil Rathbone was born in South Africa, in 1892, but left as a forthcoming Boer War. In England Rathbone attended Repton School where he excelled at fencing, a skill that would serve him well later in the movies, and showed an interest in theater. After graduation, he worked for one year in business to please his father and then left for the theater. He had a cousin that was managing one of the Shakespearean troupes in Stratford-on-Avon. He joined at the bottom rung and began working his way to larger roles. These roles were interrupted by WWI when Rathbone severed as a second lieutenant in the Liverpool Scottish 2nd Battalion. He was assigned to military intelligence and later received the Military Cross for bravery. In 1919, he returned to Stratford-on-Avon. After a year there he moved to the London stage and eventually began working on Broadway.

Eventually, he left the stage to begin working in movies. His roles evolved from ladies man to sinister villain where his sword work became more important. The 1930s were very good for him where he had a run of costume dramas that included Captain Blood (1935), David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Mark of Zorro (1940), Romeo and Juliet (1936), and If I Were King (1938).

I have always felt that one of his greatest performances was as the scenery-chewing Frankenstein in Son of Frankenstein (1939).

In 1939, Rathbone took the role for which he was most famous, that Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939). Over the next seven years, there was a total of 145 Sherlock Homes movies starring Rathbone.

Following WWII Rathbone returned to the stage trying to lose the stereotype of Holmes. However, this was not successful. He continued to work in movies until his death.25


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