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) and The Mark of Zorro (1940).
He was most notable for his starring roles in fifteen 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 (1943-1946), and did numerous other radio broadcasts.
Rathbone was married to actress Marion Foreman (married 1914-divorced 1926) and 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 was admired for his athletic cinema swordsmanship, particularly as Sir Guy of Guisborne in the long fight scene in Robin Hood. Other noteworthy sword fights appear in The Mark of Zorro and The Court Jester (1955). The latter duplicates a scene in the former where Rathbone 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 typecast him 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 Dr. Austin Sloper in the original production of The Heiress.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, he continued to appear in several anthology programs on television
He died of a heart attack at his home in New York City. He is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.
Basil Rathbone has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures at 6549 Hollywood Boulevard; one for radio at 6300 Hollywood Boulevard; and one for television at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.
Basil Rathbone Facts
|Philip St. John Basil Rathbone
|June 13, 1892
|Johannesburg, South Africa
|Date of death
|July 21, 1967 (age 75)
|6' 1½" (1m87) How tall is Basil Rathbone compared to you?
|Sherlock Holmes & The Woman In Green
|RiffTrax: The Magic Sword
|Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
|Dressed To Kill
|Terror By Night
|The Mystery of Sherlock Holmes: Terror By Night
|The Great Mouse Detective
|The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection
|Sherlock Holmes & The Secret Weapon