Basil Rathbone

  1. John Barrymore, Reunion In Vienna,   1933.     Being rejected for four UK movies had Rathbone rushing back to   “relentless, stern, unforgiving” Hollywood.
  2. Claude Rains, Anthony Adverse, 1935.     Rathbone and Edward G Robinson were both in the Warner frame for Don Luis. Director William Dieterle was axed in  favour of  Mervyn LeRoy, who just happened to the the son-in-law of Harry, oldest of the three Warner brothers.
  3. Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1936.    Producer David O Selznick saw him for Androvzky –   the ex-monk in love with Marlene Dietrich.   Then   made him the other guy: Count Anteoni.
  4. Raymond Massey, The Hurricane, 1936.   As the New York Times reported much later (1938), Rathbone passed the bad-assed Tahiti governor DeLaage to Massey to smoulder with. Ford called on Rathbone for his next gig, The Adventures of Marco Polo – started a week after completing The Hurricane in September, 1937. Rathbone contiunued playing relentless, stern, unforgiving villains…  until rescued by 13 Sherlock Holmes films in seven years.
  5. Clark Gable, Gone With The Wind, 1939.
  6. Cedric Hardwicke, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1938.   Sir Cedric took over when Rathbone proved too busy to play Frollo in and around RKO’s 190 ft replica of Notre Dame (gargoyles, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and all)… in the San Fernando Valley.
  7. George   Brent, Dark Victory,  1939.     In a long letter to studio chief Jack Warner, full of actor’s anguish and bruised pride, Rathbone vowed never to test again and begged a favour:   destroy his unbelievably bad test as Dr Steele, opposite contract artist Gale Page subbing for Bette Davis. He was tired after shooting all day at 105 degrees on Dawn Patrol, when the test was made, late on a Saturday night, amid rows about time, money and changed dialogue. “Photographically, I  cannot  remember  when  I looked worst.” He felt associate producer David Lewis   chose the wrong scene – “the woman’s scene” – on purpose because “he never has wanted me to play Dr Steele.” Warners production chief Hal Wallis calmed him down:   “We know your capabilities and a test is not going to influence us aversely.”
  8. Henry Daniell, The Sea Hawk, 1939.      Twice was enough… Rathbone passed on Lord Wolfingham. Well, c’mon, he’d already been run through in sword-fencing duels with Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, 1934, and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1937.  
  9. George Sanders, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1944.  Pushed hard to grab all of Oscar Wilde’s best lines as  the scene-stealing misogynist, Lord Henry Wotton.  Impossible, said the MGM suits –  not for the last time – you are Sherlock Holmes! Now go back to Universal and continue making us a mint of money by loaning you out for work in and outside 221B Baker Street.

  10. Robert Douglas, Kim, 1950.    
    Fourth time lucky for MGM’s desire to film the Rudyard Kipling classic 1900 adventure about Kimball O”Hara, the orphaned  son of a British soldier  in the 1886 India under British rule. Kim posed as a Hindi beggar boy to help the UK Secret Service spy on Russian agitators.  Irving Thalberg won the rights for MGM in 1934 and a year later, the ex-Little Lord Fauntelroy, Freddie Bartholomew was  selected opposite  Lionel Barrymore as his Indian mentor, Mahbub Ali the Red Beard, in 1935. The project was shelved for another Kipling tale, Captains Courageous, with Spencer Tracy and young Freddie – announced as Kim again in 1937, opposite Robert Taylor as Red Beard.  After various delays Mickey Rooney (like who else) was the  1942 hero  in a typically Metro all-stars  line-up of John Carradine, Laird Cregar, Cedric Hardwicke, Basil Rathbone (as Kim’s boss, Colonel Creighton),  George Sanders, Akim Tamiroff and Conrad Veidt  WWII killed that as the script was too pro-British Empire and anti-Russia. Finally, MGM’s Boy With Green Hair, Dean Stockwell,  was Kim opposite  (a way too old and hardly Indian)  Errol Flynn. He quit King Solomon’s Mines to be Red Beard, because he didn’t fancy living  in a tent in Africa, while he had a hotel in Lucknow…  where Stockwell was doubled by a local kid.

  11. George Sanders, All About Eve, 1950.
  12. Michael Rennie, The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951.  Spencer Tracy “didn’t want to play second fiddle to a damn robot.”  And Raisn was not keen on being  an alien visitor. Like leading lady Patricia Neal, Rains had no idea that the little movie would turn into a  great sf classic. She even  found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines to Rennie’s Klaatu. Or: Klaatu barada nikto. (George Lucas named two his Star Wars  alien bounty hunters, Klaatu and Barada Nikto).
  13. Edward G Robinson, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  14. Patrick Magee, The Masque of the Red Death, 1963.   Roger Corman moved his Edgar Allen Poe act to London – bringing Vincent Price with him as Prince Prospero. Magee succeeded first choice Rathbone as the corrupt Alfredo. The whole enterprise was beautifully shot by Nic Roeg – future director of such magic as Performance, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth.
  15. Robert Flemyng, The Blood Beast Terror (US: The Vampire-Beast Craves Blood), 1968.  Rathbone, was perhaps fortunate to die before shooting began.  His successor hated making the horror movie about his mad scientist creating what we all need: a human/moth hybrid living on human blood. And tthe star, Peter Cushing – he needed the money for his dying wife’s medical bills – said this was the worst film he ever made.  The leading  lady was Wanda Ventham – the mother  of Benedict Cumberbatch. 







 Birth year: 1892Death year: 1967Other name: Casting Calls:  15