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Basil Rathbone (1892-1967)

  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.    An on/off MGM project since 1935.  Seven years later, Rathbone was Colonel Creighton, supporting Mickey Rooney as Kimball O’Hara.  Once again, the expense - and politics - of even token shooting in India shelved the project.  For a further eight years.
  11. 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).
  12. Robert Flemyng, The Blood Beast Terror (US: The Vampire-Beast Craves Blood), 1968.    Death saved Rathbone from an apalling Z-movie. “My worst film,” agreed co-star Peter Cushing.

 

 

 

 

 

 





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