Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone, born Philip St. John Basil Rathbone on June 13, 1892, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and died July 21, 1967, in New York City, was an English actor, most notable for his starring roles in fifteen Sherlock Holmes movies and numerous radio broadcasts. 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 film The Bishop Murder Case.

In the 1930s, Rathbone became famous for his villains in many swashbucklers, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Mark of Zorro (1940), Captain Blood, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Anna Karenina, and The Last Days of Pompeii.

He also starred as Sherlock Holmes with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson in an old-time radio mystery series, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Rathbone was admired for his athletic cinema swordsmanship, particularly as Sir Guy of Guisborne in the long fight scene in Robin Hood. Other noteworthy swordfights appear in The Mark of Zorro and The Court Jester (1955). The later duplicates a scene in the former in which Rathbone slices a candle in two and leaves it burning.

He earned an Oscar nomination for his role as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet in 1936. It was in 1939 that he first starred as Holmes, in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Unfortunately, the many sequels typecast Rathbone, and he was unable to break out of the stereotype, except in certain spoofs of his earlier swasbhuckling villains in such movies as Casanova's Big Night and The Court Jester. He continued to appear in several anthology series on television in the 1950s and 1960s.

He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His star for movies is at 6549 Hollywood Blvd., and his star for television is at 6925 Hollywood Blvd.

Basil Rathbone is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.