Basil Rathbone : Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

My very first Sherlock Holmes story was one I read in the nineth grade, "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder." This was in the late Fifties and up to that time, I had never seen one of the old movies on TV or read any Sherlock Holmes. That summer, I spent at my grandmother's house by myself. She was the epitome of Aunt Bee on Andy Griffith and even had a boy my age come up to spend the summer with me. One night, we watched "Hound of the Baskervilles" with Rathbone and Bruce on TV. I thought it was great and in fact, watched again when they ran it the next day. Later on, I began reading the Sherlock Holmes books and eventually got to see the whole series when they ran them on telev 111c ision. This was in 1966-67, and it was always on Thursday nights about 11:30 p.m. I even had a bathrobe like Holmes that I would wear when I watched them. Since I didn't have to get up early the next day for school, I watched them every week. About this time, Basil Rathbone appeared on a speaker's forum at a college near my home. Unfortunately, I didn't have a car and couldn't get to see him. A short time later, he died. I do recall his making the comment, which was published in the paper, that he could have killed Errol Flynn half a dozan times in all those sword fights they had. As for Sherlock Holmes, I believe he once said that he didn't mind playing the part once or twice but after that it got to be monotonous and people even began referring to him as "Sherlock" or "Holmes" when he would come into rehearsal. I ran across a collection of audio tapes of the Sherlock Holmes radio shows sponsored by Petri Wine, with foreward by Harry Bartel, the announcer; actor Ben Wright, who played Sherlock Holmes, and one of the wives of the radio script writers. Of course, all of the shows (or most of them) are available by going to Internet Archives Old Time Radio. One has to listen to these shows from the viewpoint of audiences of the Forties. They were looking for entertainment, not realism. They had enough of that every day in the newspapers. The same as for the movies. These were shown in evening matinees for adults, however, some theaters ran them in the afternoon with a Johnny Mack Brown film. They were suitable for children and probably as many kids (11-12) listened to Rathbone on radio as did their parents.

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Re: Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

I quite agree with you, Rathbone was by far the best Holmes I've ever seen. Like you I stayed up way too late to see the movies on sunday nights at 11:30 pm, even if I had school the next day. One of my local tv stations played b68 them every other sunday, alternating them with those dreadful Charlie Chan movies. They used Elvis Costello's song " Watching The Detectives " as the opening and closing theme music. Such great memories of my youth. I recently purchased the high quality DVDs from MPI home video, they did an incredible job restoring them.

Re: Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

Rathbone was perfectly cast as Holmes. Few actors have so suited a role, let alone an iconic character. My only gripe is that he only made two Holmes movies in which they were set during the latter part of the 18th Century... This, meaning to disrespect towards the updates set in the '40s, because most were ace.


Re: Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

You know how people watch "Doctor Who" and most of them have a "My Doctor?" David Tennant (10th Doctor) even used that line when speaking to Peter Davison, who played the 5th Doctor.

That's kind of how I feel about Sherlock Holmes. Basil Rathbone IS my Holmes. I saw his portrayal before any others, and time stopped for that hour and a half on Saturday mornings when my local WGN station used to play all his movies. (Hardly ever Baskervilles or Adventures - just the shows produced at Universal.) I grew up on those shows, and they encouraged me to read the original Canon (I admit being surprised when I realized the shows had moved the time line.) Basil was perfect in the role. I just wish Nigel Bruce could have played Watson more like Edward Hardwicke, and they had toned down some of the biting comments Holmes used to throw in Watson's direction.

This being said, I do adore about 95% of the Brett series, and the acting of Brett, Burke and Hardwicke. Watching the last of the series is a little sad, seeing Brett's health deteriorate. For the most part, they stayed close to the original stories...(Some of the changes they made I could understand, but some were just odd...)

Between Basil and Brett, I am totally satisfied... with only a few detours. I like Michael Pennington and Margaret Colin in Sherlock Holmes Returns (1987) and Chris Plummer and James Mason in Murder By Decree, and Peter Cushing. I tried very hard to like Robert Downey, but just found the whole movie hard to understand (literally) and ... what can I say? All wrong. The updated Sherlock is a bit better.

Basil and Brett will always rule for me!

Re: Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

The Rathbone movies got nothing to do with Doyle's Holmes, sorry. But I understand that you are emotionally attached to those seeing them as a child and all. It's just a pity many people who like Rathbone as Holmes actually think this got anything to do with Doyle or the original, real Holmes stories and characters.

Re: Rathbone perfect as Sherlock Holmes

The way Basil wore a deerstalker, smoked a pipe, his voice, and yes his nose all made him be the best actor to portray Holmes.

What are you gonna do? Kill me? Every body Dies. John Garfield (Body and Soul)