In 1963 the Leisy Brewing Company of Cleveland sponsored the Leisy
Premiere Theatre, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of
the company (1873). The Leisy Premiere Theatre, hosted by Basil Rathbone,
presented a full-length feature film on television. While not exactly a
commercial, the hosting job suggested that Rathbone enjoyed the
product--Leisy Light Beer.
In this ad from 1940, Basil complains
about the coffee that his wife Ouida made, "But, my dear, you can't
expect a man to drink this!" And Ouida replies, "Do you
suppose, Basil, there's any coffee you would drink?"
The ad states that Mrs Rathbone ought to serve Beech-nut coffee.
The excellent characteristics of the coffee are then listed. The blurb
in the lower corner of the photo reads, "See Basil Rathbone in the new
20th Century Fox picture "The Mark of Zorro" coming to your local
4-Way Cold Tablets
Click the sound button (to the left)
to hear what Basil has to say about 4-Way Cold Tablets. This ad aired
on episode 293 ("The Queue") of the radio show Gunsmoke on
November 17, 1957.
Renuzit Spot Remover
"I keep odorless Renuzit Spot Remover in my dressing
room. It quickly removes stubborn spots and stains--and that new felt
applicator is 'priceless'."
Basil Rathbone, star of stage, screen and television
Although it doesn't even mention Basil
Rathbone's name, this ad from 1962 shows Basil relaxing on a Dunbar sofa.
Nearby, photos of Basil are displayed on a Dunbar coffee table.
This hilarious television commercial for Prudential Insurance is
two minutes long--unusually long compared to most television
commercials. It appears to have been made in the late 1950s or early
Here is a completely frivolous product, which Basil Rathbone had
nothing to do with. The folks at Mystery Science Theatre 3000 put his image on a box of dog
biscuits to use as a joke prop during the episode which featured "The
Magic Sword." The "commercial" went like this:
"You know, you get out of your dog what you put into it. And I
only put in the best: Basil Rathbones. . . . We all need affection,
occasional grooming and lots of snacks. Dogs just go nuts for the
taste of Basil Rathbones. One Rathbone a day will clean Doggie's teeth
and freshen doggie's breath. . . . Hey, these are too good to be good
Basil Rathbones! And Pesto-flavored Basil Rathbones for the
Fagel's Frozen Watermelon is a fictitious product, and Rathbone did
a fake ad for it on the Fred Allen radio show in April 1948. Enjoy listening
to Basil sing the Fagel's Frozen Watermelon jingle! (Click the sound
button to the right.)
Fagel's Frozen Watermelon jingle
Rathbone appeared in other commercials and print ads that have been lost.
While the actual ads no longer exist, I have some information about the
1949 Ford Automobile
Daoust ice skates
Hafner Coffee Company
In June of 1966 Baird Chemicals Industries Inc.
contracted with Rathbone to be photographed in his Sherlock Holmes
costume, standing with a drum of sorbitol, similar to the drum pictured
here. Rathbone agreed to the
following endorsement: "Baird Sorbitol is superb. Their service is
unsurpassed. It has to be, poor chaps. They are the only ones who don't
hoard Sorbitol for themselves. Very ungreedy fellows."
was paid $1000 for appearing in this ad. The sorbitol ad ran in trade
magazines for companies that use sorbitol sweetener in their products.
Companies that make chewing gum, for example, use sorbitol to sweeten
Getz Gets Them!
Basil Rathbone was not only Sherlock
Holmes, he was also Inspector Getz, a very Sherlockian figure in an ad
campaign for the Getz Pest Control Co.
In December 1963 Rathbone signed a contract agreeing to appear in a
series of six 10-second television spots and six 20-second radio spots,
scheduled to air during 1964. Rathbone was paid $2500 for appearing as
Inspector Getz in these ads.
A vintage Getz ad published between 1870 and 1890
An ad for the 1949 Ford
1949 Ford Ad
Basil Rathbone appeared in an ad for Ford in
1949, but it is unknown whether the ad was for print, television or
radio. The information that Rathbone did advertisements for the 1949
models comes from Douglas Brinkley's book Wheels for the World: Henry
Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress (Viking, 2003). "Eager
to make the '49 Ford attractive to the young-at-heart, the company
made a series of convertibles and employed Basil Rathbone, known for his
Sherlock Holmes movies, to promote the vehicles." (page 538)
Daoust Ice Skates
Bob McLennan from Ontario, Canada, remembers seeing Basil
Rathbone in Sherlock Holmes character and costume appearing a Canadian
television commercial for Daoust ice skates. He writes:
"I was about 10 years old when it aired and it is very vague
in my mind. But I remember the closing seconds, during which he says, while
peering through a magnifying glass as though examining an object on a table, 'Hmmmm. Daoust!' The name
being French, of course, is pronounced Dow-oo, and as I recall, he stretched
the second syllable a bit so the 'oo' resembles a remark one
might say when making an intriguing discovery."
Bob added that the commercial was in black and white, and
aired on the CBC. It probably dated from the early 1960s.
Hafner Coffee Company
The Hafner Coffee Company conducted a
13-week campaign to introduce a new brand of coffee called "Fine Cup."
The campaign began with what they called the "Teaser" phase. "Figuring
identification in a hurry could be accomplished via a star, they signed
Basil Rathbone to do the radio and tv spots (also to appear in print and
outdoor)." From January 12-20, 1959, 10-second Rathbone spots on tv and
radio featured the line, "Nothing could be finer."
magazine, 14 February and 14 March 1959
To celebrate the 100th worldwide anniversary of the Red Cross
in 1963, a nine-minute television feature was made, and many celebrities did
television and radio appeals. Basil Rathbone did a recorded radio spot in
support of the Red Cross.
Source: Sponsor magazine, 26 August 1963
Red Cross armband
The March 18, 1959, issue of Variety carried a blurb
about Fuller Fabrics using Basil Rathbone in its ads. The exact wording is:
Fuller Fabrics using a celebrated "model" for its ads, Basil Rathbone, as
Unfortunately, no details are given. Why was Basil a
chauffeur? Did Fuller Fabrics make fabric used in car upholstery? Or perhaps
the company made fabric used in uniforms? Until one of these lost ads turns
up, it will remain a mystery!
A curious bit of trivia is that Fuller Fabrics (one of the
trade names of J.P. Stevens & Co.) was a client of Hockaday Associates, a New
York ad agency where Rathbone's daughter Cynthia worked in the 1960s.
(source: "Margaret Hockaday Is Dead at Age 85," New York
Times, December 22, 1992)
The following are ads that feature Ouida
Rathbone or Basil's dog
Ouida Rathbone was well-known as a first-rate
hostess. This ad is for Nobility Plate flatware, fine
enough to be used by high society.
"Just one year
of her vibrant, versatile life would crown many a woman's
lifetime! She takes an active part in her small daughter's
education . . . does the decor of her famous husband's plays . . .
has two plays of her own ready for production. Each of this
cosmopolitan family's homes--London, Paris, Rome and New
York--witness Mrs. Rathbone's verve for the individual. Around her
brilliant table society and the arts meet in good conversation.
Harmonizing with the exquisite appointment of her table is the
family service of Nobility Plate--Designed for America's Finest
This 1939 ad for the Wines of California features Basil Rathbone's wife
Ouida (seated at head of table) commenting on serving wine to her guests. The Rathbones entertained often while they lived in
California. Also pictured in the ad are composer Alex Steinert and stage
actress Heather Thatcher.
This Colman's Mustard ad featuring Ouida Rathbone is also from the same
era as the above wine ad. It reads: A tip from Mrs. Basil Rathbone,
Famous Hollywood Hostess: "We cook with Colman's at our house --
It gives the extra flavor we all like!"
Even Rathbone's dog Moritza got into advertising! This is an
ad for Calvert Reserve (blended whiskey). The photo caption reads "Moritza,
Black Belgian Shepherd, shown in the New York city house of her famous
owner, star of stage and screen, Basil Rathbone." Below the caption,
the ad reads: "Another Basil Rathbone hit . . . he's switched to
If you have or find any ads featuring Basil Rathbone, which I don't have
listed here, please send me a scan
and whatever information you have about the ad. If you don't have a
scanner, please e-mail me,
and we'll work out something!