The Women in
Basil Rathbone's Life
||Basil Rathbone's relationships with
various women until his marriage to Ouida Bergere in 1926 are explored on
Page One. Basil's relationship with Ouida is
examined on a separate page. Click here to read about
Bergere Rathbone. This page will explore Basil's
Other Women (The Hollywood
Although Basil Rathbone had a public image of being a happily married man
and faithful husband to his second wife Ouida, rumors of extramarital affairs persist. Unfortunately,
proving that extramarital affairs occurred can be difficult. A man
having an affair normally tries to be discreet, so the main evidence
is likely to be testimony such as the following:
"My mother met Basil when she was 22 and a struggling actress. This was in
around the time he was filming Son of Frankenstein.
She had been a cabaret singer to make ends meet because she couldn't make
it in the theater.
He used to come with friends to hear her sing and that is where she met
him. She was a little Catholic girl who met a worldly handsome man who
swept her off her feet. She fell in love
with him and they had a very tempestuous, but passionate, relationship.
Their affair was
on-again off-again until the start of WW2. She said
that he was a beautiful man and she loved him very much, but he didn't want to leave his wife.
My mother was very beautiful, too.
When the war started she went
back home and didn't see Basil again. After the war, she met and married my
- Rose Hobart had this to say about her Tower of London costars:
"All of those English actors were terrible womanizers and they were always
telling stories about their conquests. I remember Rathbone telling me one
story about Marlene [Dietrich] which really made me kind of sick." (quoted
in Universal Horrors, by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas and John Brunas,
McFarland & Co. Inc., 2007, page 206).
found other outlets. They were anonymous girls mostly. Girls from the lot,
that kind of thing. No shortage of them in Hollywood. Most of them would
f**k any name that asked them. [Ouida] knew about his previous lovers. And a couple of them…they were very big names."
- "My great uncle was Sidney Greenstreet a quite well-known actor out in
Hollywood. He had a lot of Hollywood gossip he used to tell my grandmother
and I remember one story about Basil ... The story was he was mostly straight but also
occasionally had a weakness for men and had an affair with a gay actor who
was closeted like they all were then, and then later had an affair with the
gay actor’s wife." ("Jimmy," comment posted on The Baz).
- And, of course, much has been made
of David Bret's
allegations regarding a sexual relationship between Errol Flynn and Basil
Rathbone (Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel, Anova Books, 2004, p. 69).
Is any of it true? We've all heard
"Where there's smoke, there's fire." I'm skeptical about the claims that Rathbone
had sexual relations with other men, but I have no proof that they aren't
true. Anything is possible in Hollywood. Whatever happened, he had to be
able to deny it in public, so he would have been careful.
Some Rathbone fans will refuse to
believe that Basil was unfaithful to Ouida. Why would he have extramarital
affairs when he was married to the love of his life? There could be a good
reason. We don't know anything about Basil's and Ouida's sex life. Perhaps
she had a medical condition that prevented her from having sex. Perhaps she
was frigid. Their marriage was not necessarily based on sex. I believe that
some of these rumors are probably true. But were his liaisons just about sex, or
did he fall in love?
The following two letters are evidence that Basil Rathbone was indeed in love with someone other than
his wife. I have obscured the name of the woman in order to conceal her
darling, Mrs (unclear, H?) & I have finished a wonderful evening going
round locking away all sharp objects and all the medications. It's
2.30am. Everyone is asleep. C was awake a while ago with a nightmare
and soaking wet. We lost her rabbit (the little brown one) and I had
to hunt him up before she would settle. She’s fast asleep in my bed
now. Such a small sad little thing she looks all curled up.
This is a kind of hell isn't it. Not
sure how its to be endured. God willing we will find some way. —
I'm so desperately sorry
my darling [NAME] — for this awful wretchedness when your little cup
is already so full. I can't bear to see you so pale & jumping at every
little sound, and worst of all knowing I am only bringing more pain.
Don’t fret about me, all is quiet now, promise me you will eat &
I'll call you but not tonight — reach me
via the Bruces.
All my love is with you dearest girl
"Mrs. H" (or
whatever the letter is) refers to the Rathbones' housekeeper. "C" refers to
Cynthia. Although the letter is undated, the reference to Cynthia as a small
child dates it to the early 1940s. "The Bruces" refers to Basil's close friends Nigel Bruce and his
wife. Ouida had found out that Basil was in love with this "other
woman," and was so distraught that she took an overdose of sleeping pills.
The maid found Ouida in time, thus preventing her suicide. But Basil and the
"other woman" were feeling guilty over being the cause of Ouida's
Here is a second letter to the same woman, written some time later:
— Cynthia woke up as I got home so I went to fetch her some water and
while I was doing that Ouida came in to the kitchen.
I was prepared for the worst. But she was very quiet and calm. I made
her some tea and took her back to bed because I didn’t want her
wandering the house alone, and I gave her a pill.
I think she knows I was
with you. If she had asked I don’t know what I would have said, but
she didn’t ask.
She’s sleeping peacefully. Everything is quiet. But I’m listening for
every little sound, don’t want to try and sleep, dreading she might
wake up or something will happen. Everything hangs on such little
threads. I’m praying, just praying this doesn’t become something.
She’s been so much better — almost quite normal. I want so much to be
able to talk to her and try to find some way — but I don’t dare risk
anything. She begs for the truth from all of us and we all smile and
lie in our different ways because nothing else is possible now.
I want to crawl back into your bed and never
As we know, Basil stayed with Ouida. Eventually, the love
affair to which these letters attest ended.
But what about the other women—anonymous girls and some very big names? It's vexing that we don't know who
these women were! We can only speculate. Below are some photos of Basil with various women in
Hollywood. These are candid photos, which may very well have caught some
genuine emotion and intimate moments..
Basil Rathbone and Vera Vague
Rathbone, dressed as Richard III (Tower of London)
visits Marlene Dietrich on the set of Destry Rides Again
Basil Rathbone and Barbara O'Neil on location for The Sun Never
An intimate shot of Basil and Marlene, and his arm around her waist
Basil and a waitress at
The Cock and Bull, Basil's favorite restaurant. (Photo by Charles Rhodes, January 1938) Do you look at your
waitress this way?
Basil and Marlene
try to cool off in a rainstorm that occurred on a very hot day. (Sept.
Basil Rathbone and Olivia de
Basil and Olivia at the Coronation Ball (1937)
Ann Harding and Rathbone (1935)
Ann Harding and Basil enjoying a meal together.
Basil with Eugenie Leontovich (July 1946)
Basil with arm around Hedy Lamar at a party
Basil and Veda Ann Borg
Basil and Ida Lupino, rehearsing lines for The Adventures of Sherlock