Letters from
Basil Rathbone

This section of "Basil Rathbone: Master of Stage and Screen" contains a collection of letters written by Rathbone. The letters provide an intimate glimpse into Rathbone's personal history, expressing his thoughts, hopes and needs. This first page contains five letters written to David Macklin in the late 1950s, when David was President of the Official Basil Rathbone Club. The second page, which has just been started, displays Rathbone's letters to various people. If you have a letter from Rathbone, which you'd like to share with other Rathbone fans, please send me a scan, or a photocopy of the letter. E-mail gisbourne@basilrathbone.net .

David Macklin, an actor who was fortunate enough to work with Basil Rathbone, has graciously offered to share the following five letters which he received from Basil Rathbone.  In the late 1950s Mr. Macklin was President of the Official Basil Rathbone Club. Basil and his wife were honorary president and vice president of the club. Mr. Macklin published "Basil's New Book" from 1957 through 1959, which was a continuation of "Basil's Blue Book," published by Doris DeVasier, the fan club president in the 1940s. In 1962 Mr. Macklin worked with Basil Rathbone making "Warbirds," a TV pilot film based on "The Dawn Patrol," for 20th Century Fox. You can read David's recollections on the Anecdotes page. For a partial list of David Macklin's numerous TV and motion picture acting credits, click here. Visit www.davidmacklin.com to order Mr. Macklin's acclaimed book ACTING in the Motion Picture BUSINESS, or contact Mr. Macklin by e-mail at mackduff@yahoo.com.

Here is the first letter, addressed to David Mortashed (David Macklin's real name):

Dec. 3, 1957

letter dated Dec. 3, 1957, page 2letter dated Dec. 3, 1957, page 1Dear Mr. Mortashed,

Thank you for the "notes"*- nicely and intellegently written. Even if they do flatter me beyond my deserts! As one grows older one becomes more critical of oneself and less of other people. And there are times now I don't like myself at all! both as a person & professional..."Huck Finn" was one of them..I thought it was a real mess...not enough Mark Twain & too much superflous "production" (singing & dancing). Jack Carson and I did what we could for Mark Twain but our opportunitys were limited. The Kraft Show on Dec 11, which we start rehearsals for today "reads well"--let's see how it "acts." I am doing a "Hallmark" on Feb. 15th--could be interesting--who knows. All T.V. suffers from lack of time in preparation & tremendous costs. I wish to heaven I could find a play. In the theatre one has the time to prepare& develope a character. Motion pictures--with rare exceptions--play to the lowest common denominator--they are made for the millions. (as also TV. 20 million per night for a T.V. show is not unusual!) I may do a picture in March for John Ford "The Last Hurrah"--with Spencer Tracy. John Ford never compromises--and is successful. So it can be done! He only does what he likes and loves & his way -- no one's else. By the by I have a nice Christmas record out made by Westminster--Bible readings with Christmas music by famous Choirs & Choral Societies. I am very pleased with it. --Well, off to rehearsals now. All the best
Sincerely yours

Basil Rathbone

* He is referring to the "Basil's New Notes" sent out by the fan club between issues of "Basil's Booklet" (a fan club publication).
(Spelling and grammar is as originally written.)

 

This second letter (note, really) was written on daughter Cynthia's stationary. Rathbone crossed out her name and wrote "Basil" above it. David Macklin writes, "I think it is the most special and collectable of the letters I have, although the other ones are much more newsy and complex. He [Rathbone] had just returned from Ohio Wesleyan University after doing a magnificent narration of Arthur Honegger's Symphonic Psalm 'King David.' This was performed by the orchestra and chorus of Ohio Wesleyan University, Rexford Keller conductor, on May 9, 1958." The letter is postmarked May 11, 1958.

letter postmarked May 11, 1958Sunday night

Dear David- Arrived home tonight- tired -very tired but very much gratified with the work done at Ohio Weslyn.
Thanks for the new Club magazine which I read on the train. It was nice meeting you. I have no more news now. This is really just a thank you note.
Best wishes
Sincerly

Basil Rathbone

(Spelling and grammar is as originally written.)

 

The third letter from Basil Rathbone was written on Christmas day, 1958, and mailed from 135 Central Park West, New York 23 NY.

Dec 25 1958

letter dated December 25, 1958Dear David ..
Thanks for your letter & your Christmas card. Unfortunately I have no exciting news for you, but I might have in the near future! Things in the entertainment business are very slow & I am "lecturing" to fill in. I go to Florida for 4 dates early in Jan & have several more lined up for late Jany & Feby, if something I like better doesn't turn up. Miss June Taylor & I are in the finals for the Arthur Murry show! We shall dance together again!! We really dont stand much of a chance as the competition we are up against is terrific. We are all well & enjoying the holidays. Hope "you all" are doing the same.
Sincerely. yours
Basil

(Spelling and grammar is as originally written.)

 

The fourth letter from Basil Rathbone was written on March 24, 1958. He gives his opinions about the film The Last Hurrah.

page 1 of letter dated March 24, 1958Basil Rathbone
135 Central Park West
New York 23, N.Y.

March 24

Dear David,
Again an intelligent and entertaining "Notes." I thank you and congratulate you. I flew in from the coast last night-- Here's my news:- "The Last Hurrah" was a pleasure to work in-I find John Ford a brilliant director-whose major asset is he knows what he wants and what he wants is instinctively right. He is also a highly Knowledgeable and entertaining Man. A really big personality. page 2 of letter dated March 24, 1958I cannot tell you much about the picture- it depends on so many things, the first of which that comes to my mind is:-splendid as he is, is there too much of Spencer Tracy?- to many perhaps there can never be too much of Tracy- but it is a terrific load he is carrying and his star studded supporting cast can do little more than just support him. Also I believe the picture is over long & some of us may find some of our work left on the cutting room floor! While out there I made a brief guest appearance on "The Betty White" TV 1/2 hour live...no harm done! & one was very well photographed. I also recorded for "Audio Books" four of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes ..The complete stories of "Scandal in Bohemia".."The Blue Carbuncle".."The Red Headed League"..The Speckled Band".. It was an exhausting chore. Seven hours of recording on two consecutive days. I heard some of the tape played back- I am reasonably satisfied. Then on Sat I recorded scenes from (not the picture- from the book itself) "The Brothers Karamazov"- page 3 of letter dated March 24, 1958There are eight Scenes which virtually tell the whole story- I play a different part in Each Scene - the part opposite me is not recorded & you receive with the record a complete script & you play the other parts opposite me! Its called CO-STAR. They have also made several Concertos with famous European Conductors & orchestra's -The solo instrument ( violin or piano is eliminated) - if a pianist, you sit down with a full orchestra & play on a live piano to a record of the rest of the orchestra. It was a full month out on The Coast & here I am back with no particular thing in view. I have been approached to do the Summer Circuit here in the East with "Separate Tables"- This I would very much like to do- I enjoyed the play enormously & would find it's two roles a distinct challenge. Best wishes to you all.
Yours, Basil

(Spelling and grammar is as originally written.)

 

The fifth letter (note) was written on February 12, 1959. Basil sounds a little frustrated that he hasn't got more acting work.

letter dated February 12, 1959Feby 12th -'59

Dear David - Thank you - Its, as usual, a nice job. What you need is some exciting news from me. I wish I could send you some! There is lots on the fire but nothing has come to the boil yet. So we will continue with the "lecture" circuit ---
Best wishes
Basil Rathbone

(Spelling and grammar is as originally written.)

Go to Page Two for more Letters from Basil.

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2009