Basil on Broadway

In his career, Basil Rathbone starred in a number of plays on Broadway. Some of the theaters still exist today, and others are long gone. Below is a 1933 map of the Broadway theatre area of New York City. It shows the locations of all but one of the theaters in which Rathbone appeared. The missing theater is Daly's 63rd St. Theatermissing because the map covers the area between 39th and 59th streets. Color has been added to the map to highlight the locations of the theaters.

Also on this page are photos of the theatersboth "then" (as close to the time when Basil was there as a photo could be found ) and "now" (a fairly current photo, if the theater still exists). Note that many of the theaters have gone through several name changes. The name of the theater on the map may be different from what it was when Rathbone was there, as well as what it is today.

Click on the map to see it full resolution.

Map of Winter Broadway
drawn by Frank A. Eaton, c. 1933
from Stage magazine

  ANTA Theatre (Guild Theatre on map), 245 W. 52nd St.
  The Arena Theatre in the Edison Hotel, 228 W. 47th St.
  Biltmore Theater, 263 W. 47th St.
  Coronet Theater (Forrest Theatre on map), 230 W. 49th St.
  Cort Theater, 138 W. 48th St.
  Empire Theatre, 1430 Broadway (at 40th St.)
  Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St.
  Fulton Theatre, 210 West 46th St.
  Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.
  Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.
  Martin Beck Theatre, 302 W. 45th St.
  Metropolitan Opera House ("The Old Met"), Broadway and 39th Sts.
  New Amsterdam Theatre, 214 W. 42nd St.
  New Century Theatre (Shakespeare Theatre on map), 932 Seventh Ave. at W. 58th St.
  Plymouth Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.
  Ritz Theatre, 219 W. 48th St.
  Selwyn Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St.

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Photos of the Broadway Theaters
Then Now

ANTA Theatre, 245 W. 52nd St

Rathbone appeared at the ANTA Theatre in 1959 in the play J.B.

 


August Wilson Theatre in 2007

The theater opened in 1925 as the Guild Theatre. It was renamed the ANTA Theatre in 1950, after being purchased by the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA). The theater went through two more name changes: in 1981, when it was renamed the Virginia Theatre, and in 2005, when it was renamed the August Wilson Theatre.


The Edison Hotel in the 1930s, 228 W. 47th St.

In 1950 Rathbone appeared in Julius Caesar at The Arena Theatre in the Edison Hotel.


The Edison Hotel in the 21st century

This art deco hotel opened in 1931. Thomas Edison himself turned on the lights at the grand opening.


Biltmore Theatre
263 W. 47th St.

In 1947 and 1948, Basil Rathbone starred in The Heiress, which played at the Biltmore.

 

 


Biltmore Theatre in 2007

The Biltmore Theatre opened in 1925. From 1952 to 1961 the theatre was used by CBS for radio and television shows. In 1961, play productions returned to the Biltmore. The interior of the theater received landmark status in 1987, and shortly afterwards it  was destroyed by fire. Over the next several years the theater sat vacant and suffered more damage from water and vandals. Eventually, it was renovated and reopened in 2003. In 2008, the theater was renamed the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.


Coronet Theater in 1945
230 W. 49th St.
Basil Rathbone appeared at the Coronet Theatre in the play Jane in 1952.

The Eugene O'Neill Theater in 2008

This theater opened as the Forrest Theatre in 1925. It was renamed the Coronet Theatre in 1945, and the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in 1959.


Cort Theatre in 1912
138 W. 48th St.,
Rathbone performed in three plays at the Cort Theatre: The Swan (1923), The Assumption of Hannele (1924), and Love Is Like That (1927)

Cort Theater in 2012

The Cort Theatre opened in 1912 and operated as a legitimate theater until 1969. From 1969 to 1972 it was used as a television studio. One of the shows produced there was The Merv Griffin Show. The studio reverted to a legitimate theater in 1972 and is still in operation today.


Daly's 63rd Street Theater, 22 W. 63rd St.
Rathbone starred in Port O'London at this theater in 1926.

The Theatre opened in 1914 as the 63rd Street Music Hall. It became a legitimate theater in 1921 under the name Cort's 63rd Street Theatre. In 1922, it was renovated and renamed Daly's 63rd Street Theatre. The theater went through several name changes between 1928 and 1938: Coburn (1928); Recital (1932); Park Lane (1932); Gilmore's (1934); Experimental (1936); and Daly's (1938).

The theatre was closed in 1941 and the building was demolished in 1957.


Empire Theatre in 1922
1430 Broadway (at 40th St.)
Rathbone performed at the Empire Theatre in two plays: The Czarina in 1922 and The Captive in 1926.
 

The Empire Theatre opened in 1893 and operated as a legitimate Broadway venue for 60 years. It was demolished in 1953 to make room for an office tower.


Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1933
243 W. 47th St.
Basil Rathbone appeared in two plays at this theater: Melo in 1931 and Hide and Seek in 1957.

Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 2006

Named for actress Ethel Barrymore, this theater opened in 1928. It has been used continuously for legitimate stage productions.


Fulton Theatre in 1952
210 West 46th Street
In 1930, Basil Rathbone starred in A Kiss of Importance at this theater; the following year (1931) he starred in Heat Wave.
 

Helen Hayes Theatre in 1980

The Fulton was renamed the Helen Hayes Theater in 1955. This theater and several others in the area were demolished in 1982 to make room for the Marriott Marquis Hotel.


Longacre Theatre
220 W. 48th St.
Rathbone appeared at this theater in The Command to Love (1927) and Judas (1929).

 


Longacre Theatre in 2008

The Longacre Theatre opened in 1913. It has operated as a legitimate theater except for a period from the mid-1940s to early 1950s, when it was used as a radio and television studio.


Lyceum Theatre
149 W. 45th St.
Rathbone performed at the Lyceum in two plays: The Grand Duchess and the Waiter in 1925 and The Giaconda Smile in 1950.

Lyceum Theater in 2003

The Lyceum Theatre opened in 1903 and is in fact the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in New York City. It was granted landmark status in 1974.


Martin Beck Theatre in 1925
302 W. 45th St

Basil Rathbone and Katherine Cornell starred in Romeo and Juliet at this theater in 1934.


Al Hirschfeld Theater in 2006

From its opening in 1924 the Martin Beck Theatre has operated continuously as a legitimate stage venue. It was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theater in 2003. The theater was designated a New York City landmark in 1987.


Metropolitan Opera House (the "Old Met")
Broadway and 39th St.

In 1928 Rathbone appeared in the American Shakespeare Celebration at the Old Metropolitan Opera House.


Metropolitan Opera House in 1966

The Old Met opened in 1883 and underwent a major renovation in 1903. It closed in 1966, and the building was demolished in 1967. The new Metropolitan Opera House was built at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza.


New Amsterdam Theatre in 1905
214 W. 42nd St.

In 1927 Rathbone appeared here in  Julius Caesar.


New Amsterdam Theatre in 2003

The New Amsterdam Theatre opened in 1903. For the next 33 years the theater hosted serious productions as well as musicals and the famous Ziegfeld Follies. Business suffered during the Great Depression and the theater closed in 1936. It was converted to a movie theater. The property was purchased in 1992 by the 42nd Street Redemption Project, and then leased to the Disney company, who began extensive, multimillion-dollar renovations. In 1997 the newly restored theater reopened with a production of The Lion King.


Jolson theatre (renamed New Century Theater in 1944)
932 Seventh Ave. at W. 58th St.

The play Sherlock Holmes opened here at the New Century Theater in 1953.

The theater that hosted the ill-fated production of Sherlock Holmes in 1953 opened in 1921 as Jolson's 59th Street Theatre. Ten years later it was renamed the Central Park Theatre and operated as a movie house. In 1932, the theatre returned to being used as a venue for stage plays and was renamed the Shakespeare Theatre. It went through several additional name changes, including Venice (1934), Jolson (again, May 1942), and Molly Picon (October 1942). In 1943, it was again used for showing films, and reverted to the name Jolson Theatre. During this time it was refurbished and reopened as the New Century Theatre in April 1944. For the next ten years the theater was used for plays, musicals, and ballets. NBC also used the venue for live television programs performed before a studio audience. The theater was closed in 1954, and demolished in 1962.


Plymouth Theatre in 1943
236 W. 45th St.

Rathbone starred in the play Obsession at the Plymouth Theatre in 1946.


Plymouth Theatre in 2002

The Plymouth Theatre opened in 1918 and was granted landmark status in 1987. In 2005 it was renamed the Schoenfeld Theatre.


Ritz Theatre in 1921
219 W. 48th St.
Rathbone appeared at the Ritz Theatre in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1926.

Walter Kerr Theatre in 2005

The Ritz Theatre opened in 1921. From 1943 to 1965 the venue was used by ABC first as a radio studio, then as a television studio. The building was vacant from 1965 until 1971, when it reopened as a venue for stage plays and musicals. In 1989 the Ritz Theatre was renovated; in 1990 it reopened as the Walter Kerr Theatre.


Selwyn Theatre in 1918
227 W. 42nd St.

Rathbone starred in The Devil Passes at the Selwyn Theatre in 1932.

 


American Airlines Theatre in 2008

The Selwyn Theatre was built by Edgar and Archie Selwyn in 1918. It was a venue for plays and musicals until 1934, when it was converted to a movie house. In the 1980s the theater became part of the 42nd Street Development Project, a project to restore the historic theaters of 42nd Street. The historic facade and the lobby of the Selwyn Theatre were destroyed when the office building next to the theater unexpectedly collapsed on December 30, 1997. After repairs and rebuilding, the theater reopened as the American Airlines Theatre in 2000.

 

Continue to Page Three of Homes and Haunts of Basil Rathbone.

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2015