Basil Rathbone's
Appearances on Stage

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The theater was always Basil Rathbone's first love. His dynamic voice and presence could totally fill a theater. Although Rathbone made his fortune in films, he turned down the opportunity in 1946 to renew his lucrative film contract in order to return to the stage. In 1948 Rathbone won a "Tony" award for his performance in The Heiress. After his success in The Heiress, he was always searching for a good play.

The following is a list of Basil Rathbone's appearances on stage. The majority of appearances were in plays, but I have also included other live appearances, such as Rathbone's performance at the White House in 1963. Most of the information has been gleaned from Rathbone's autobiography and the biography section of Basil Rathbone: His Life and His Films.* If you know of any stage appearances by Basil Rathbone which I have missed, or other information I should add, please e-mail me. I'd like to make this page as complete as possible. The date given is the date, or at least the year, the play opened. In some cases, where I have more information on the play (such as complete cast and plot synopsis), you can click on the title of the play for this information.

* Sources:
Basil Rathbone: His Life and His Films, by Michael B. Druxman (South Brunswick and New York: A.S. Barnes), 1975.
In and Out of Character: An Autobiography, by Basil Rathbone (New York: Doubleday), 1962
Basil Rathbone's Record of Performances (preserved at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center of Boston University)
Numerous newspaper and magazine articles concerning Rathbone's stage appearances, the original playbills, and library reference materials

Rathbone as Paolo
Paolo and Francesca (age 23)
Rathbone as Romeo
Romeo and Juliet (age 21)

A Shakespeare role (age 21)
     
1912 Spring Tour: The New Shakespeare Company's 1912 Spring Tour performed the following 12 plays in Bedford, Norwich, Ipswich, Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury, Folkestone, Hastings, Eastbourne, Worthing, Bournemouth, and Stratford-upon-Avon.
April 22 The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, opened in Norwich. Rathbone played Solanio.

Rathbone in early role
Rathbone in an unknown early theater role, perhaps in Julius Caesar

Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Orsino.
Richard II by Shakespeare. Rathbone played the Duke of Aumerle.
Hamlet by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Laertes, Rosencrantz, and Bernardo.
  As You Like It by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Silvius.
  Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Trebonius.
  Macbeth by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Lennox.
  The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Hortensio.
  The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Fenton, Page and Pistol.
  Henry V by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Captain Gower.
  Othello by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Lodovico.
  King Lear by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Cornwall and Albany.
Dec. 31, 1912
Jan. 1, 1913
If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy. Rathbone played Tristram L'Hermit.
1913  
February 25-28 The F.R. Benson Shakespearean Company performed the following plays at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, Ireland:
  The Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Antipholus of Ephesus.
  Queen Tara by Darrell Figgis. Rathbone played Lyof.
  Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Trebonius.
  Macbeth by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Lennox.
  Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. Rathbone played the Major Domo.
  Comus a masque by John Milton.
   
Spring Hamlet by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Rosencrantz and Bernardo.
  The Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Antipholus of Ephesus.
  Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Antonio.
  As You Like It by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Silvius.
August 6, 12, 21, 29 Richelieu by E. Bulwer-Lytton, at Stratford-upon-Avon. Rathbone played Clermont.
August 9, 19 Pompey the Great by John Masefield, at Stratford-upon-Avon. Rathbone played a Centurion and a Sailor.
August 18, 30 The Devil's Disciple by George Bernard Shaw, at Stratford-upon-Avon. Rathbone played a Soldier.
Aug. - Sept. Rathbone appeared in the following eleven plays in Stratford-upon-Avon in August, and London in September:
  The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Rathbone played the Major Domo.
  Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. Rathbone played a watchman and Conrade.
Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Paris. a young Basil Rathbone, unknown which role this is
The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Fenton.
As You Like It by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Silvius, and costarred with Ethel Marion Foreman.
The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Lorenzo, and costarred with Ethel Marion Foreman.
  Hamlet by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Guildenstern.
  Richard II by Shakespeare. Rathbone played the Duke of Aumerle.
  King John by Shakespeare. Rathbone played the Dauphin.
  Henry IV, Part 2 by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Poins and Westmoreland.
  Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Rathbone played Sebastian.
October Rathbone traveled to the United States and Canada with the tour of the above eleven plays.  Canadian cities on tour: Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto
November American cities on tour: Chicago, Columbus
December St. Louis, Louisville
1914  
January Tour of American cities continues: Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo
February Baltimore, Norfolk, Richmond Atlanta, Memphis
March New Orleans, Galveston, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles
April San Francisco, Portland
May Seattle, and back to Canada: Victoria and Winnepeg
July 9 The Sin of David by Stephen Phillips, Savoy Theatre, London. Rathbone played Finch. Costarring were H.B. Irving and Miriam Lewes.
August 11, 19, 28 Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon. Rathbone played Octavius Caesar.
August 14, 20, 29 She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, Stratford-upon-Avon. Rathbone played Tom Twist.
October The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Pistol and Fenton.
October--December Autumn Tour -- The Merry Wives of Windsor and Julius Caesar toured the following towns in England during October, November and December:
October Malvern, Bournemouth, London (Kensington Theatre), Reading Program for Henry V
November Torquay, Cheltenham, Leicester, Derby
December Liverpool
Dec. 26 Henry V by Shakespeare, Shaftsbury Theatre, London. Rathbone played Louis, the Dauphin and F.R. Benson played Henry V. The cast included Grosvenor North, Lancelot Heeley, Moffat Johnston, Reginald Denham, Frank Cochrane, J.R. Mageean, George Manship, Leonard Parish, and Marion Foreman.
"In all I have played fifty-two roles in twenty-three plays of Shakespeare, some forty of these in about twenty of his plays in my first three years in the theater."
 -- Basil Rathbone, In and Out of Character, page 96.
Click the speaker button to hear a sound clip of Basil making nearly the same comment.
(From the 1958 Tony Thomas interview)
1915
Feb. - June Spring Tour -- The following four plays toured towns in England, Scotland and Wales: Edinburgh, Ayr, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Dunfermline, Newcastle,  Leeds, Bradford, Blackburn, Stratford upon Avon, Swansea, Cardiff, Norwich, Ipswich, Bedford, Luton, and Bath.
Feb. - June Richard III by William Shakespeare. Rathbone played Lord Hastings.
Feb. - June The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare. Rathbone played William Page.
Feb. - June The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. Rathbone played Lucentio.
Feb. - June Henry V by Shakespeare. Rathbone played the Dauphin.
April 30, May 1 Coriolanus by Shakespeare. Performed at the Memorial Theatre, Stratford upon Avon. Rathbone played Tullus Aufidius.
July 31 - August 31 Rathbone as Orsino in "Twelfth Night"Shakespeare Summer Festival, Memorial Theatre, Stratford upon Avon. Frank Benson and Company performed the following plays during the four-week summer season. (Rathbone's character is in parentheses.)
The Taming of the Shrew (Lucentio)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (William Page)
The Merchant of Venice (Bassanio)
Richard II (Aumerle)
Macbeth (Malcolm)
Hamlet (Laertes)
Henry IV, Part 2 (Prince Hal)
Henry V (Dauphin)
Richard III (Hastings)
As You Like It (Orlando)
Twelfth Night (Orsino)
Romeo and Juliet (Romeo)
Paolo and Francesca by Stephen Phillips (Paolo)
Sept. - Oct. Autumn Tour -- Frank Benson and Company took the above twelve plays on tour to Croydon, Ramsgate, Bournemouth, Torquay, Exeter, and Bristol.
Dec. 20 A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare, Royal Court Theater (54 performances in 5 weeks). Rathbone played Lysander.
1916  
January - March Spring Tour of the following plays to English and Scottish towns:
The Taming of the Shrew (Lucentio)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (William Page)
The Merchant of Venice (Bassanio)
Macbeth (MacDuff)
Hamlet (Laertes)
Henry V (Dauphin)
As You Like It (Orlando)
Twelfth Night (Orsino)
March 25 Rathbone's last performance before leaving the stage to join the army.
1919
August 2-30 Rathbone as Romeo, 1919Shakespeare Summer Festival, Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. The New Shakespeare Company performed the following six plays. (Rathbone's character is in parentheses.)
Julius Caesar (Cassius)
The Tempest (Ferdinand)
The Winter's Tale (Florizel)
Romeo and Juliet (Romeo)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (Fenton)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (Lysander)
October 19 Napoleon by Herbert Trench, Queens Theatre, London. Rathbone played the Aide-de-Camp. A.E. George costarred.
Nov. 19, 21, 26, Dec. 10, 12 The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Court Theatre, London. Rathbone played Bassanio.
Dec. 4, 8 A Night on the Trojan Walls by John Drinkwater, Haymarket Theatre, London.
December Calliwachus by Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Haymarket Theatre. Rathbone played Pronase.
   
1920
February 4 Peter Ibbetson by John Raphael (based on the novel by George DuMaurier), Savoy Theatre, London. Rathbone played the title role and starred with Constance Collier. Also performed in Brighton, and at the Royal Court Theatre (London).
Rathbone and Constance Collier in Peter Ibbetson
June 3 Madame Sand (a.k.a. George Sand) by Philip Moeller, Duke of York's Theatre, London. Rathbone played Alfred de Musset and starred with Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
August 9 The Unknown by W. Somerset Maugham, Aldwych Theatre, London. Rathbone played Major Wharton.
Sept. 28 Every Woman's Privilege by J. Hastings Turner, Globe Theatre, London. Rathbone played Harold Glaive and starred with Marie Lohr.
October 30 Fedora by Victorien Sardou, Globe Theatre, London. Rathbone played Count Louis Ipanoff and starred with Marie Lohr.
November 19 Special Charity Matinee, His Majesty's Theatre, London. In this special matinee of mixed performances Rathbone and Miss Fay Compton performed the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet. The Queen of Spain was present at the performance.
November 23 Diplomacy by Victorien Sardou, His Majesty's Theatre, London. Rathbone played Julian . Also in the cast were Gladys Cooper, Leslie Faber, and Norman Forbes.
1921
February 17 King Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare, Royal Court Theatre, London. Rathbone played Henry, Prince of Wales (Prince Hal). 62 perfs., to April 16. Rathbone and Doris Lloyd in "The Edge O'Beyond"
April 21 Othello  by William Shakespeare, Royal Court Theatre, London. Rathbone played Iago, and starred with Godfrey Tearle. 68 perfs, to June 18.
August 9 The Edge O'Beyond by Roy Horniman and Ruby Miller (novel by Gertrude Page), Garrick Theatre, London. Rathbone played Dr. Lawson and starred with Doris Lloyd. 150 perfs.
Nov. 16, 25 The Painted Laugh (a.k.a. He Who Gets Slapped) by Leonid Nikolaevich Andreev, Garrick Theatre, London. Two performances only. Rathbone played Tot.
(There is no character named Tot in the 1924 film version of the play. However, the 1916 Russian version is titled Tot, kto poluchayet poshchechini, so I believe that "Tot" was the main character in the play.)
1922  
January 31 The Czarina by Melchior Lengyel and Lajos Biro, Empire Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Count Alexei Czerny and starred with Doris Keane. Prior to opening in New York City, The Czarina played in Baltimore (Jan. 17-22) and Washington DC (Jan. 23 - 29).
Sept. 2 East of Suez by W. Somerset Maugham, His Majesty's Theatre, London. Rathbone played George Conway.
1923
April 24 R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Capek, St. Martin's Theatre, London. Rathbone played Harry Domain and starred with Leslie Banks and Frances Carson.
October 23 The Swan by Ferenc Molnar, Cort Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Dr. Nicholas Agi. The Swan tried out in Detroit and Toronto earlier in October, just prior to opening in New York.
1924  
February 15 The Assumption of Hannele by Gerhart Hauptmann, Cort Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Gottwald and the Stranger, and starred with Eva LeGallienne.
Aug. 25, 1924- Sept. 20, 1925 The Swan by Ferenc Molnar, tour of major U.S. cities.* 528 performances. Rathbone played Dr. Nicholas Agi. The cast for the tour: Eva LeGallienne, Basil Rathbone, Tupper Jones, Teddy Jones, Katherine Emmet, Halliwell Hobbes, Winifred Fraser, Reginald Owen, Henry Warwick, Carl Hartberg, Frank Roberts, Richie Ling, Nancie B Marsland, Alison Skipworth, Hilda Plowright, Jane Shaw, Margaret Farr, Milton F Sherman, Alfred Bauer, and John Daugherty.
*The Swan was performed in the following cities: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Brooklyn, Washington,  Philadelphia (Jan. 1925), Newark, Riviera (New Jersey), Boston, New Haven, Albany, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.
1925  
October 13 The Grand Duchess and the Waiter by Alfred Savoir, New York City. Rathbone played Albert. Prior to opening on Broadway, this play was performed in California in May of 1925.
November 23 The Dark by Martin Brown, Park Theatre, Boston. Starring with Elsie Ferguson, Rathbone played Chris Landers in the pre-Broadway tryout of this play: 1 week in Boston, 1 week in Brooklyn (Webers Theater), and 1 week in Buffalo (Majestic Theater).  The Dark did not open on Broadway until February 1927, and Rathbone was not part of the cast.
1926
February 9 Port O'London by George W. Oliver, Daly's 63rd St. Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Anthony Pook, The Sidewalk Artist.   playbill from The Ritz Theatre
June The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Ritz Theatre, New York City. Cast included Rathbone, Reginald Owen, Hilda Spong, Dudley Digges, Patricia Collinge and Catherine Proctor. Rathbone played Ernest Worthing.
Sept. 29 The Captive by Arthur Hornblow (translated from the French La Prisonniere by Edouard Bourdet), Empire Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Jacques Virien and starred with Helen Menken and Arthur Wontner.
1927
April 18 Love Is Like That by S.N. Behrman and Kenyon Nicholson, Cort Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Vladimir Dubriski, the exiled Prince. (Tryout in Cincinnati Aug. 23-29, 1926)
June 6 Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, New Amsterdam Theater. Rathbone played Cassius and starred with Tyrone Power Sr.
July 4 The Guardsman by Ferenc Molnar, Cape Playhouse, Dennis, Mass.  Rathbone starred in the opening performance of the oldest professional summer theatre on Cape Cod.
August 1 Outward Bound by Sutton Vane, Cape Playhouse, Dennis, Mass. Rathbone played Tom Prior, and starred with Wildan Beer, Leonard Mudie, Violet Kemble Cooper, Jane Burby, Frederic Worlock, Paul Lane and Frederick Sullivan.
Sept. 20 The Command to Love by Herman Bernstein and Brian Marlow (from a German play by Rudolph Lothar and Fritz Gottwald), Longacre Theater, NYC for 247 performances, then national tour for one year, which included San Francisco, Los Angeles, and 16 weeks at the Adelphi Theatre in Chicago in 1928. Rathbone played Gaston, Marquis du Saint-Lac.
1928
Jan. 29 American Shakespeare Celebration, for the benefit of the American Shakespeare Memorial Fund, Metropolitan Opera House, New York City. The program included ballet, opera duets and overtures from various Shakespearean plays. Among the many performers were Basil Rathbone, Katherine Cornell, Judith Anderson, Sidney Blackmer and Alexander Moissi.
1929 Rathbone as Judas
January 24 Judas by Walter Ferris and Basil Rathbone, Longacre Theater, New York City. Rathbone played the title character.
   
1930    
Dec. 1 A Kiss of Importance by Arthur Hornblow Jr. (from Monsieur St. Obin by Andr Picard and H.M. Harwood), Fulton Theater, New York City. Directed by Lionel Atwill. Rathbone played Christian St. Obin.
1931  
February 17 Heat Wave by Roland Pertwee, Fulton Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Hugh Dawltry and starred with Henry Daniell, Betty Lawford, Selena Royle, MacKenzie Ward, Hilda Plowright and Lionel Pape.
April 16 Melo by Henri Bernstein, adapted by Arthur Pollock, Ethel Barrymore Theater. Rathbone played Marcel Blanc and starred with Edna Best.
Dec. 25 The Devil Passes by Benn W. Levy, Broad Street Theatre, Philadelphia. Pre-Broadway tryout (for one week). See link below for cast.
1932  
Jan. 4 The Devil Passes by Benn W. Levy, Selwyn Theater, New York City. Rathbone played Rev. Nicholas Lucy. After 96 performances on Broadway, the played toured major U.S. cities, including Boston and Chicago. Cast for tour: Arthur Byron, Diana Wynyard, Mary Nash, Eric Blore, Malcolm Dunn, Cecilia Loftus, Robert Loraine, Gwen Day Burroughs, and Basil Rathbone.
Tonight or Never by Lili Hatvany, Duke of York's Theater, London. Rathbone played the Unknown Gentleman.
 
Diplomacy

 

The Devil Passes
 
1933  
May 27 Diplomacy by Victorien Sardou, The Princes Theater, London. Rathbone played Julian Beauclerc. Also in the cast were Eric Portman, Gerald du Maurier, Margaret Bannerman, Joyce Kennedy, Lewis Casson and Esme Beringer.
October Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, opened at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo, New York, and then toured 86 U.S. cities. The troupe performed this play and the following two plays on alternate evenings during the seven-month tour. Rathbone played Romeo and starred with Katherine Cornell, Orson Welles, Brenda Forbes, George Macready and Helen Walpole. Other players included Brian Aherne, Guthrie McClintic, John Miltern, Blanche Yurka, David Glassford, John Hoysradt, A.P. Kaye and John Emery.
October Candida by George Bernard Shaw. (See description above.) Rathbone played Morrell. Costars same as for Romeo and Juliet.
October Rathbone as BrowningThe Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier. (See description above.) Rathbone played Robert Browning. Costars same as for Romeo and Juliet.  

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2014