Basil Rathbone: Radio, Film, Television, and Stage Appearances

Basil Rathbone (1892-1967) was a British actor who had a distinguished career on stage and in film.  Basil Rathbone's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in a series of films during the 1930s and 1940s is widely regarded as one of the most iconic and enduring interpretations of the character. 

  • Physical resemblance: Rathbone had a lean, angular face and piercing eyes, which closely matched the physical description of Sherlock Holmes in the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. This made it easier for audiences to accept Rathbone as the iconic detective.
  • Intellectual gravitas: Rathbone brought a seriousness and intellectual intensity to the character of Holmes, which elevated the films above typical genre fare. He was able to convey Holmes' genius and analytical mind in a way that was believable and compelling.
  • Chemistry with Nigel Bruce: Rathbone's on-screen partnership with Nigel Bruce, who played Holmes' sidekick Dr. Watson, was a key factor in the success of the films. Rathbone and Bruce had a natural and enjoyable chemistry, which made their banter and interactions a highlight of the films.
  • Enduring legacy: Rathbone's portrayal of Holmes has endured for decades, inspiring countless adaptations and interpretations of the character. Many subsequent actors who have played the role have drawn on Rathbone's performance for inspiration.

Basil Rathbone's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes was a definitive interpretation of the character, which has left a lasting impact on popular culture.

Life Events

 Here are some notable events in the life of Basil Rathbone:

  • June 13, 1892: Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 1911: Rathbone moved to London to pursue a career in theater.
  • 1925: Rathbone made his Broadway debut in the play "The Czarina."
  • 1934: Rathbone signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and began appearing in films, including "David Copperfield" and "Anna Karenina."
  • 1939-1946: Rathbone played the role of Sherlock Holmes in 14 films, beginning with "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes."
  • 1953-1954: Rathbone played the role of Dr. Sloper in the Broadway production of "The Heiress," for which he won a Tony Award.
  • 1956: Rathbone played the role of Julius Caesar in the film "Julius Caesar."
  • 1967: Basil Rathbone died on July 21 in New York City at the age of 75.



Basil Rathbone appeared in over 90 films throughout his career. Here is a chronological list of his film appearances:
  • Innocent (1931)
  • After the Ball (1932)
  • A Woman Commands (1932)
  • One Precious Year (1933)
  • Loyalties (1933)
  • Anna Karenina (1935)
  • A Feather in Her Hat (1935)
  • Captain Blood (1935)
  • Kind Lady (1935)
  • David Copperfield (1935)
  • The Garden of Allah (1936)
  • Romeo and Juliet (1936)
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1936)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • If I Were King (1938)
  • The Dawn Patrol (1938)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
  • Tower of London (1939)
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939)
  • The Mark of Zorro (1940)
  • The Return of Frank James (1940)
  • The Great Profile (1940)
  • The House of the Seven Gables (1940)
  • The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
  • The Mad Doctor (1941)
  • International Lady (1941)
  • The Black Cat (1941)
  • The Spider Woman (1943)
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)
  • Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
  • Above Suspicion (1943)
  • Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
  • The Pearl of Death (1944)
  • The Scarlet Claw (1944)
  • The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)
  • Dressed to Kill (1946)
  • The Court Jester (1949)
  • The Magic Box (1951)
  • The Black Rose (1950)
  • The Prince of Thieves (1948)
  • High Tide (1947)
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
  • We're No Angels (1955)
  • The Last Hurrah (1958)
  • The Comedy of Terrors (1963)


Basil Rathbone appeared in numerous television shows throughout his career, including anthology series, dramas, and comedies including:
  • The Ford Theatre Hour (1949)
  • The Philco Television Playhouse (1950)
  • The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre (1950)
  • Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (1950)
  • Studio One (1950)
  • Lights Out (1950)
  • Suspense (1951)
  • The Bigelow Theatre (1951)
  • Lux Video Theatre (1951)
  • The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1951)
  • The Motorola Television Hour (1953)
  • The United States Steel Hour (1953)
  • The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse (1953)
  • The Philip Morris Playhouse (1953)
  • Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1953)
  • General Electric Theater (1954)
  • The Best of Broadway (1955)
  • The Ed Sullivan Show (1955)
  • The 20th Century-Fox Hour (1956)
  • Playhouse 90 (1957)
  • Climax! (1957)
  • The DuPont Show of the Month (1957)
  • The Red Skelton Hour (1958)
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1958)
  • The Ann Sothern Show (1959)
  • Rawhide (1959)
  • The Twilight Zone (1963)

Stage Performances

Basil Rathbone had a long and distinguished career on stage, both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Here is a chronological list of some of his notable stage performances:
  • The Czarina (1922)
  • The School for Scandal (1923)
  • The Swan (1923)
  • The Beaux' Stratagem (1923)
  • The Game of Love and Death (1923)
  • The Rivals (1924)
  • The School for Scandal (1924)
  • A Night Out (1925)
  • The Dover Road (1925)
  • The Truth About Blayds (1925)
  • The Rat (1925)
  • The Swan (1925)
  • The Rivals (1926)
  • The Wind and the Rain (1926)
  • A Kiss in a Taxi (1926)
  • The Wrecker (1927)
  • The Beaux' Stratagem (1928)
  • The Grass is Greener (1929)
  • The Mummy (1930)
  • The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1930)
  • Escape (1930)
  • The Circle (1931)
  • The Captive (1933)
  • The Heiress (1947)
  • The Winslow Boy (1948)
  • The Taming of the Shrew (1951)
  • Julius Caesar (1951)
  • The Alchemist (1951)
  • The Constant Wife (1952)
  • Othello (1952)
  • A Doll's House (1952)
  • Bell, Book and Candle (1953)
  • Separate Tables (1955)
  • The Happiest Millionaire (1960)

In Remembrance: Rathbone's Legacy

Basil Rathbone will be remembered as a versatile and accomplished actor who had a long and distinguished career on stage, in films, and on television.
  • Iconic performances: Rathbone is perhaps best remembered for his iconic performances as Sherlock Holmes in a series of films during the 1930s and 1940s. His portrayal of the brilliant detective has become the definitive interpretation of the character for many people, and his influence can be seen in countless subsequent adaptations and interpretations.
  • Range of work: Rathbone's career spanned many decades and encompassed a wide range of roles. He appeared in everything from Shakespearean plays to Hollywood blockbusters, and his versatility and talent as an actor made him a respected figure in the entertainment industry.
  • Enduring legacy: Even decades after his death, Rathbone's work continues to be appreciated and celebrated by fans of film and theater. His impact on popular culture can still be seen in the many adaptations and tributes to his work that have been produced over the years.
Basil Rathbone will be remembered as one of the most talented and beloved actors of his generation, whose contributions to the worlds of film, theater, and television continue to inspire and entertain audiences today.