Basil Rathbone was an English actor and is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, starting in 1939 and ending in 1946. He made fourteen movies alongside Nigel Bruce as Dr John Watson over the next seven years.
But, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rathbone became bored with the great detective and felt typecast as Holmes. Rathbone quit the role in 1946, and returned to the stage work which he loved. Soon, however, he missed the financial rewards that Holmes had brought him, and decided to make one more reappearance as the character. Rathbone starred as Sherlock Holmes again in a play written by his wife Ouida, but the production was a complete flop and only managed to run for three performances.
Philip St. John Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 13 June, 1892. He became famous as a Shakespearean actor, but went on to do a variety of other movies. He has played such characters as Murdstone in David Copperfield (1935) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). He starred in fourteen Holmes movies. He died on 21 July, 1967 in New York of a heart attack at the age of 75.
Rathbone is one of the best-known Sherlock Holmes actors. He has become the icon for the series, appearing on the covers of reprints of the original stories. He starred alongside Nigel Bruce throughout the series. Among actors such as Jeremy Brett, Rathbone is considered one of the definitive actors to play Sherlock Holmes.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
- Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)
- Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)
- Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
- The Spider Woman (1944)
- The Scarlet Claw (1944)
- The Pearl of Death (1944)
- Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear (1945)
- The Woman in Green (1945)
- Pursuit to Algiers (1945)
- Terror by Night (1946)
- Dressed to Kill (1946)
- So great was Rathbone's imprint on the role of Sherlock Holmes that no other actor or studio would touch it for years, until Peter Cushing was cast as the great detective in the 1959 remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
- He was 6' 1.5" tall, only 1.5 inches taller than Nigel Bruce.
- He was actually three years older than Bruce, even though he looks younger.
- Almost 20 years after his death, his voice was added into the children's movie loosely based on Sherlock Holmes, The Great Mouse Detective. At one point, they pan up and look into 221B Baker Street, and you can see Holmes and Watson and hear them talking. This is actually Rathbone's voice.
- Rathbone served in the First World War rising to the rank of Captain and being awarded the Military Cross, a then-recent and high honour. Rathbone, according to David Niven's autobiographies, was very reticent in later life to speak of his service at all.