Basil Rathbone

English actor (1892-1967)

Philip St. John Basil Rathbone (13 June 1892 – 21 July 1967) was a South African-born English actor.

If you can speak Shakespeare, you can speak anything.


  • That is the most wonderful training an actor can have. If you can speak Shakespeare, you can speak anything. And it gives you complete poise and grace of movement.
  • I don’t know the why of anything, even when I pretend most diligently I do. The truth is the last time I had any idea why or what I was supposed to do I was lying in a shell hole, looking up at the sky. My mind was filled with a Bach keyboard sonata , which was one of the last I’d learned, I forget which one now. I absolutely knew I was about to die and I was completely happy and at peace, in a way I never was before or since, not even with you, in our best moments. It was so easy, you see, a kind of absolute joy and peace, because I knew it was all done and I was all square with life. Nothing left to do but let things take their course. And when I didn’t die, I didn’t know what to do. So I thought, I’ll take my revolver, go out and blow a hole through my head. Only I knew it wouldn’t work. I knew, I just knew you couldn’t do it that way. You couldn’t make it happen, not if you wanted to find peace. So, I thought, then, a sniper can do it for me. But no matter how I tried to let them no sniper ever found me. And all the other times I went out and lay in shell holes in No Man’s Land it wasn’t the same, and I knew I wouldn’t die this time, and of course I never did. I had this mad feeling I’d become some sort of Wandering Jew. And everything for so long afterwards was about dragging this living corpse of myself around, giving it things to do, because here it was, alive. And nothing made any sense and I didn’t even hope it would. I followed paths that were there to be followed, I did what others said to do.