Job Actor
Years active 1911-67
Known for Suave cold-hearted villains, morally ambiguous characters; Sherlock Holmes
Top Roles Count Sigurd 'Sig' von Aschenhausen, Sir Guy of Gisbourne, Mr. Murdstone, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes
Top GenresDrama, Comedy, Mystery, Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Film Adaptation
Top TopicsBook-Based, Detectives, England
Top Collaborators (Director), (Producer), (Director), (Producer)
Shares birthday with Ben Johnson, Lois Weber, Jean Adair  see more..

Basil Rathbone Overview:

Legendary character actor, Basil Rathbone, was born Philip St. John Basil Rathbone on Jun 13, 1892 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Rathbone appeared in over 120 film and TV roles. His best known films include David Copperfield, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Tower of London, The Mark of Zorro, Anna Karenina and The Hound of the Baskervilles (the first of 14 film appearances as master detective, Sherlock Holmes). Rathbone died at the age of 75 on Jul 21, 1967 in New York City, NY and was laid to rest in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, Westchester County, NY.


Already a veteran stage actor in both London and on Broadway, Basil Rathbone made his film debut in 1921 in the silent film The Fruitful Vine. He went on to appear in over 120 film and TV roles, frequently portraying suave, cold-hearted villains. Some of his most memorable roles were as Murdstone in David Copperfield, Levasseur in Captain Blood, Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and 13 other films.

(Source: article by Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Rathbone was nominated for two Oscars, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1936Best Supporting ActorRomeo and Juliet (1936)TybaltNominated
1938Best Supporting ActorIf I Were King (1938)Louis XINominated

He was honored with three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Radio, Motion Pictures and Television.

BlogHub Articles:

THE BLOGATHON: Tower of London, 1939

on Jun 13, 2020 From Caftan Woman

Pale Writer is hosting The Suave Swordsman: Blogathon on June 13th and 14th. Click HERE to read about the actor's exciting life and career. Thank you, Gabriela. Richard III plays a dangerous game of thrones in Tower of London, 1939 from Universal Studios. The historical epic wa... Read full article

A 1914 Letter from

By Neve on May 5, 2020 From The Baz

, a member of F.R. Benson’s Shakespeare Company, in 1913 or 1914... Read full article

: Union Man!

By Neve on Sep 15, 2019 From The Baz

Frederick Kerr... Read full article

: Treasure Hunter

By Neve on Aug 15, 2018 From The Baz

The Prince of Wales, 1919... Read full article

Favorite Candid Photos of

By Neve on Jun 13, 2018 From The Baz

... Read full article

See all articles

Basil Rathbone Quotes:

Sherlock Holmes: My dear Nikolas, perhaps you don't realize that it's tea that has made the British Empire and Dr. Watson what they are today.

Robin Hood: Come now, Sir Guy. You would not kill a man for telling the truth, would you?
Sir Guy of Gisbourne: If it amused me, yes!

Pontius Pilate: I am innocent of the blood of this just man.

read more quotes from Basil Rathbone...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Sun. 23 Aug. 01:45 PM EST

See Today's TCM Schedule >>
Also a Gemini

See All Geminis >>
Best Supporting Actor Oscar 1936

See more Best Supporting Actor awards>>
Basil Rathbone on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Basil Rathbone Facts
Fought in the British army during World War I, and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery under fire.

Was so frequently typecast as a villain that he literally jumped at the first few opportunities he ever got to play Sherlock Holmes because "for once, I got to beat the bad guy instead of play him." Indeed, he played the legendary heroic detective more than any other character in his career. By 1946, however, he had become so sick of the role that he quit his Sherlock Holmes film series and temporarily returned to the Broadway stage. Over the course of his career he had played the super sleuth in 16 films and over 200 radio plays.

He is considered the greatest swordsman in Hollywood history, superior even to on-screen foes Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. However, because he was so frequently cast as the villain, he won only two on-screen duels in his career - as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1936), for which he earned an Oscar nomination, and as Captain Esteban Pascuale against the friar (Eugene Pallette), who was so outclassed by "the Capitan" he was harmlessly disarmed in a matter of seconds, in The Mark of Zorro (1940). His last, filmed when the actor was 63, was with Danny Kaye in The Court Jester (1956). It is considered by some the best sword fight ever filmed.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>