Just to answer any question that may have arisen from my title, I’m not going to be available to post on June 13th (Basil’s actual birthday) so I have to do it early.
It’s hard to believe that this is only the second of Basil’s birthdays that I’ve celebrated. It seems, somehow, that I’ve always know him. This poem that you are about to read was written only a few months after I had first “met” him, so it’s a bit more gushing than I would write it now, but hey, give me a break, I was fourteen.
By R. Noel Landis
Blue to those you knew
And knew you,
But black to those of us who’ve only guessed
At what you were really like.
Soft and dreamy
But hidden deep inside
Is love, kindness, and a hint of roguish playfulness,
Enrapturing and beating down
The unsuspecting girl
Who falls into your clutches
As the villain or the madman.
Lifting up and pulling in
The poor and needy lady
Or the high and lofty woman
As hero and as lover.
Deep and subtly rich,
And letting our spirits soar.
We cannot think of anything else,
Not wanting to miss a single word.
If only we could have really heard you
And not have had to rely
On what you left behind.
Little heard laughter,
How we wish to hear it more,
Cheering over victory,
Or quiet simple pleasures.
Like no other
As it shapes its words of hatred or of love.
Small and finely turned up at the corners,
With the personality of life itself.
It catches the eyes,
Framed by the usual mustache.
We peer blissfully
Trying not to overlook its smooth movement,
Sole in its matchless perfection.
Gentle, tender, and smooth,
But strong and very firm.
Stroking heads, shaking hands,
Touching keys, holding cigarettes and pipes.
We watch and peer,
Looking eagerly at every touch.
Unmistakable in their movement,
Catching eyes and drawing attention.
They say so much with every motion.
Swift but careful,
Calm but eager,
Leading women across the floor,
Meticulously searching the crime scene,
Grasping knives and guns with intent to kill,
Holding children’s hands.
The whole of you,
Towering over some
But eye to eye with others.
Enchanting us in every movement,
Every bit of you unique,
We cannot take our eyes away
For fear of missing something.
Born in South Africa
Yet British through and through,
We lost something that day
July 21, 1967,
75 years after that wonderful day
June 13, 1892.
We miss you,
Even though you left us before we knew you
We have come to know you by what you left behind.
This is my favorite picture of Basil Rathbone – and no, friends, this wasn’t posed, this wasn’t part of the movie, this was pure Basil.