Did Sherlock Holmes star, Basil Rathbone, act with Newport company?



First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

IT’S a mystery fit for Sherlock Holmes, but could Hollywood star Basil Rathbone, most famous for playing the great detective in the Hound of the Baskervilles, have performed with the Newport Playgoers?

Rathbone starred in films such as The Mask of Zoro, David Copperfield and The Adventures of Robin Hood alongside Errol Flynn, as well as the 1940s Sherlock Holmes films.

For some time Newport Playgoers, who were founded in 1924, had been puzzled as to why a picture of the man, who many consider the definitive Sherlock Holmes, hung on the wall of the Dolman Theatre where they perform amongst a host of other pictures of the groups productions.

Given the group are set to put on their own production of Hound of the Baskervilles next month (October), they decided to do some digging and discovered the picture had been given to them by Rathbone’s first wife, Marion, who was an active member of the society right up to her death in the 1990s according to Phil Mansell of the Playgoers.

Mr Mansell, said: "The couple divorced in 1926, two years after Playgoers was founded so the puzzle remains as to whether Basil Rathbone ever appeared in a Playgoers' production before going off to Hollywood.

"Alex Wilson, from Cardiff, who is directing our production of Hound of the Baskervilles, and his team discovered that Marion met Basil when he was touring the UK with his cousin Frank Benson’s Shakespeare Company and appeared with him in productions of “As You Like It” and “The Merchant of Venice”.

They married in 1914 and the following year had a son, Rodion."

Long-term Playgoer, Babs Richards, recalled: "I knew Marion very well. She always dressed in black and one felt she was always giving a performance, even when she just speaking to you. She directed many plays, mainly outdoor productions of Shakespeare. I remember their son, Rodion, appeared in a few Playgoers’ productions in the 1930s. He looked very much like his father, very dark, with a little moustache."

Mr Mansell said he believed the couple had lived in Allt-yr-yn and later in Serpentine Road in Newport, but it was a mystery as to whether Basil ever trod the boards with the group.

"We would love to know if anybody ever saw Basil perform with the Playgoers," he said.

Newport Playgoers production of Hound of the Baskervilles runs at the Dolman Theatre from October 17-20 and tickets can be booked by calling 01633 263670 or by visiting www.dolmantheatre.co.uk

Comments (2)

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12:23pm Sat 29 Sep 12

skipbifferty says...

What a great story, I do hope there is a grain of truth in it! Then, maybe, Newport Players can apply for a Blue Plaque?
What a great story, I do hope there is a grain of truth in it! Then, maybe, Newport Players can apply for a Blue Plaque? skipbifferty
  • Score: 0

1:13pm Sat 29 Sep 12

james.dyer7@ntlworld.com says...

Terry Underwood would have known
Terry Underwood would have known james.dyer7@ntlworld.com
  • Score: 0

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