[ a scream...cue music }
Unlike his other great roles in such legendary features as The Mark Of Zorro, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and both the film and radio adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes canon, Tales of Fatima had Rathbone playing himself, and quite charmingly so. The shows, in spite of their dramatic and adventurous stories, were actually amusingly light-hearted, and Rathbone brought to them all of those acting skills that made him a household name. It's very cool to see him interact with the story as himself; the characters refer to his profession as an actor, and yet, he also has this other side...a man of action and solver of murders and mysteries. It's a treat for any true fan.
Each episode was set in an exotic locale, or on a dark and stormy night, as befits a drama funded by a maker of Turkish cigarettes, and the mysterious and oracular character of Fatima was usually the inspiration for the solution. We would hear her breathy voice utter such sage-like (and cigarette-oriented) bits of wisdom as, "In the words of Fatima...habit is law...we're all of us slaves to a habit...".
Sends chills up the spine, don't it?
Cigarettes were, as now, big business, and the cigarette companies put big dollars into radio. Fatima cigarettes had quite a few superstars putting a presentable face on lung cancer (Jack Webb being the voice of the brand in ad spots), and any regular listener of old time radio has heard the ubiquitous commercials for Chesterfield cigarettes, who boasted the (well-paid) support of such legends as Alan Ladd, Rita Hayworth, Gary Cooper, Jack Webb, and yes, even Basil Rathbone himself. I've included a few marketing images below.
In spite of Rathbone's amazing presence, clever scripts, and a few colourful guest stars (Rex Harrison, Bela Lugosi and Lili Palmer among them), Tales of Fatima ran only thirty-nine episodes before it ended in the late fall of 1949. Rathbone continued to make movies, and during this period he worked on radio and the stage, winning a Tony award for his work on Broadway. He went on to do a one-man stage show, as well as numerous appearances on the new medium of television.
Sadly enough, only two episodes of this fun radio drama exist today, and I include them both below.
Download 'Tales Of Fatima - A Much Expected Murder' HERE
Download 'Tales Of Fatima - Time To Kill' HERE