Download Basil Rathone in Dinosaurs HERE
For the film celebration of Basil Rathbone's birthday (a Friday the 13th special!), click HERE. For more of his radio drama action, click HERE, or scroll further down this page! For Arthur Conan Doyle's B-day post, click HERE
Well, I guess we have a Basil Rathbone trio of shows on our hands! In previous posts, I started with the amusing Tales of Fatima, then shared the exciting intrigue of Europe Confidential , and now to complete the three, I present a bit of educational fun, called Basil Rathbone, Word Detective.
Sponsored by the Underwood Typewriter Company, this was an informal three-minute journey into etymology. Rathbone begins each installment with a colourful anecdote, a historical story which is the origin of the word of the day, designed to intrigue and tantalise (in fact, "tantalise' is one of the word detailed in an episode). He then says, "I'll type out that phrase for you on my Underwood typewriter", after which he reveals the mystery word that occaisioned the story. I found them very entertaining and informative, and, as usual, Rathbone's voice is wonderful to listen to. I'm always amazed by the clarity of his diction.
I've supplied five installments below, and have listed the word around which each episode is based. This is a rare and wonderful bit of radio history, and a must-hear for fans of the legendary Basil Rathbone.
Click each word below to download a different installment of
Basil Rathbone, Word Detective
"Today's mystery, for instance, it takes place in Europe, the Europe of modern times; a world of intrigue and suspense, where a man's life can count for very little...when a country's future is at stake.
Hot on the heels of the Basil Rathbone personality piece, Tales of Fatima, we have another series to which he lends his outstanding presence. Europe Confidential was a colourful 1950's suspense-adventure series, hosted by Rathbone, who introduced each story with that flair that his many fans had come to expect. The show was very much in the mold of great radio dramas such as Night Beat, Box 13, & The Lives of Harry Lime (in fact, EC apparently recycled some scripts from the latter), and fans of those shows will enjoy the dry noir-type delivery here that made such dramas as Dragnet great classics of old time radio.
Although Rathbone was the big-name draw of the show, it's star was actually British-Canadian character actor Lionel Murton. Murton played bit parts in dozens of British television series, including such notables as Danger Man, Ghost Squad, Man in a Suitcase, an The Persuaders, as well as making a few pointed blips on the international radar with small roles in films such as The Mouse That Roared, The Dirty Dozen, and Patton.
In Europe Confidential, Murton played Mike Connoy, a reporter based in "the Paris office of a famous American newspaper", because it's "where the news is made". Connoy is a serious but very human character; behind his world-weary presentation, he always seems mildly bemused by the intensity of each situation he's in. He's primarily an observer; very rarely are there Sam Spade-type moments where Connoy tussles with a villain. His specialty is awareness, and that's Mike Connoy's secret weapon.
As an artifact of the the post-WWII Cold War era, Europe Confidential is interesting from a modern perspective. That idea that Europe was the center of all manner of international intrigue is less valid today, after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and rise of the United States as the top world power. Back then, Europe was the staging ground for hundreds of very real and dangerous games of political chess, and Mike Connoy was in the thick of it.
This is a very enjoyable suspense programme, and I commend it to you highly; if you enjoy the two episodes available below, there are more available free on the web.
Download Europe Confidential: The Whiplash Steele Affair HERE
Download Europe Confidential: The Time Machine Affair HERE
"Hello there, this is Basil Rathbone. I'm so glad that you could be with Fatima, and me tonight; she helps me solve an uncanny tale that began when a poison drink was poured [sound of pouring liquid], and reached it's climax when a dead man came to life."
[ a scream...cue music }
Tales of Fatima was a radio series that ran from January through October, 1949. It was basically an advertising vehicle for the Fatima brand of cigarettes, but it had incredible personality, primarily due to the commanding voice of a legend of radio, cinema, and the Shakespearean stage, Basil Rathbone.
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