Basil Rathbone: Indecency
MAE WEST was arrested on 9 February 1927 along with the cast of "Sex" and the cast of "The Captive." Snooty Basil Rathbone, who died in July [on 21 July 1967 in New York, NY], was cuffed and brought downtown to Jefferson Market Police Court along with Helen Menken and their co-stars.
• • Born in South Africa on 13 June 1892, Basil Rathbone was one year older than Mae West — — but in his mind, he was worlds apart even though they were both starring on Broadway in 1927.
• • During the 1920s, most of Basil Rathbone's work was in the legitimate theater. For many of his Broadway roles he portrayed a suave, sophisticated seducer of women — — quite a change from the legendary ascetic Baker Street detective he would play later in his career.
• • Making a sensation at the Empire Theatre [on Broadway and West 40th Street] was a drama that had been highly regarded in Paris: "The Captive." Basil Rathbone was cast in the role of Jacques Virieu, a young man engaged to be married, only to discover that his fiancée [played by Helen Menken] is in love with someone else — — a woman. Since homosexuality was such a controversial topic during the Roaring Twenties, the entire cast was charged with offending public morals, and the play was closed.
• • Rathbone was very angry about the censorship of his work, but even more aggrieved that show people would start whispering that he was arrested and booked — — with Mae West.
• • For years, Basil Rathbone and his wife made their home at 135 Central Park West. Mae lived in several westside locations, occasionally not far from Rathbone. But there is no record of their taking tea together to reminisce over their arrest on indecency charges in 1927.
• • Brush up on your Mae West lines right on Broadway on Friday evening 17 August 2007, when a guided tour will explore Manhattan's WEST-side during the "Mae West Side Story" walking tour. The event — — open to the public — — is timed to salute Brooklyn's own sexpot on her birthdate. [See the Annual Mae West Gala posting online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/.]
• • Only 18 more days until Mae West's birthday!
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: Basil Rathbone • • Helen Menken • • February 1927 • • "The Captive" • •
New York Public Library