Pale Writer is hosting The Suave Swordsman: Basil Rathbone Blogathon on June 13th and 14th. Click HERE to read about the actor's exciting life and career. Thank you, Gabriela.
Richard III plays a dangerous game of thrones in Tower of London, 1939 from Universal Studios. The historical epic was directed by Rowland V. Lee (The Count of Monte Cristo) with a screenplay by his brother Robert N. Lee (Little Caesar).
From the forward:
"A web of intrigue veils the lives of all who know only too well that today's friends might be tomorrow's enemies."
Vincent Price, Ian Hunter, Basil Rathbone
These three men are brothers, Vincent Price as the Duke of Clarence, Ian Hunter as King Edward IV, and Basil Rathbone as Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Perhaps in another lifetime, they could depend upon each other but it is the time of the War of the Roses, pitting the Lancasters against the Yorks, and the Yorks against each other. Edward has the throne, Clarence has the money, and Richard has the ambition.
Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone
Richard is ably assisted in carrying out his schemes by Mord, the executioner. The sadistic and club-footed Mord worships his master as a god. He tortures, kills, spies, and with the poorer class under his thumb, spreads rumors and misinformation to benefit Richard.
Tower of London has an exemplary cast performing to the hilt. The atmosphere of machinations and danger is palpable in the screenplay. Miles Mander is the feeble-minded deposed Henry VI. John Sutton and Nan Grey are the young lovers, John Wyatt and Lady Alice. Such characters are so necessary to the mind of producers and their story threads them throughout the years of Richard's ascent to the throne.
Ian Hunter, Barbara O'Neil
Ian Hunter is a boisterous and confident King. Vincent Price a petulant and grasping younger brother. Rathbone barely hides his contempt for all yet manages to fool many. Barbara O'Neil is a lovely Queen Elyzabeth, who fears her brother-in-law Richard, and Shakespearean history tells us with good reason.
The battle sequences at Tewksbury and later at Bosworth Field are very well done with crowds of extras, horses, rain, and the royal combatants. Despite its many ideal aspects, Tower of London falls short of its goal of creating a great screen epic. The pacing feels rather sluggish for its 92-minute runtime.
Nonetheless, there is much for an audience to discover in its script and performances. The long history of stars Rathbone, Karloff, and Price and their place in the horror genre add to the enjoyment in viewing Tower of London today.
Basil Rathbone's Hollywood career was tremendously busy during the 1930s. The golden year of 1939 saw not only the release of Tower of London, but also of Son of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Rio, and The Sun Never Sets. It is a continual pleasure to discover and rediscovery the versatility of Basil Rathbone over his five-decade screen career.
Vincent Price, Clarence in our picture, starred as Richard III for Roger Corman's version of Tower of London in 1962.
Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price in Tower of London, 1939.
Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price publicizing The Comedy of Terrors, 1963 with Peter Lorre at the keyboard.