We’re delighted to say that almost 30% of our readers are from countries other than the U.S. So as a tribute to them for the next few weeks we’re going to highlight stars who were born in other lands.
The bloke pictured above, Raymond Massey was a star of the Golden Era in Hollywood and one of its best known character actors. He was an occasional leading man as well as in 1940’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois, for which he received an Oscar nomination.
Hello Everybody. Those classic movie guys, Joe Morella and Frank Segers, here to give tribute to stars born abroad. Do you know which country can boast of Raymond Massey?
Another star of the same period, perfect as a villain who could fence with the best swordsmen, and equally perfect as the heroic detective Sherlock Holmes, was Basil Rathbone. His career spanned decades. In which country was he born?
But before you answer, consider William Shatner’s recollection of the senior actor in an early tv production in Canada of Billy Budd, based on Herman Melville’s novel about an innocent sailor who is hanged. Rathbone was the star of the teleplay.
Keep in mind, this was in 1955 when many such programs were aired live — no taping or filming. What went on in the studio went out unfiltered over the air.
In his memoirs, Shatner wrote: I’d grown up watching (Rathbone) play Sherlock Holmes in the movies. He was a very well-respected stage and movie actor, but this was one of his first, if not his very first, live television appearances.
He noticed that Basil was as calm as a cucumber. Do you know why I’m not nervous?, asked Rathbone, who went on to provide this answer to his own question. Because, you see, in the United States there’s thirty to fifty million people watching a television program, but in Canada it’s only five to ten million.
Montreal-born Shatner (did you know that he was from Canada?) took slight umbrage at this but kept his mouth shut, and the live telecast proceeded on schedule. We went on the air and the first act was progressing very well, right until (Rathbone) walked onboard the ship and stepped into a bucket.
His foot got caught in the bucket and he couldn’t get it off. The camera shot only his upper body so none of the viewers could see him madly shaking his leg, trying to get his foot out of that bucket. He was working so hard to get his foot free that he forgot his lines. And when he forgot his lines he began to sweat.
The rest of us tried to feed him his lines … It was a disaster. But fortunately it was seen by only ten million Canadians. (It should be noted that Rathbone subsequently flourished in television in a variety of series and formats.)
Massey and Rathbone are both today thought of as American stars. While actors from France, Italy, Germany and other countries, even if they make most or ALL of their films in the U.S. never lose their national identity, English speaking stars are usually assimilated into Hollywood and people never realize they were born elsewhere.