Basil Rathbone was entertaining a friend one night at his home in the Hollywood Hills. Both men were keenly interested in dogs and their breeding. His friend had brought with him two handsome specimens. As it got late, the two friends had a parting drink and called it a night. The friend and the canines got into the car and drove away. But, sadly, not very far.
As Rathbone turned to go back inside, he heard the screech of brakes and the sickening sounds of a ghastly car crash. His friend and the dogs were killed instantly.
In deep shock, and with the thought, “He was just standing here,” pounding in his aching head, Rathbone heard the damned phone begin ringing. Mechanically he picked it up and heard the voice of the MGM studio’s night switchboard operator. “Sorry, Mr. Rathbone but I have a woman on the line who simply must talk to you. She says it’s desperately, desperately important.” Probably some smitten fan, he thought as the operator said, “Sir, I’ve never heard anyone be so urgent. She hopes you’ll know what a certain message means.”
Rathbone, impatient and in a daze, snapped, “For Christ’s sake, put her on and be done with it!” The woman was calling from her home, located way to hell and gone on the far side of Los Angeles. She had a low and cultivated speaking voice and identified herself as a trance medium and clairvoyant. At that time the movie colony was going through one of its periodic infatuations with psychics, astrologers, table-tipping séances, Ouija boards and such. Rathbone scorned all such claptrap, but, he said, “the woman’s voice was so compelling.”
“I have for you, sir, what we term ‘a calling of urgency,’” she said. “It came to me with such impact that, although not knowing its meaning, I simply had to find you. The message is brief. Here it is in its entirety: ‘Traveling very fast. No time to say good-bye.’ And then, ‘There are no dogs here.’ ”
The next time I saw Rathbone (F.Y.I., he lived at 135 Central Park West), more years had gone by, and he was in the act of receiving a summons for letting his dog Ginger off the leash in Central Park. I thought he might have decided, looking back, that it had all been some sort of bizarre coincidence, or maybe a highly original prank. He said, “At the time, of course, I was quite shaken by it.” And now? “I am still shaken by it.”
Editor's Note: Theresa had left this post to appear automatically on this date (another will appear on New Year's Eve).