Basil Rathbone's acting career spanned from Shakespeare to low-budget horror and in fact included both at once in the Comedy of Terrors, where he recites every Shakespeare line there is about dying.
Reciting was his specialty, because he had one of the greatest voices in the history of the acting profession. There is little one could do with the human voice to make it sound more dignified than Rathbone. It is also hard to sound more intelligent than Rathbone, a skill he put to good use in his many performances as master detective Sherlock Holmes. He recorded a great deal of the Holmes tales in spoken word form, as well as the complete writings of Edgar Allan Poe
, because yet another attribute of this lavishly praised voice was its ability to sound incredibly sinister. Among the bad guys portrayed by the actually charming Rathbone were the evil nemesis of Robin Hood, Sir John, and two of Charles Dickens
' creepiest creations: Scrooge and Fagin. He did many of his recordings for the Caedmon label, but ventured into the recording studio at the bequest of many other labels and organizations as well. He even recorded tours of famous museums and great cities of the world for the Columbia Record Club, to be presented in conjunction with slide shows. Rathbone was also in demand for personal appearances as a narrator with symphony orchestras and chamber groups. During his career, he took part in performances of King David, Arthur Honegger
's oratorio and symphonic psalm, the inevitable Peter and the Wolf, and a gala presentation of Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. He worked with classical performers such as soprano Helen Boatwright, contralto Beatrice Krebs, tenor Robert Price, and conductor Manfred Schumann. He was fond of collaborating with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
, perhaps not coincidentally Edgar Allan Poe
's hometown. Another musical era friendly to his on-stage presence was early music, and he took part in performances with several instrumental groups specializing in this genre, combining their musical performances with his recitation of poems from the same era.