The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – based not on a Conan Doyle story but on William Gillette's play – was the second movie to feature Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr Watson. Rathbone had become the movie Sherlock Holmes, with his piercing eyes, knife-sharpened features and finely-played trademark habits (the violin, the relentless drive and enthusiasm, the never-ending desire for knowledge). Bruce's Watson is a humourous foil to Rathbone's intense seriousness – although Holmes himself is not averse to the odd witty quip. These two actors had made the roles their own. This was the second and last film featuring Rathbone and Bruce in the authentic 1890s setting, by the time Universal had begun producing further adventures in 1941, the decision had been taken to update the stories and bring them into a contemporary setting.

Synopsis: Professor Moriarty (George Zucco) plans a devious crime to steal the crown jewels and sends Holmes a bizarre problem, a drawing of a man with a strange bird hanging around his neck. The man's sister goes to see Holmes, who becomes so involved in her case that he forgets to be on hand to see the 'The Star of Delhi' arriving at the Tower of London. Involving mysterious notes, South American flute players, the Tower of London and the fog-filled streets of 1890s London, the plot contains all the requisite ingredients of a typical Holmes story. And of course, the solution is elementary. Through these scenes, Holmes and Watson rush with great enthusiasm and infectious determination, the direction suitably fast-paced, leading up to a thrilling climactic conclusion.

20th Century Fox September 1, 1939, 81 min.

Producer – Darryl F. Zanuck

Associate Producer Gene Markey

Director – Alfred Werker

Screenplay Edwin Blum and William Drake

Photography – Leon Shamroy

Editor – Robert Bischoff

Set decorations – Thomas Little

Music Director – Cyril J. Mockridge

Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone

Dr. Watson

Nigel Bruce

Ann Brandon

Ida Lupino

Jerrold Hunter

Alan Marshal


Terry Kilburn

Professor Moriarty

George Zucco

Sir Ronald Ramsgate

Henrey Stephenson

Inspector Bristol

E. E. Clive


Arthur Hohl

Mrs. Jameson

May Beatty

Loyd Brandon

Peter Wells

Mrs Hudson

Mary Gordon

Mateo George Regas
Lady Conynham Mary Forbes
Bassick Arthur Hohl
Mrs. Jameson May Beatty
Justice Holmes Herbert
Dawes Frank Dawson
Stranger William Austin
Tony Anthony Kemble Cooper
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