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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Approved | | Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 1 September 1939 (USA)
The master sleuth hunts his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, who is planning the crime of the century.


Alfred L. Werker (as Alfred Werker)


Edwin Blum (screenplay), William Absalom Drake (screenplay) (as William Drake) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Basil Rathbone ... Sherlock Holmes
Nigel Bruce ... Dr. Watson
Ida Lupino ... Ann Brandon
Alan Marshal ... Jerrold Hunter
Terry Kilburn ... Billy
George Zucco ... Professor Moriarty
Henry Stephenson ... Sir Ronald Ramsgate
E.E. Clive ... Inspector Bristol
Arthur Hohl ... Bassick
May Beatty ... Mrs. Jameson
Peter Willes ... Lloyd Brandon
Mary Gordon ... Mrs. Hudson
Holmes Herbert ... Justice
George Regas ... Mateo
Mary Forbes ... Lady Conyngham


Professor Moriarity has a scheme for stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London. To get Holmes involved, he persuades a gaucho flute player to murder a girl. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Struggle of Super-Minds in the Crime of the Century!


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Did You Know?


This is the last time Basil Rathbone would wear the famous deerstalker hat and cape in the 14 Holmes films, though you can still see the hat hanging on the hat stand in the early Universal Holmes movies. See more »


Ann reluctantly turns up at Lady Conyngham's two days after the death of her brother, wearing a pretty white lace dress. Victorian etiquette about mourning was quite strict, and a sister would be expected to wear black mourning clothes for at least six months after the death of a sibling. See more »


Inquisitive Stranger: [Watson is lying in the street in order to reconstruct a murder - a stranger stops and stares] I say there, has something happened?
Doctor John H. Watson: Definitely. Would you mind moving back a few paces?
Inquisitive Stranger: Eh, not at all.
Doctor John H. Watson: Thank you.
Inquisitive Stranger: Perhaps I could find a doctor?
Doctor John H. Watson: I'm a doctor. What's the matter with you?
Inquisitive Stranger: I'm all right. I was thinking of you.
Doctor John H. Watson: Why?
Inquisitive Stranger: But... But, aren't you ill?
Doctor John H. Watson: Certainly not. I'm dead.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening card: In all my life I have encountered only one man whom I can truthfully call the very Genius of Evil -- Professor Moriarty. For eleven years he has eluded me. All the rest who opposed him are dead. He is the most dangerous criminal England has ever known. Sherlock Holmes. 9 May 1894. See more »

Alternate Versions

When this movie aired on WPBS, the song that Basil Rathbone sings was changed from "By the Sea" to "I've got a Loverly Bunch of Cocoanuts." See more »


Followed by Terror by Night (1946) See more »


I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside
Written and Composed by John Glover Kind
Performed by Basil Rathbone
See more »

User Reviews

The Crown Jewels
6 October 2002 | by telegonusSee all my reviews

Released in the landmark movie year of 1939, this is my favorite Sherlock Holmes film. It is set in the proper period, has a reasonable budget, excellent sets, and fog so thick one would have to cut it with a razor. The story has to do with Professor Moriarity's scheme to steal the crown jewels. More than anything, however, the movie is a vehicle for Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, whose interpretations of Holmes and Watson are so engaging and larger than life that several decades later actors are still compared (usually unfavorably) to these two whenever they attempt to take on these roles. Rathbone makes an impressive Holmes,--cunning, gentlemanly, high-minded, somewhat competitive, intensely focused. One of the many things that makes Rathbone so perfect as Holmes is that while he may fall short of the mark in his portrayal of the character Conan Doyle created in print, he is an ideal movie Holmes. There's an heroic quality to him. Rathbone was more than a bit of a swashbuckler on screen, as is obvious in his many duels with Flynn and Power, and he brought some of this edgy, assertive quality to his interpretation of Holmes, and as is so often the case when an actor varies somewhat from a character created in fiction (Bogart is a far cry from Hammett's "blonde Satan" of a Sam Spade), this can actually work in his favor. Rathbone is Hollywood's Sherlock Holmes, and I can't imagine a better one. Bruce often played Watson as a bumbler later in the series, but in the early entries was more serious and competent. His movie Watson is overall somewhat comical, and creates a charming contrast to the grim, determined Holmes, and works for me because I like a little respite from the seriousness of a mystery, any mystery, since the genre is melodramatic, and hard to take when it gets too heavy. With Bruce on hand it never does.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

1 September 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sherlock Holmes See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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