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The Bishop Murder Case (1929)

Passed | | Drama, Mystery | 3 January 1930 (USA)
When the body of a man nicknamed "Cock Robin" is found with an arrow in the heart on an archery range along with a chess bishop as a clue, Philo Vance investigates.


David Burton, Nick Grinde (as Nick Grindé)


S.S. Van Dine (from the book by), Lenore J. Coffee (adaptation)




Complete credited cast:
Basil Rathbone ... Philo Vance
Leila Hyams ... Belle Dillard
Roland Young ... Sigurd Arnesson
Alec B. Francis ... Professor Bertrand Dillard
George F. Marion ... Adolph Drukker
Zelda Sears ... Mrs. Otto Drukker
Bodil Rosing ... Grete Menzel
Carroll Nye ... John E. Sprigg
Charles Quatermaine Charles Quatermaine ... John Pardee (as Charles Quartermaine)
James Donlan James Donlan ... Ernest Heath
Sidney Bracey ... Pyne (as Sydney Bracey)
Clarence Geldart ... John F.-X. Markham
Delmer Daves ... Raymond Sperling
Nellie Bly Baker Nellie Bly Baker ... Beedle


The murders start with the body of Robin. He is found with a arrow through the heart, but Vance deduces that the body was placed and not found where he was killed. The note found dealing with the murder was part of a nursery rhyme and signed by 'Bishop'. The only witness may have been Mrs. Drukker and Adolph, but they are not talking. As the murders progress, each one is accompanied by a nursery rhyme. It is up to Philo Vance to unravel the clues and unmask the identity of the murderer 'Bishop'. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The finest of all S. S. Van Dine's murder mystery stories...now an all-talking picture! (original poster) See more »


Drama | Mystery


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Several times Roland Young's character sarcastically calls Basil Rathbone's investigator character "Sherlock Holmes". Nine years later Rathbone would take the role of Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and it became his iconic role. See more »


When Vance and fellow detectives investigate the body of Robin, who has been shot with an arrow, the angle of the arrow changes. Sometimes it's straight up out of the body, other times it's at almost a 45 degree angle. See more »


Philo Vance: [to Markham and Heath] You know, gentlemen, this is no ordinary case. We cannot proceed in an ordinary manner. Mark my words, this is not a single murder that we are trying to solve. It is the beginning of a series of murders... ghastly and inhuman!
See more »


Followed by The Kennel Murder Case (1933) See more »


Aloha Oe
(1908) (uncredited)
Music by Queen Liliuokalani
Played on a radio
See more »

User Reviews

Only For The Philo Vance Devotee
11 January 2002 | by Bucs1960See all my reviews

This film is the 3rd of the Philo Vance mysteries to be filmed. The first two, Canary and Greene (filmed in 1929) were pretty hard going. They starred William Powell and he would return to star in the Benson Murder case and the best of the Vance series, The Kennel Murder Case. This one, starring Basil Rathbone is a step above the first two but it is still a static film as were many of that era......transitioning to sound was an awkward time for the movies and people talked, and talked, and talked, ad infinitum. Rathbone, a very attractive, suave actor fits the role well and he plays Vance as a little less of the high-brow, somewhat obnoxious character that was portrayed in VanDine's books. The mystery is another one of those typical Philo Vance puzzlers which never turn out as you thought they might but that is the fun of it all. It's interesting to see Roland Young in a role that is different from his usual movie persona. James Donlan, as Sgt. Heath is very irritating....nobody is that stupid and you wonder how he became a policeman, let alone a sergeant. I much prefer Eugene Palette from the William Powell/Vance films in that role. The rest of the supporting cast is adequate. You probably have to be a Vance devotee and a fan of early sound pictures to appreciate this film. Being both, I enjoyed it but would recommend The Kennel Murder Case for an introduction to Philo Vance. The series hit its stride with that film and then went downhill from there. Also, see The Canary Murder Case for historical film value as it was the last film made by the amazing Louise Brooks before she went on to cinema history in Germany. But, have fun with this movie...it is worth a look if you are a fan of the genre.

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Release Date:

3 January 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Biskop-Mordet See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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