26 user 11 critic

A Study in Scarlet (1933)

Passed | | Mystery, Thriller | 14 May 1933 (USA)
In London, a secret society led by lawyer Thaddeus Merrydew collects the assets of any of its deceased members and divides them among the remaining members. Society members start dropping ... See full summary »


Edwin L. Marin


Arthur Conan Doyle (suggested by book "A Study in Scarlet") (as A. Conan Doyle), Robert Florey (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Reginald Owen ... Sherlock Holmes
Anna May Wong ... Mrs. Pyke
June Clyde ... Eileen Forrester
Alan Dinehart ... Thaddeus Merrydew (as Allan Dinehart)
John Warburton ... John Stanford
Alan Mowbray ... Inspector Lastrade
Warburton Gamble ... Dr. Watson
J.M. Kerrigan ... Jabez Wilson
Doris Lloyd ... Mrs. Murphy
Billy Bevan ... Will Swallow
Leila Bennett ... Daffy Dolly
Wyndham Standing ... Capt. Pyke
Halliwell Hobbes ... Malcom Dearing


In London, a secret society led by lawyer Thaddeus Merrydew collects the assets of any of its deceased members and divides them among the remaining members. Society members start dropping like flies. Sherlock Holmes is approached by member James Murphy's widow, who is miffed at being left penniless by her husband. When Captain Pyke is shot, Holmes keys in on his mysterious Chinese widow as well as the shady Merrydew. Other members keep dying--Malcom Dearing first, then Mr. Baker. There is also an attempt on the life of young Eileen Forrester, who became a reluctant society member upon the death of her father. Holmes' uncanny observations and insights are put to the test. Written by Gary Jackson <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Mystery | Thriller


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Did You Know?


The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »


Holmes' and Watson's address is shown as 221-A Baker Street rather than the well-known and correct 221-B. But since their apartment is on the upper floor of the building, the -B is implied, A being the ground floor dwelling and B the upper floor dwelling in the building. See more »


Sherlock Holmes: You came to see me professionally.
Inspector Lestrade: Well, er, unofficially.
Sherlock Holmes: I see. Heads you win, tails I lose.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits list the character of Inspector Lestrade as "Lastrade". See more »


Referenced in The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes (1985) See more »

User Reviews

"...of abominable memory."
1 October 2006 | by theowinthropSee all my reviews

Sherlock Holmes became such a quick fixture in motion pictures that it is possible to write studies on the various movies and actors centered on that character.

This particular film was an early Hollywood take on Holmes in the sound period. It is interesting to note that it came out only three years after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930. By the time this had come out Hollywood had done silent and sound films about Holmes with William Gillette, John Barrymore, and (more recently) Clive Brooks. But the three best Holmes' of the sound period were still to come along: Arthur Wontner in Great Britain, Basil Rathbone in Hollywood, and Jeremy Brett (on television). Holmes in this version was Reginald Owen, best remembered for his "Ebenezer Scrooge" in the 1938 version of "A Christmas Carol". Owen was a very good character actor (villainous in films like "The Call Of The Wild", but funny as anything in "The Good Fairy"). He had played Watson already, so he was one of the few actors to essay both friends parts. But he seemed too laid back to be a good Holmes.

"A Study In Scarlet" appeared in December 1887 in "Beeton's Christmas Annual", a long forgotten magazine in Great Britain, which is only now recalled because of Conan Doyle's novella. If you are lucky enough to stumble onto the Beeton's of that month and year (and it is the original) than hold onto it - it's worth many thousands of dollars.

It's in two parts. The first half is "The Lauriston Gardens Mystery", wherein Dr. John H. Watson (our narrator) introduces us to his friend and roommate Sherlock Holmes, and then to the adventure (set in April 1881) where he first became aware that Holmes was a consulting detective, and was consulted by Scotland Yard's Detectives Tobias Gregson and "G." (no further name ever given) Lestrade (not "Lastrade" as the movie's cast of characters named him). Lestrade would be the best known of the detectives in the saga who would consult Holmes (and would be most memorably played by Dennis Hoey in the Rathbone films). Here he's played by Alan Mowbray - not badly but with little electricity.

The plot of the first portion of the novella is about the murder of two men, one by poison and one by a knife wound in the heart. Holmes traces the story back to the old west, where in the second half (entitled "The Country of the Saints") it is linked to the Mormons in Utah.

Most (if not all) was jettisoned, into a story about murder for insurance, centering around Anna May Wong and Alan Dinehart. Dinehart's character Thaddeus Merrydew, is based on a single line of writing in the four novels and fifty six short stories that were written by Conan Doyle. In "The Adventure of the Empty House", when reading a list of people with "M" in their name (he is searching for the biography of Colonel Sebastian Moran), he finds a reference to "Merrydew of abominable memory." That's it! No "Thaddeus Merrydew", just "Merrydew". Somebody concocting the script remembered that one reference. I may add, this was also the last time in movies there was any villain named Merrydew against Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

As an early talkie film about Holmes, it is worth seeing - but it is not among the best Holmes movies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

14 May 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

En studie i rött See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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