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A Study in Scarlet (1933)

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) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Reginald Owen ... Sherlock Holmes
Anna May Wong ... Mrs. Pyke
June Clyde ... Eileen Forrester
Alan Dinehart ... Merrydew (as Allan Dinehart)
John Warburton ... John Stanford
Alan Mowbray ... Lestrade
Warburton Gamble 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 ... 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


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

14 May 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

En studie i rött See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

K.B.S. Productions Inc. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The reason "A Study in Scarlet" used only the title of Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story and not Doyle's actual plot is that the Conan Doyle estate quoted the producers a price for the rights to the title and a considerably higher price to use the original story. So the producers paid the lower price and hired "B" director Robert Florey to write a new story, though he and dialogue/continuity writer Reginald Owen peppered their script with allusions to other Holmes stories by Conan Doyle. See more »


Holmes and Watson's address is given as 221-A Baker Street, rather than the more familiar 221-B. See more »


Mrs. Murphy: Then you've had to take me, Mr. Holmes?
Sherlock Holmes: I'll, ahh, take up your case.
Mrs. Murphy: Mind you, it'll have to be for love.
Sherlock Holmes: Love?
Mrs. Murphy: For nix. I've noticed how you like workin' for nothin'.
Sherlock Holmes: My interest is to bring the criminal to justice.
Mrs. Murphy: Well, never mind about justice, never mind about the crime. All I want is my husband's lawful money. And I want you to slap that thievin' lawyers face right across, between his greasy fat chops. Good night, Mr. Holmes. I'll be seeing you and thank you kindly.
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User Reviews

Sherlock Holmes: Murder by Death
6 May 2014 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

A STUDY IN SCARLET (World Wide, 1933), directed by Edwin L. Marin, suggested by the book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (credited as A. Conan Doyle), introduces Reginald Owen to the role as Sherlock Holmes for the first and only time. In fact, Owen's name isn't credited above the title, but actually the central figure being Sherlock Holmes in A STUDY IN SCARLET, almost as if Holmes is appearing as himself. Owen, seldom a leading man, best known as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" (MGM, 1938), may be an interesting choice as Holmes, considering a handful of actors having enacted this legendary sleuth in the past, William Gillette on stage; and/or Arthur Wontner in several British-made movies. Yet there's none more famous than Basil Rathbone (Holmes) with Nigel Bruce (Doctor Watson) in what developed into a popular film series for Universal a decade later. It's a little known factor that Owen happens to be the first actor to play Watson in one movie, 1932s SHERLOCK HOLMES (Fox) featuring Clive Brook, and Holmes in another. As often stated for A STUDY IN SCARLET, the plot actually doesn't follow Conan Doyle's first Holmes novel, but instead contains an original idea scripted by Robert Florey with continuity and dialogue credited by Reginald Owen himself.

The story opens at Victoria Station, London (with a light post and car indicating a modern setting for one brief scene), where two cleaning ladies, having difficulty opening the door to a compartment, get Mr. Partrudge, a porter, to look into the matter. Observing from the outside window, he and another porter find its passenger, James Murphy, dead. After a coded newspaper clipping "6, 9, 3, 7, 13, 7, Scarlet 23, 4, 7, Limehouse M," is shown on screen from the Daily Telegraph, the following segment shows a secret meeting presided by Thaddeus Merrydew (Alan Dinehart), a crooked lawyer and legal representative of a mysterious organization called The Scarlet Ring. In attendance are Jabez Wilson (J.M. Kerrigan), William Baker (Cecil Reynolds), Malcolm Dearing (Halliwell Hobbs), Captain Pike (Wyndham Standing), Ah Yet (Tetsu Komai), and Eileen Forrester (June Clyde), engaged to John Stanford (John Warburton), and daughter of one of the recently deceased members, where Merrydew, explains in the event of a member's death, the estate is left to the survivors and divided evenly. Three days later, Sherlock Holmes (Reginald Owen) and his assistant, Doctor Watson (Warburton Gamble) of 221-A Baker Street, are visited by Murphy's widow, Annabella Mary (Doris Lloyd), a pub owner, explaining how she's been cheated of her late husband's fortune left to the organization. Holmes, suspecting foul play in Murphy's murder, takes the case that allows him the opportunity to further investigate Merrydew, whom Holmes describes as "king of blackmailers," "the most dangerous crook" and "a slimy, venomous snake." During the investigation of a study in scarlet, more murders occur, all with little rhyme notes found as possible clues. With further assistance of Inspector Lestrade (Alan Mowbray), Holmes encounters another suspect, Mrs. Pyke (Anna May Wong), a Chinese widow with a mysterious past.

Slow moving and virtually score-less, A STUDY IN SCARLET offers several scenes worth noting. If the murdering notes ("Six little black boys playing with a dive. A bumble bee stung one, and there were five," "Five little black boys going in for law, one cut a chancery, and then there were four," "Four little black boys going out to tea, a red herring swallowed one, and then there were three," "Three little black boys walking in the zoo. The big bear hugged one, and then there were two," etc.) sound familiar, then look no further to what eventually became "And Then There Were None" (published 1939-40), a classic novel by Agatha Christie. Slight difference, Black Boys was changed to Little Indians. Could it be that Christie had seen this movie and lifted some material for her novel? Another interesting factor found in A STUDY IN SCARLET is how the camera becomes the subject matter with Merrydew looking directly and talking into it, without revealing the identity of that person. This visual style is most identified to 1940s film noir mysteries, notably LADY IN THE LAKE (MGM, 1946) and DARK PASSAGE (WB, 1947), though done earlier in A FAREWELL TO ARMS (Paramount, 1932), which makes one wonder which film and director originated that visual style.

With limited byplay between Holmes and Watson, this edition is very much Holmes indeed, crime solver. Though he does take time to disguise himself at one point, it's not much of a disguise. Other members in the cast include Leila Bennett (Daft Dolly, credited as Daffy Dolly); Hobart Cavanaugh (The Bartender); and Tempe Piggot (Mrs. Hudson, famously played by Mary Gordon in the Rathbone series).

Acceptable adaptation that's become a curio to film buffs. Frequently presented on television starting in the late 1970s, A STUDY IN SCARLET, available on video and DVD formats, often played on Arts and Entertainment Cable television before turning up on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: June 5, 2008). For anyone interested in learning more about Doyle's actual "A Study in Scarlet" novel, read the book. (**)

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