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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?


Although "Elementary, my dear Watson" was never uttered in the original stories, Holmes does say, "Interesting though elementary" in the opening chapter of "The Hound of the Baskervilles". See more »


When Holmes is searching Moriarty's office as he crosses to turn on a light the wire from his lantern is visible. See more »


Sherlock Holmes: The nose of the police dog, although long and efficient, points in only one direction at a time.
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 »


Referenced in G-Man Jitters (1939) 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

Showdown between Geniuses.
2 January 2006 | by CoventrySee all my reviews

Every great hero needs at least one arch enemy that nearly is his equivalent in intellectual faculties and ingenious working methods. For Sherlock Holmes this nemesis is Professor Moriarty and the fact that he appears in this film first, moreover portrayed by the more-than-brilliant cult star George Zucco, makes "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" maybe the single best entry in the long-running Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movie cycle! The sublime interactions between Holmes and Moriarty lift the quality of this film up to an higher level and, for the first time ever, you get the impression that our master detective is up against an opponent who really forces him to use ALL of his intellect for once. Almost purely for the fun of it, Professor Moriarty decides to embarrass Sherlock Holmes and steal the hugely valuable crown jewels right from under his nose. Through well thought out red herrings and distractions, Moriarty manages to confuse Holmes and to mess up his sense for priority, giving him with a perfect opportunity to steal the jewels. This installment is less of a horror film because the emphasis merely lies on the nuanced acting performances as well as on the light-hearted rivalry between Holmes and Watson. The Victorian setting & timing is excellent, and you should enjoy it as much as you can here, because the series got uplifted to the actual 1940's after this, resulting in a lot of redundant wartime propaganda. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are splendid as usual, but the show is undeniably stolen by George Zucco in his familiar role of criminal mastermind. Particularly the sadistic yet sophisticated conversations with his butler are pure class. The only elements that slightly disappointed me was the rushed and action-packed ending which stands in contrast with the rest of the patiently scripted story. Nevertheless, highly recommended!

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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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