The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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Overview | Significance | Background | Plot | Cast | Resources | Episodes

Overview

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939-1946) was an OTR crime and detective series following the cases of Sherlock Holmes, the most famous of all fictional detectives, and his assistant, Dr. John Watson.

Significance

Both crime and detective stories were popular Old Time Radio (OTR) genres from the 1940s-1950s. This popularity coincided with rising concerns for emerging criminal activities, especially organized crime, and containment efforts at all levels. Sherlock Holmes is the world's most famous detective and from 1930-1950, the deductive genius was the most revived character on several radio networks, and never off the air for more than three consecutive years. The The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with episodes adapted from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, are considered high points of radio drama and the most notable radio series about the famous detective.

Background

Sherlock Holmes, the detective famous for his deductive abilities, was created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beginning in 1887.

Conan Doyle's mastermind was brought to radio by Edith Meiser, a young writer who persuaded NBC to offer a series of dramas about Holmes she would adopt from Conan Doyle's original stories. The first episode was broadcast 20 October 1930. Success was immediate and the series remained on the air until 24 December 1936.

In 1939, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce began a series of Hollywood films also based on Conan Doyles stories. These films were made through 1946. Rathbone played Holmes; Bruce was Watson.

Based on their film success, Rathbone and Bruce were contracted by NBC to bring their characters to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the most notable of several radio revivals for the famous detective. The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ran for two hundred twenty episodes, 2 October 1939-27 May 1946.

Several actors portrayed the two principal parts: Holmes and his friend Dr. John H. Watson. Most notable was Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. Together they starred in two hundred twenty episodes of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 2 October 1939-27 May 1946.

Each episode began with an interesting narrative device. The series spokesperson, Knox Manning, Harry Bartell, or Joseph Bell, visited Watson, retired and living in California. Sitting by the fire, enjoying a glass of Petri wine (one of the series sponsors), Watson recalled an adventure with Holmes. Other characters sometimes contributed to the narrative, and Watson summarized or added tidbits at the end. He also talked about his dogs.

Plot

Sherlock Holmes, the detective's detective, uses his amazing powers of deduction to solve mysteries, murders, and other crimes. Dr. Watson chronicles Holmes exploits, and adds his own formidable intelligence to each case. Most all stories are narrated by Watson. Two are narrated by Holmes himself ("The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" and "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane").

Cast

Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone)
Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce)
Professor James Moriarty (Luis Hector)
Announcer (Knox Manning, Harry Bartell)
Producer (Harold Kemp and Russell Seeds)
Writers (Edith Meiser, Dennis Green, Bruce Taylor (pen name for Leslie
Charteris), Anthony Boucher)
Music (Lou Coslowe, Dean Fosler)
Supporting cast information here.

Resources

New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Episodes at Internet Archive website
Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website

Episodes

Totals

Total episodes: 220
Surviving episodes: 62 (7 incomplete)
Circulating episodes: 55 episodes circulate (53 complete; 2 incomplete)

Timeline

2 October 1939-27 May 1946
National Broadcasting System (NBC) and Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS)

Inventory

Information and description for each episode of the series. Learn more.

Exemplary Episodes

The first three known surviving episodes, and the last three surviving episodes.

  • Episode 6

    The Bruce Partington Plans
    Episode 6, 6 November 1939
    The first episode with Basil Rathbone. The body of a worker at the Woolwich arsenal, found by the side of a railroad track, provides the clue to missing secret submarine plans.
    Repeated as episode 93; 10 September 1943

  • Episode 26

    The Case of the Retired Coulorman
    Episode 26, 25 March 1940; available
    The story of a miser's wife and money that has mysteriously disappeared.
    Repeated as episode 92; 3 September 1943

  • Episode 28

    The Cooper Beeches
    Episode 28, 6 October 1940; available
    Holmes solves the strange mystery of the governess paid double wages to work for a couple in a rural setting. However, her suspicions are aroused when she is forced to cut off her beautiful hair. Why?
    Repeated as episode 75; 7 May 1943

  • Episode 218

    The Strange Adventure of the Uneasy Easy Chair
    Episode 218, 13 May 1946; available
    Holmes works on a murder in which the murder weapon is a diabolical chair. Inspector Lestrade has the last laugh! Based on "The Musgrave Ritual" by Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • Episode 219

    The Haunting of Sherlock Holmes
    Episode 219, 20 May 1946; available
    Holmes and Watson undertake the defense of a beautiful singer accused of espionage against the Balkan country of Grosnia. This is Holmes' first ghostly client! Joseph Kearnes plays Dr. Watson. Based on "The Sussex Vampire" by Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • Episode 220

    The Singular Affair of the Baconian Cipher
    Episode 220, 27 May 1946; available
    The final show of the season. The final episode with Basil Rathbone. A notice in an "agony column" leads Holmes to a crippled Shakespearean scholar and a case of murder. Based on "The Sign of Four" by Arthur Conan Doyle. Gale Gordon as "Gregory Hood" visits the program after the story to promote The Casebook of Gregory Hood which replaces The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes next week.