A Study in Scarlet – Reginald Owens’ 1933 Holmes Film

There were three big-screen Sherlock Holmes films in 1931: The Speckled Band (Raymond Massey), The Sleeping Cardinal (Arthur Wontner) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (Robert Rendel). Three more followed in 1932: The Missing Rembrandt and The Sign of Four (Arthur Wontner) and Sherlock Holmes (Clive Brook).

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Owen’s Watson with Brooks’ rather dashing Holmes

It was Brook’s second turn as Holmes and his Watson was Reginald Owen, who would achieve success as Ebenezer Scrooge. 1933 saw only one Holmes movie, and it was Own moving up to the deerstalker and Inverness in a version of A Study in Scarlet. Well, sort of.

Three of the seven members of ‘The Scarlet Ring’ have died and their share has gone to the surviving members. Another member dies and Holmes is on the case! One of the ring members has the Canonical name of Jabez Wilson, though with no ties to The Red Headed League.

Commentators have stated this movie is in the style of an Edgar Wallace mystery. It doesn’t feel very Holmesian, and it has nothing to do with the title story. Owen isn’t built like a typical Holmes, being rather rounded. To his credit, The New York Times said that he gave, “quite an effective performance.

ImageAnna Mae Wong plays the stereotypical sneaky Asian female. Alan Mowbary is the usual ineffective Lestrade. He had appeared with Owen in Brook’s Sherlock Holmes and would have a prominent part in Basil Rathbone’s Terror By Night. Mowbary carved out a long career in supporting roles, including The King and I and Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The first time I watched this film, I thought that it was pretty bad. The second time around, I viewed it as more of an Agatha Christie-style film than a Holmes movie and actually liked it a bit. The story resembles Christie’s And Then There Were None, which it precedes by six years.

Being a Holmes film in the pre-Rathbone days, it’s worth a watch.

And the DVD is available cheap. BTW, this post was prompted because Turner Classic Movies was showing this one on May 6 as part of their “Movies with Scarlet in the title day”.

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