Friday, November 12, 2021

THE DISTRACTION BLOGATHON: Sherlock Holmes in Washington, 1943

 

Rebecca Deniston of Taking Up Room is hosting The Distraction Blogathon from November 12th to 14th. Join the fun HEREBlogathon Wrapup

Rebecca's blogathon mandate: "MacGuffin's. Red herrings. Dangling carrots. Bait and switch. Whatever. We all know how movies mess with our heads."


My contribution to the blogathon includes both a distraction and a MacGuffin.


Basil Rathbone

Putting the distraction in The Distraction Blogathon is Basil's "do" as Sherlock Holmes. It is not the first time he has startled us in this way but, thankfully, it will be the last.

Gerald Hamer

Meet John Grayson, an unassuming law clerk who is in actuality Alfred Pettibone, secret agent. He is transporting vital information from the U.K. to the American government. He and the document are in danger.

Marjorie Lord, Thurston Hall, Gerald Hamer, Clarence Muse

Onboard the train from NYC to Washington, Nancy Partridge innocently asks for a light and gets more than she bargained for as Agent Pettibone slips his matchbook, which is more than a matchbook into her handbag. 

Clarence Muse, Marjorie Lord, John Archer

At the journey's end, Nancy meets her fiance Lt. Merriam. In three days' time (he only has a three-day pass), the happy couple will be married.

Gerald Hamer

While the happy couple celebrates, our brave Pettibone is whisked away by enemy spies. The agent is doomed.

Basil Rathbone, Holmes Herbert

MacGuffin: "The thing that the spies are after but the audience don't care about."

- Alfred Hitchcock

Mr. Ahrens from the Home Office: "Grayson was carrying a document of a very confidential nature. Its contents are of such grave international importance that I am not at liberty to reveal them. But if that document falls into the hands of the --- I can only say that it would be absolutely disastrous for this government and our allies." If that doesn't spell "MacGuffin", I don't know what does!

Nigel Bruce, Basil Rathbone

Prior to leaving for America to join the FBI in the case of the kidnapped agent, Holmes and Watson search the agent's home. Holmes determines the brilliant Pettibone has reduced the bulky document to microfilm, and its hiding place in a V for Victory matchbook. Aha! We know that matchbook is currently in the possession of Washington socialite Nancy Patridge.

Gavin Muir, Basil Rathbone, Clarence Muse

Sherlock Holmes questions the porter on the train during the fateful trip. He learns of the people with whom Pettibone came in contact, including a senator, a woman with a book, a woman with pet mice, and a woman who asked for a light. He learns of an upcoming wedding and the fact that the spies have not yet recovered the document.

Basil Rathbone

Holmes avails himself of the FBI laboratory discovering much that the FBI lab man overlooked. Vital clues are now forming his hypothesis. Note: Holmes has yet to look in a mirror.

Marjorie Lord

Thanks to the fluff part of the newspaper, i.e., the society news, Holmes now knows where to find the engaged couple. Unfortunately, so do the spies!

George Zucco

The mysterious head of the spy ring knows not what he holds in his hand. That which he seeks is his.

Marjorie Lord

When the kidnapped socialite Nancy Partridge clues into the importance of the matchbook, she bravely keeps silent in spite of threats and violence. Will rescue come in time?

George Zucco

Holmes, through cleverness and disguise, confronts international spy (since the days of the Kaiser) Heinrich Hinkle, known for many years in Washington as antique dealer Richard Stanley.

Basil Rathbone, Marjorie Lord

The gags and makeshift handcuffs indicate that Holmes' rescue attempt goes awry. However, he had the forethought to send Watson for the FBI and a dramatic shootout ensues during which Hinkle escapes with Holmes in pursuit. 

Edmund MacDonald, George Zucco, Nigel Bruce

Hinkle faces the ignominy of capture - and that's not all.

Basil Rathbone

Sherlock Holmes serves up the microfilm as a coup de grace. He's allowed the brag. After all, he broke the case.

Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce

Holmes quotes Winston Church to conclude this picture. After all, it is 1942 and a little "hands across the sea" bonding keeps up morale when you are fighting Nazis.

Of note:


Our romantic subplot leads Marjorie Lord and John Archer were married from 1941 to 1953 and were the parents of actress Anne Archer.

George Zucco

Hinkle/Stanley in Sherlock Holmes in Washington is played by George Zucco, who is my favourite Moriarty in the series, having played him in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1939.

Henry Daniell

Henry Daniell is in Sherlock Holmes in Washington as William Easter, Hinkle's top henchman. He had played a British politician in The Voice of Terror, also 1942, and would later play Professor Moriarty in The Woman in Green, 1945.

Gerald Hamer

Gerald Hamer, Pettibone in Sherlock Holmes in Washington is pictured above as he appeared in the outstanding Holmes picture The Scarlet Claw, 1944. See also Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, 1943, Pursuit to Algiers, 1945, and Terror by Night, 1946.

Ian Wolfe, Basil Rathbone

Sherlock Holmes in Washington was the first of four Holmes pictures for Ian Wolfe followed by The Scarlet Claw and The Pearl of Death in 1944 and Dressed to Kill in 1946.












28 comments:

  1. Though wartime adventures in D.C. are always interesting to me, I confess, the Sherlock Holmes adventures beyond Victorian England always seemed a little jarring to me. However, if Tarzan could fight Nazis, I suppose it's a good thing the Allies had such a talented team on our bench.

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    1. I'm an easy sell. After all, who better than Holmes to fight the great evil?

      After The Scarlet Claw, Holmes quotes Churchill about Canada being the lynchpin between the U.S. and Britain. I call it the "Canada - the missing link" speech. I crack me up.

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  2. Great review. Basil Rathbone will always be the Best Sherlock Holmes, and Nigel Bruce the best Dr Watson. Its elementary.

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    1. Thanks. This was a fun post to write.

      For many of us, they were an introduction to the characters and if they didn't hold up and set a standard the world would be bereft of Holmes fans, and we know it is not.

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  3. I am weirdly intrigued by this, and may have to hunt it down. I like Rathbone as Holmes, and I'm fine with Holmes getting transported into different eras... but that hair. Very odd. Hmm. Still, I love WWII-era stories, so yeah, if I happen on this, I will watch it!

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    1. The movie is a lot of fun with that talented cast of familiar faces, plus the hair-do that must be seen!

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  4. Just what ideas were in the head of the hairstylist who combed and sprayed Rathbone's 'do? A case that not even the intrepid Holmes could crack!

    I agree with your Moriarty assessment, that George Zucco, one of my all-time faves, was the best at playing this super-villain. Though I will also tip my hat to fellow Moriarty enablers Henry Daniell and Lionel Atwill. What riches in character actors the old studios had!

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    1. Indeed. So many versatile character actors must have been a boon to the casting director, but also a headache. "That guy/gal can play anything! Where will we put them?"

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  5. It's an interesting message that for all of the FBI's vaunted technologies and crime labs, Sherlock Holmes still has a thing or two to teach them about old fashioned deduction. I think this was the last Rathbone Holmes movie I saw, but it's been years. I remember it being a bit dull, but then it has two of my favorite B movie villains, George Zucco and Henry Daniell.

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    1. True. The excitement quotient is not particularly ramped up in this adventure but the chance to see those always welcome familiar faces is great compensation. We can always spare an hour or so with old friends.

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  6. You're right about that hair – it would very distracting in the movie. However, Basil R. is so good, I suppose a person can overlook the 'do.

    At any rate, I always enjoy watching or reading about Holmes at work, and this sounds like one I need to catch up on soon.

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    1. It is very satisfying to see Holmes bring down Nazis. It is also very frustrating wanting to take a brush to his hairdo!

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  7. Wow! I had no idea Holmes ventured outside of Victorian England to do what he does best. I can always count on you to enlighten me, dear Paddy.

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    1. When Universal took over the series I imagine they took Holmes to the contemporary world for the sake of the budget. The character works anywhere you drop him, especially as played by Basil Rathbone. Most of the movies are available on YouTube and are great fun.

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  8. Plotwise, it's not among my favorite Basil Rathbone Holmes films. However, I love the cast, especially Zucco and Atwill--two of the best villains produced by Hollywood. Basil's hair is indeed a distraction!

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    1. It is not a go-to entry in the series, but does have its fun points, especially the cast. Plus, for me, it worked perfectly for this blogathon.

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  9. I've mentioned these two movies before. I saw BASIL RATHBONE in HEARTBEAT with GINGER ROGERS. I also saw him in THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI with TOMMY KIRK and DEBORAH WALLEY. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Basil certainly had a long and varied career. And fans from many generations. I admire him greatly.

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  10. According to wiki NIGEL BRUCE was in the two MRS. CARROLLS with HUMPHREY BOGART and BARBARA STANWYCK. I haven't seen this movie. How would you rate it as a Stanwyck movie? CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. I find The Two Mrs. Carrolls a so-so movie. It's not one I am anxious to see a second time.

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  11. I meant to type THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Often my fingers get ahead of my thinking. That's the trouble with us really good typists.

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  12. THIS is how you bring Sherlock Holmes into the present day--it looks like Mission: Impossible. And I have to agree about Rathbone's hair. Thanks again for joining the blogathon with this great review--it's a pleasure as always. :-)

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    1. It does rather have the Mission Impossible vibe. The next time I watch this I'll have Lalo Schrifin's theme playing in the background.

      Thanks for hosting and getting us all to consider the mandate.

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  13. So, I thought the hair-do was all about Basil being in a Sid Caesar look-alike contest.

    I'm sorry...I'll stick to sports from now on :)

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    1. Ha-ha-ha-hee-hee-hee. Now, we need Carl Reiner as Hinkel, Howard Morris as Pettibone, and Imogene Coca as the socialite.

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