Hound of the Baskervilles 1939


The Hound of the Baskervilles 1939 mystery film based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is directed by Sidney Lanfield and produced by 20th Century Fox.

It is the most well-known cinematic adaptation of the book, and is often regarded as one of the better, though very inaccurate, films.

The film stars Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson and Richard Greene as Henry Baskerville. Because the studio apparently had no idea that the film would be such a hit, and that Rathbone and Bruce would make many more Sherlock Holmes films and be forever linked with Holmes and Watson, top billing went to Richard Greene, who was the film’s romantic lead. Rathbone was billed second. Wendy Barrie, who played Beryl Stapleton, the woman with whom Greene falls in love, received third billing, and Nigel Bruce, the film’s Dr. Watson, was billed fourth. In all other Holmes films, Rathbone and Bruce would receive first and second billing.

The Hound of the Baskervilles also marks the first of the fourteen Sherlock Holmes movies starring Rathbone and Bruce as the detective duo.

Trivia:

  • In the original novel, and in all later film versions, the butler is named Barrymore. In the 1939 version, this had to be changed to Barryman because the famous Barrymore family was still acting in films.
  • Publicity materials referred to the dog who played the title character as “Chief”. The dog’s actual name was “Blitzen” but this was thought to sound too German.
  • The original title “The Hound of the Baskervilles” refers to a dog that terrorizes a family called “Baskerville”. The German title “Der Hund Von Baskerville”, a mistranslation, refers to a hound, which just lives in “Baskerville”, a town, that does not play a role in the story.
  • After being out of circulation for many years, partly because of the 1959 Hammer remake in Technicolor starring Peter Cushing, this film was restored and re-released to theaters in 1975 with great fanfare, to the point of having the national evening news do a story on it. The film was shown at its full 80-minute length, and newspaper and magazine articles commented on the fact that the line “Oh, Watson, the needle!”, referring to Holmes’ cocaine habit (and usually misquoted as “Quick, Watson, the needle!”) was put back in after having been cut by the censors. As an added attraction, the studio added a rare sound film featurette which showed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books, talking about his creation.
  • The first Sherlock Holmes film of Basil Rathbone.
  • The first of fourteen films based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional consulting detective Sherlock Holmes starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson.
  • Beryl Mercer, who played the medium Jennifer Mortimer in the film, died less than three months after the film’s domestic release and before its international release.

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