Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
March 31
March 31, 1939
The Hound of Baskervilles Released

While the character of Sherlock Holmes had been around in books and plays for decades, few had gotten to see him speak in the movies until 20th Century Fox released their 1939 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles (directed by Sidney Lanfield and staring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce). The novel about a mythological hound roaming the moors, killing those who wandered off the path, was first published in serial form in 1901, and soon staged as a play and adapted into a number of silent films both in Germany and England. Fox originally intended the film to be a single production, featuring the actor Richard Greene more prominently on marketing materials than either Holmes or Watson, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce respectively. But the film was so popular that soon Fox was making two Sherlock Holmes films a year, with Rathbone and Bruce appearing in 14 films between 1939 and 1946, as well as in a number of radio plays. And while the first two were set in the Victorian England of Holmes, the other films were updated to provide propaganda for the Allied war effort. Rathbone later cited The Hound of Baskervilles as his favorite, but went on to lament the role as a whole. “By the time we turned out Dressed to Kill (1946), I was thoroughly bored. Not only were the scripts limited and uninspiring, I didn’t really like the character." Nor did he, as he explained in his memoirs, Basil Rathbone: In and Out of Character, much enjoy “the familiar street corner greeting of recognition, which is inevitably followed by horrendous imitations of my speech, loud laughter, and ridiculing quotes of famous line, such as 'Quick, Watson, the needle'”––a line that ends The Hound of the Baskervilles.


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Heathers March 31, 1988
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