Sherlock Holmes in Washington
1943, 71 minutes, b&w

If you can see past Holmes' ridiculous hairdo and Watson chewing gum, Sherlock Holmes in Washington is not a bad story, not bad at all. This is the third Rathbone/Bruce film dealing with spies during World War II, following The Voice of Terror and The Secret Weapon, and is not based on any Conan Doyle story. This time a German spy ring has kidnapped a British agent (Pettibone) who was carrying a secret document to Washington D.C. The British home office appeals to Holmes to recover the document before it falls into the wrong hands. This means a trip to Washington for Holmes and Watson. Before leaving England, however, they pay a visit to Pettibone's home, and there they find evidence that the document has been transferred to microfilm and hidden in an American matchbook. Holmes now has an advantage over the Germans, who don't know what form the document is in, and therefore don't know to look for a matchbook.


The bizarre, swept-forward hairdo is shown here.

Holmes and Watson find microfilm equipment in Pettibone's home.

Unable to find any trace of the secret document on Pettibone, the Germans kill him, stuff his body in a trunk, and deliver the trunk to Holmes in Washington. The Germans then turn their attention to the people with whom Pettibone mingled on the train from New York to Washington. Their logic is correct. Pettibone had lit a cigarette for a young woman (Nancy Partridge) and discreetly dropped the matchbook in her purse. The spies ransack the club car and find nothing.

Meanwhile, at an engagement party for Miss Partridge and her fiance, the matchbook is passed from one person to another, none of whom realizes what he is holding. By the time Holmes and Watson arrive at Miss Partridge's home, she has disappeared, having been kidnapped by the German spies. Holmes follows clues that lead him to an antique shop, owned by Richard Stanley (George Zucco). Stanley is in reality Heinrich Hinkle,  head of spy ring and transporter of secret intelligence.


Pettibone's body (inside a steamer trunk) is delivered to the hotel where Holmes and Watson are staying. They are shown here with Detective Lt. Grogan and Mr. Lang.

Holmes and Mrs. Partridge discover Lt. Merriam, not dead, but wounded.

In the antique shop, Holmes pretends to be an eccentric collector.

Holmes succeed in meeting his antagonist, Richard Stanley.

While Watson goes to fetch the police, Holmes attempts to rescue Miss Partridge. He allows himself to be captured by Stanley, whom he recognizes as the "head of the most insidious spy ring that ever existed." Holmes notices that Stanley has the matchbook in hand, unaware that it is anything other than an ordinary matchbook. Holmes says to Stanley that the man who has the document doesn't know it. Stanley mistakenly thinks Holmes is implying that Senator Babcock (another train passenger who spoke with Pettibone) has the document. Watson and the police arrive to save Holmes and Miss Partridge, and apprehend some of the spies, but in the ensuing fracas Stanley, with the matchbook in his pocket, escapes through a secret passageway.


Holmes warns Senator Babcock about Stanley.
 
Stanley pulls a gun on Holmes but doesn't realize that Holmes is holding the microfilm

Having correctly deduced that Stanley would head for Senator Babcock's office, Holmes meets him there and captures him. Holmes retrieves the matchbook and triumphantly pulls the microfilm out of the cover.

The final scene in the film is of Holmes and Watson driving down Pennsylvania Avenue, heading back to London. Holmes makes the usual patriotic speech, this one quoting Winston Churchill, from a speech he made in the U.S. Capitol:

"It is not given for us to peer into the mysteries of the future. But in the days to come, the British and American people for their own safety and the good of all will walk together in majesty and justice and in peace."

The role of Nancy Partridge was played by Marjorie Lord, who may be better remembered as Danny Thomas's wife in Make Room for Daddy. Excellent performances were given by the villains: George Zucco as Stanley and Henry Daniell as Easter. Both of these actors played Moriarty opposite Basil Rathbone: Zucco in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and Daniell in The Woman in Green. Rathbone gives his usual inspired performance, and is especially impressive as the eccentric collector in the antique shop. The original title of the film was Sherlock Holmes in the USA.


The microfilm!

Driving down Pennsylvania Avenue

 

See more pictures on Page Two and Page Three.

Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone ............. Sherlock Holmes Production Co. ............. Universal
Nigel Bruce ................... Dr. Watson   Producer ........................ Howard Benedict
Marjorie Lord ............ Nancy Partridge   Director ......................... Roy William Neill
Henry Daniell ............ William Easter   Screenplay .................... Bertram Millhauser
George Zucco .......... Stanley/Hinkle     and Lynn Riggs
John Archer .............. Lt. Peter Merriam   Cinematographer .......... Lester White
Gavin Muir ................ Bart Lang   Editor ............ Otto Ludwig
Edmund MacDonald ... Detective Lt. Grogan   Music Composer .......... Frank Skinner
Don Terry ................ Howe   Music Director .......... Charles Previn
Bradley Page ............. Cady   Art Director ............. Jack Otterson
Holmes Herbert .......... Mr. Ahrens      
Thurston Hall ............. Sen. Henry Babcock      
Gilbert Emery ............. Sir Henry Marchmont      
Gerald Hamer ............ John Grayson/ Alfred Pettibone      
Clarence Muse .......... George
Ian Wolfe ................. Antique Store Clerk      
Margaret Seddon ....... Miss Pringle      
Mary Forbes ..... Pettibone's mother      

.

Images on this page and pages 2 and 3 are from the film Sherlock Holmes in Washington.

Back to Sherlock Holmes films

Sherlock Holmes in Washington is available on DVD:

Click to order
DVD also available as part of The Sherlock Holmes Collection, Volume 1:

Click to order
blu ray

 

 

 

click to go to top of page
Top of
Page

Site Map

All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2012