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Sherlock Holmes (1954 TV series)

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Title: Sherlock Holmes (1954 TV series)  
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Sherlock Holmes (1954 TV series)

Sherlock Holmes
Starring Ronald Howard
Howard Marion Crawford
Archie Duncan
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 39 Episode list
Executive producer(s) Sheldon Reynolds
Running time 30 min.
Original airing October 18, 1954

The first (and only until 2012's Elementary) American television series of Sherlock Holmes adventures[1] aired in syndication in the fall of 1954. The 39 half-hour mostly original stories were produced by Sheldon Reynolds[1] and filmed in France by Guild Films, starring Ronald Howard (son of Leslie Howard) as Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as Watson. Archie Duncan appeared in many episodes as Inspector Lestrade (and in a few as other characters). Richard Larke, billed as Kenneth Richards, played Sgt. Wilkins in about fifteen episodes. The series' associate producer, Nicole Milinaire, was one of the first women to attain a senior production role in a television series.[2]


Sheldon Reynolds had been successful with his 1951 European-made series Foreign Intrigue[1] (in 1956 he directed a movie with the same title starring Robert Mitchum) and decided a Sherlock Holmes series made in France for the American syndication market might also be successful.[1]

Reynolds contacted the Doyle family and began his research into producing a Holmesian television series.[3]


Reynolds desired to present the Holmes of A Study in Scarlet.

I was suddenly stuck by the difference between the character in that book and that of the stage and screen. Here, Holmes was a young man in his thirties, human, gifted, and of a philosophic and scholastic bent, but subject to fateful mistakes which stemmed from his overeagerness and lack of experience.[1]
In early stories like that one, Conan Doyle had not yet grown tired of his character, who later became a literary monster for him. And, as literature, the earlier stories are far better. But practically every stage and screen presentation of the detective is based on the later stories.[3]

Ronald Howard, then 36,[1] was chosen to portray Sherlock Holmes. Howard shared Reynolds's view of Holmes[3] and his portrayal was much more laid back than the more famous version portrayed by Basil Rathbone.[1]

In my interpretation, Holmes is not an infallible, eagle-eyed, out-of-the-ordinary personality, but an exceptionally sincere young man trying to get ahead in his profession. Where Basil Rathbone's Holmes was nervous and highly-strung, mine has a more ascetic quality, is deliberate, very definitely unbohemian, and is underplayed for reality.[2]

Howard Marion Crawford, credited as H. Marion Crawford, was cast as Watson and it was a role Crawford had long wanted to play.[2] Crawford desired to play Watson as something other than the buffoon as typified by Nigel Bruce's portrayal.[4]

I had never thought of Watson as the perennial brainless bungler who provided burlesque relief in the earlier portrayals. He is a normal man, solid on his feet, a medical student who gives valuable advice.... In other words, he is a perfect foil to Holmes' youthful buoyancy.[2]

Scottish actor Archie Duncan was cast as Inspector Lestrade. Much akin to Dennis Hoey in the Rathbone/Bruce series of films, Duncan's Lestrade was used as comic relief.[1]

Besides the three principals (Howard, Crawford and Duncan), a number of actors appeared regularly in the series, including French-born Eugene Deckers, who played no fewer than seven different characters, including both victims and villains. The most famous actor to appear as a guest was Paulette Goddard, but others who would gain fame or near-fame in the future included Delphine Seyrig, Michael Gough, Dawn Addams, Mary Sinclair, and Natalie Schafer. Barry Mackay, whose career was nearing its end, also appeared in one episode: "The Case of the Laughing Mummy".


Several sets were built in Paris for the street outside 221B Baker Street and the flat itself, both of which were designed by Michael Weight,[2] the same man who built the Festival of Britain 221B exhibit.[1] There were a number of other sets built for a variety of locations and then redressed as necessary (homes, Scotland Yard, shops, parks, offices, etc.).

There was very little location work and most of the series was filmed in the studio with many stock shots of carriages on London Bridge and near Big Ben, giving the impression of London. However, on a few occasions, such as "The Case of the Eiffel Tower", the French filming locations were used. French actors were extensively used in small parts and several affected English accents with varying levels of success.

Although only 39 episodes were syndicated, a second season of 39 episodes was scheduled to begin production in June 1955.[5]

Many of the episodes were directed by Steve Previn,[1] the brother of composer André Previn.

In 1980, Reynolds produced a second Sherlock Holmes TV series, entitled Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Many of the 1954 TV episodes were remade in the second series.

Source material

Most of the show's 39 episodes are non-Canonical original adventures, but a few are directly based on Arthur Conan Doyle's stories: "The Case of the French Interpreter" (based on "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter"), "The Case of the Pennsylvania Gun" (based on The Valley of Fear), "The Case of the Shoeless Engineer" (based on "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"), and "The Case of the Red-Headed League" (based on the "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League").[1] The first episode, "The Case of the Cunningham Heritage," adapts the first section of A Study in Scarlet, in which Holmes and Watson's relationship is established, and develops an original story from there.[1]

Several other episodes are identified by Alan Barnes in his book Sherlock Holmes On Screen: The Complete Film and TV History as being loosely inspired by other Doyle tales: "The Case of Lady Beryl" by "The Adventure of the Second Stain," "The Case of the Exhumed Client" by "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," "The Case of the Diamond Tooth" by "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," "The Case of the Winthrop Legend" by "The Five Orange Pips," "The Case of the Violent Suitor" by "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," and "The Case of the Christmas Pudding" by "The Adventure of the Empty House" and "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone".[1]


Title Directed by: Written by: Original air date
1 "The Case of the Cunningham Heritage" Jack Gage Sheldon Reynolds 18 October 1954 (1954-10-18)
After his return from Afghanistan, Dr. Watson meets Sherlock Holmes and is recruited as his assistant. Together they investigate a murder, with a young lady as the prime suspect. Holmes finds the real murderer and learns his motive.
2 "The Case of Lady Beryl" Jack Gage Sheldon Reynolds 25 October 1954 (1954-10-25)
Inspector Lestrade and Dr. Watson investigate a murder at the Beryl residence, but to their surprise get a confession from Lady Beryl, which Holmes does not credit. Holmes recreates the crime scene to expose the actual murderer.
3 "The Case of the Pennsylvania Gun" Sheldon Reynolds Sheldon Reynolds 1 November 1954 (1954-11-01)
Watson and Holmes go to Sussex to investigate the gruesome death of Squire John Douglas; the weapon was a Pennsylvania sawed-off shotgun. Mr. Morell and Mrs. Douglas are suspected, but Holmes finds out John Douglas was not murdered. Based on The Valley of Fear.
4 "The Case of the Texas Cowgirl" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
8 November 1954 (1954-11-08)
Minnie O'Malley, a cowgirl in Bison Jack's visiting rodeo show, seeks help from Holmes to remove a dead body from her hotel room. Inspector Lestrade identifies it as a known thief, and Holmes unmasks the suspect.
5 "The Case of the Belligerent Ghost" Sheldon Reynolds Charles Early 15 November 1954 (1954-11-15)
Dr. Watson claims to have been attacked by the ghost of Albert Higgins. Holmes finds a link to the theft of the Blue Madonna in the Pembroke museum, which has been exchanged for a forgery.
6 "The Case of the Shy Ballerina" Sheldon Reynolds Charles Early,
Sheldon Reynolds
22 November 1954 (1954-11-22)

Dr Watson's hat is found at the scene of a murder, leading Lestrade to suspect him of having killed a diplomat lately returned from Saint Petersburg. A Russian ballet dancer and a composer are also suspects, but Holmes unmasks the real murderer.

Natalie Schafer, known for her later TV role as Mrs. Howell in Gilligan's Island, plays the late diplomat's wife.
7 "The Case of the Winthrop Legend" Jack Gage Harold Jack Bloom,
Sheldon Reynolds
29 November 1954 (1954-11-29)
Harvey Winthrop asks Holmes to help him prevent his brother's potential death, but Holmes is unsuccessful in this and comes to suspect Harvey's fiancée.
8 "The Case of the Blind Man's Bluff" Sheldon Reynolds Lou Morheim,
Sheldon Reynolds
6 December 1954 (1954-12-06)
Holmes investigates murders, marked by the prior warning of a chicken claw, of those who had boarded the ship Gloria North.
9 "The Case of Harry Crocker" Sheldon Reynolds Harold Jack Bloom 13 December 1954 (1954-12-13)
Escape artist Harry Crocker begs Holmes to help clear his name of a murder he didn't do, although clues seem to point to him. The murderer is revealed to have been jealous of the victim's relationship with Harry.
10 "The Mother Hubbard Case" Jack Gage Lou Morheim 20 December 1954 (1954-12-20)
Holmes tries to seek Margaret Martini's fiancé in a story connected with seven other disappearances. Every man has been killed inside an empty house. Holmes uncovers the murderer's identity and motive.
11 "The Red-Headed League" Sheldon Reynolds Lou Morheim 27 December 1954 (1954-12-27)
The story is a simplified version of The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, but Wilson is a shop-owner rather than a pawnbroker.
12 "The Case of the Shoeless Engineer" Steve Previn Harold Jack Bloom 3 January 1955 (1955-01-03)
The story follows that of "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb," but Hatherley loses a shoe rather than his thumb and escapes with the aid of the woman, Ruth Connors. Two co-conspirators are captured by Lestrade, with the assistance of Holmes.
13 "The Case of the Split Ticket" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 10 January 1955 (1955-01-10)
A man asks Holmes to help him find his friend, Mr. Snow, to get the last piece of a sweepstake ticket. Mr. Snow is apparently killed, but Holmes uncovers a fraud.
14 "The Case of the French Interpreter" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 17 January 1955 (1955-01-17)
A simplified version of The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, but the captive survives and Mycroft is not present.
15 "The Case of the Singing Violin" Steve Previn Kay Krausse 24 January 1955 (1955-01-24)
Guy Durham, a rich tea and spice merchant, frightens his step-daughter Betty with ghostly violin music so that she can be declared insane and he can acquire her fortune. Holmes intervenes to prevent her murder and Lestrade arrests the perpetrator, who also murdered the girl's fiancé, James Winant.
16 "The Case of the Greystone Inscription" Steve Previn George Fass,
Gertrude Fass
31 January 1955 (1955-01-31)
Ms. Millicent requests Holmes to find her fiancé, missing from Greystone Castle. Holmes assists in finding the location of King Richard II's possessions and gets a family to surrender.
17 "The Case of the Laughing Mummy" Sheldon Reynolds Charles Early 7 February 1955 (1955-02-07)
Holmes and Watson visit a country manor to see an ancient Egyptian mummy that allegedly makes strange laughing sounds, but Holmes deduces that the sound comes from elsewhere. Holmes further identifies the supposed mummy as the body of a latter-day archaeologist.
18 "The Case of the Thistle Killer" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
14 February 1955 (1955-02-14)
Lestrade is instructed to recruit Holmes to help find the Thistle Killer after the sixth murder. The police make preparations to catch the killer at Xerxes Park, where Holmes finds him in a surprising disguise.
19 "The Case of the Vanished Detective" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
21 February 1955 (1955-02-21)
Dr. Watson is worried at the long, unexplained absence of Holmes, and he persuades Lestrade to help locate him. Holmes was in fact working undercover as a shopkeeper in order to catch Carson, an escaped convict. The trail leads to retired judge Jeremiah Westlake, who had originally sentenced Carson.
20 "The Case of the Careless Suffragette" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
28 February 1955 (1955-02-28)
Holmes gets involved with a persistent suffragette, and an anarchist makes a bomb, which kills Pimpleton, a parliament official. Scotland Yard, guided by Holmes, finds the murderer.
21 "The Case of the Reluctant Carpenter" Steve Previn Sidney Morse,
Sheldon Reynolds
7 March 1955 (1955-03-07)
An arsonist/blackmailer, mistaking Lestrade for Holmes, threatens to continue a series of bombings unless he is paid thousands in extortion money. Using crude forensics, Holmes learns the site of the next bombing and removes the bomb from the Knightsbridge armoury with seconds to spare.
22 "The Case of the Deadly Prophecy" Sheldon Reynolds George Fass,
Gertrude Fass
14 March 1955 (1955-03-14)
Holmes investigates a school for boys to find a connection to the deaths of people that had been predicted by Anton, in a plot that involves hypnosis and blackmail.
23 "The Case of the Christmas Pudding" Steve Previn George Fass,
Gertrude Fass
4 April 1955 (1955-04-04)
John Norton, convicted of murder, swears vengeance on Holmes before his execution. Norton receives a Christmas pudding and escapes. After evading his revenge attempt, Holmes tries to find his accomplice.
24 "The Case of the Night Train Riddle" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 11 April 1955 (1955-04-11)
Holmes and Dr. Watson search for a missing boy called Paul on the train they are travelling in. Paul had quarrelled with his father and decided to run away. Holmes is able to prevent Paul, being held for his father's fortune, from being killed.
25 "The Case of the Violent Suitor" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 18 April 1955 (1955-04-18)
Alex Dougall comes to Holmes to help prevent a marriage between violent-tempered Jack Murdock and Susan Dearing, daughter of a murder victim. Holmes secures a confession and learns the identity of the murderer.
26 "The Case of the Baker Street Nursemaids" Sheldon Reynolds Sheldon Reynolds,
Joseph Victor
25 April 1955 (1955-04-25)
Holmes receives a baby from Mrs. Durant after her husband is kidnapped. Later, the baby is also kidnapped. Holmes and Dr. Watson manage to infiltrate the home of the culprit, who wants Mr. Durant's U-boat plans, and they rescue the Durant family.
27 "The Case of the Perfect Husband" Steve Previn Hamilton Keener 2 May 1955 (1955-05-02)
Russell Partridge, a rich and respectable art collector, threatens to kill his wife at nine o'clock on their first wedding anniversary. She doesn't know if she believes him, and Lestrade doesn't either. Holmes takes the threat seriously and is able to thwart an attempt on her life. He also makes a gruesome discovery in a secret hiding place.
28 "The Case of the Jolly Hangman" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
9 May 1955 (1955-05-09)
Holmes investigates a suicide, which is shown to be a covered-up murder in Glasgow leading to a suspect who poses under another name. Before he can murder the victim's wife as well, Holmes shows up.
29 "The Case of the Impostor Mystery" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 19 May 1955 (1955-05-19)
Holmes is blamed for faulty services which he didn't actually offer. To catch the imposter, Holmes and Dr. Watson go undercover as maharajas seeking security. Lestrade and his men chase, expose and arrest the imposter.
30 "The Case of the Eiffel Tower" Steve Previn Roger E. Garris 23 May 1955 (1955-05-23)
Holmes, Lestrade and Dr. Watson follow a trail to the Eiffel Tower, crossing an espionage team who seek the coin they'd had but lost to a lady. Once they track the coin down, they provoke a riot to summon the police.
31 "The Case of the Exhumed Client" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
30 May 1955 (1955-05-30)
Holmes goes to a manor to investigate the murder of Sir Charles, presumably at the hands of an heir. In a story also involving a legend of the tower room, Holmes avoids death and keeps the occupants in suspense, then divulges the actual killer.
32 "The Case of the Impromptu Performance" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 6 June 1955 (1955-06-06)
Holmes investigates the murder of Mrs. Brighton to prove her husband's innocence. With little time to lose, he and Dr. Watson quickly follow the trail to uncover the murderer.
33 "The Case of the Baker Street Bachelors" Steve Previn Roger E. Garris,
Joseph Victor
20 June 1955 (1955-06-20)
A politician named Jeffrey asks Holmes to clear his name from a fight he didn't take part in. Holmes and Dr. Watson go to the marriage bureau to bait a trap for their suspects, and reveals their blackmailing activities.
34 "The Case of the Royal Murder" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
27 June 1955 (1955-06-27)
Holmes and Watson, guests at the hunting lodge of an unnamed Central European king, witness a murder. They are able to expose the culprit and avoid a war.
35 "The Case of the Haunted Gainsborough" Steve Previn Charles Early,
Joseph Early
4 July 1955 (1955-07-04)
Mr. McGregor seeks Holmes's help in solving a mystery of an apparent ghost.
36 "The Case of the Neurotic Detective" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 11 July 1955 (1955-07-11)
Multiple thefts have occurred without a trace of the perpetrator, and Holmes is becoming eccentric, while Dr. Watson becomes suspicious of his activities.
37 "The Case of the Unlucky Gambler" Steve Previn Lou Morheim 18 July 1955 (1955-07-18)
A boy, Robert, asks Holmes to find his missing father, who had turned to gambling. Holmes gets the attention of a man named Jack Driscoll and tracks down the father, Mr. Fenech.
38 "The Case of the Diamond Tooth" Sheldon Reynolds George Fass,
Gertrude Fass
19 September 1955 (1955-09-19)
Lestrade investigates a murder — which, Holmes finds, has a link to a diamond tooth. Dr. Watson and Holmes search a shipping dock in disguise to meet the murderer, who had used a boa constrictor to kill Vagos.
39 "The Case of the Tyrant's Daughter" Steve Previn Roger E. Garris 17 October 1955 (1955-10-17)
Holmes thoroughly investigates the apparent murder of Hammingway in order to save the life of the accused, Mr. Vernon, the fiancé of his step-daughter.


When the series debuted, it was a hit. This Week declared "You won't want to miss this 4-star video event."[6] Variety reviewed the series on October 20, 1954 and called the show "a winner that avoids the customary cliches that seem inevitable in any treatment of the Conan Doyle stories."[6]

The series was voted Best New Mystery in the non-network film series division in Billboard's 3rd Annual TV Film Program and Talent Awards, based on an "all-industry vote".[7]

DVD release

In 2005, Mill Creek Entertainment released Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Series, a three-disc DVD set featuring all 39 episodes of the series. In 2010, Mill Creek released Sherlock Holmes: Greatest Mysteries, a five-disc DVD set featuring all 39 episodes plus eight unrelated Holmes films: The Sign of Four (1932), A Study in Scarlet (1933), The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935), Murder at the Baskervilles (1937), Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943), The Woman in Green (1945), Terror by Night (1946), and Dressed to Kill (1946). On March 9, 2010, Allegro/Pop Flix released "Classic TV Sherlock Holmes Collection", a four-disc DVD set featuring all 39 episodes of the series. As of 2012, the series has been released on DVD by Mill Creek yet again, this time under the title of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The Mill Creek DVD releases feature short introductions by Christopher Lee, taken from the 1985 documentary The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Alan Barnes, Sherlock Holmes On Screen: The Complete Film and TV History, Titan Books, Third Edition, January 31, 2012, ISBN 978-0-85768-776-0, page 180-185
  2. ^ a b c d e  
  3. ^ a b c  
  4. ^ Matthew E. Bunson (1997). Encyclopedia Sherlockiana.  
  5. ^ "'"Reynolds Sets 39 'Holmes. Billboard (Billboard Publishing Company). May 28, 1955. p. 32. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ "The Billboard's 3d Annual TV Film Program and Talent Awards". Billboard (Billboard Publishing Company). August 6, 1955. p. 5. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 

External links

  • Sherlock Holmes at the Internet Movie Database
  • Sherlock Holmes at
  • Sherlock Holmes at
  • Internet Archive links:
  • Michael's Movie Mayhem "Sherlock Holmes Collection (Pop Flix)"
  • "Classic TV Sherlock Holmes Collection" Popflix, viewable on YouTube
  • Sherlock Holmes page of Ronald Howard website
  • Mr. Howard's reflections on the program
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