The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939-1946) was an OTR crime and detective series following the cases of Sherlock Holmes, the most famous of all fictional detectives, and his assistant, Dr. John Watson. Holmes uses his amazing powers of deduction to solve mysteries, murders, and other crimes. Dr. Watson chronicles Holmes exploits, and adds his own formidable intelligence to each case. Most all stories are narrated by Watson. Two are narrated by Holmes himself ("The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" and "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane"). The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is significant because with episodes adapted from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, the series is considered a high point of radio drama and the most notable radio series about the famous detective.
Total Episodes: 220
Surviving Episodes: 62 (7 incomplete)
Circulating Episodes: 55 episodes circulate (53 complete; 2 incomplete)
Inventory of Episodes
The first three known surviving episodes, and the last three surviving episodes.
The Bruce Partington Plans
Episode 6, 6 November 1939
The first episode with Basil Rathbone. The body of a worker at the Woolwich arsenal, found by the side of a railroad track, provides the clue to missing secret submarine plans.
Repeated as episode 93 10 September 1943
The Case of the Retired Coulorman
Episode 26, 25 March 1940, available
The story of a miser's wife and money that has mysteriously disappeared.
Repeated as episode 92 3 September 1943
The Cooper Beeches
Episode 28, 6 October 1940, available
Holmes solves the strange mystery of the governess paid double wages to work for a couple in a rural setting. However, her suspicions are aroused when she is forced to cut off her beautiful hair. Why?
Repeated as episode 75, 7 May 1943
The Strange Adventure of the Uneasy Easy Chair
Episode 218, 13 May 1946, available
Holmes works on a murder in which the murder weapon is a diabolical chair. Inspector Lestrade has the last laugh! Based on "The Musgrave Ritual" by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Haunting of Sherlock Holmes
Episode 219, 20 May 1946, available
Holmes and Watson undertake the defense of a beautiful singer accused of espionage against the Balkan country of Grosnia. This is Holmes' first ghostly client! Joseph Kearnes plays Dr. Watson. Based on "The Sussex Vampire" by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Singular Affair of the Baconian Cipher
Episode 220, 27 May 1946, available
The final show of the season. The final episode with Basil Rathbone. A notice in an "agony column" leads Holmes to a crippled Shakespearean scholar and a case of murder. Based on "The Sign of Four" by Arthur Conan Doyle. Gale Gordon as "Gregory Hood" visits the program after the story to promote The Casebook of Gregory Hood which replaces The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes next week.
Both crime and detective stories were popular Old Time Radio (OTR) genres from the 1940s-1950s. This popularity coincided with rising concerns for emerging criminal activities, especially organized crime, and containment efforts at all levels. As a deterrent to crime, Sherlock Holmes was the most revived character on several radio networks, and never off the air for more than three consecutive years.
Sherlock Holmes, the detective famous for his deductive abilities, was created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beginning in 1887. The first radio adaptation of a Holmes story by Conan Doyle, "The Sign of the Four," was broadcast on WGY radio, Schenectady, New York, 9 November 1922, as the twelfth episode of the weekly (Friday nights) WGY Players series featuring actors from a Troy, New York community theater group calling themselves The Masque. Edward H. Smith, director of the group, read the part of Sherlock Holmes.
WGY Players is thought to be America's first weekly radio drama series. Announcing the upcoming performance of "The Sign of the Four," the Indianapolis Star said,
"One of the features of the program for the week of Nov. 6 from WGY in Schenectady, N.Y., will be the production of 'The Sign of the Four,' a Sherlock Holmes play from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The WGY Players will be cast in the play with Edward H. Smith in the part of the famous detective of fiction, and F. H. Oliver as Dr. Watson. Musical numbers will be played between the episodes or acts by the WGY orchestra."
(Indianapolis Star. 6 November 1922.)
The Hartford Courant listed the cast of the 7:45 PM performance as
Sherlock Holmes (Edward H. Smith)
Dr. John Watson (F. H. Oliver)
Mary Morstan (Viola Karwowska)
Major Sholto (James S. B. Mullarkey)
Jonathan Small (Frank Finch)
Mrs. Mordecai Smith (Ida Myreck)
Wiggins (Henry Miller).
(Hartford Courant. "Radio Radiations: WGY, Schenectady," November 9, 1922, p. 14.
Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, "In the Air Today," November 9, 1928, Case Six.
WGY (AM). WikiZer. https://www.wikizero.com/en/WGY_(AM)#cite_note-21
R.R. King. The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes and the 1920s Radio Drama Radio Recall. June 2008.)
The same night, WLW radio, in Cincinnati, Ohio, offered a one-act play, "A Fan and Two Candlesticks" by Mary MacMillan. The next week was the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and the following week was "Matinata" by Lawrence Langner. On 3 April, WLW broadcast When Love Wakens by station manager Fred Smith, possibly the first play written for American radio (*** Lichty. The Nation's Station, ***, pp. 120-123, qtd. in Barnouw, Erk. A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933, New York: Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 238.)
In 1929, National Broadcasting System (NBC) broadcast an anthology drama series called Retold Tales. According to listings published in The New York Times, Hartford Courant, and other newspapers, Conan Doyle's "The Sign of the Four" was to be offered in three parts: 30 May, 6 June, and 13 June. "A Study in Scarlet," another Conan Doyle story was offered in four parts: 20 June, 27 June, 4 July, and 14 July.
(R.R. King. The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes and the 1920s Radio Drama. Radio Recall. June 2008.)
Soon after Edith Meiser persuaded National Broadcasting System (NBC) to offer a series of radio dramas about Sherlock Holmes that she would adopt from Conan Doyle's original stories. The first episode was broadcast 20 October 1930, and is often considered the first appearance of a Sherlock Holmes radio drama in America. But, as noted above, this may not be the case. Nevertheless, success was immediate and the series was broadcast by NBC until May 1935.
In 1939, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce began a series of Hollywood films also based on Conan Doyle's stories. These films were made through 1946. Rathbone played Holmes. Bruce was Watson.
Based on their film success, Rathbone and Bruce were contracted by NBC to bring their characters to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the most notable of several radio revivals for the famous detective. The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ran for two hundred twenty episodes on NBC, 2 October 1939-7 May 1943, when the series was taken by Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS), with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson starring in two hundred twenty episodes. The series remained with MBS until its final episode, 27 May 1946.
Each episode began with series spokesperson, Knox Manning, Harry Bartell, or Joseph Bell, visiting Watson, retired and living in California. Sitting by the fire, enjoying a glass of Petri wine (one of the series sponsors), Watson recalled an adventure with Holmes. Other characters sometimes contributed to the narrative, and Watson summarized or added tidbits at the end. He also talked about his dogs.
Recurring cast included
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone)
Dr. John Watson (Nigel Bruce)
Professor James Moriarty (Luis Hector)
Announcer (Knox Manning, Harry Bartell)
Producer (Harold Kemp and Russell Seeds)
Writers (Edith Meiser, Dennis Green, Bruce Taylor [pen name for Leslie Charteris], Anthony Boucher)
Music (Lou Coslowe, Dean Fosler)
Supporting cast information here.