The stately Holmes of England was first brought to the airwaves on October 30, 1930 by Edith Meiser, a Broadway actress-turned-radio director who lobbied for years to bring the Great Detective’s adventures to radio. “Sherlock is perfect air material,” she proclaimed in 1936. “There are not too many clues. Holmes, you know, was the first deduction artist. Doyle, a scientist at heart, believed in mental, rather than physical action. Therefore Sherlock has excellent radio pace. It’s uncanny how smoothly it works out for radio adaptation.” For the first broadcast, Meiser recruited William Gillette, the acclaimed actor-playwright who had written and starred in the famous 1899 Sherlock Holmes stage play, and forever bequeathed to Holmes his own likeness and the trademark deerstalker hat, Inverness cape and meerschaum pipe. Gillette was succeeded the following week by Richard Gordon, who voiced the role for several years before being succeeded by Louis Hector, Basil Rathbone, Tom Conway, John Stanley and finally Ben Wright. Orson Welles voiced the Great Detective in a 1938 broadcast of CBS’ legendary “Mercury Theatre on the Air” (with Ray Collins as Watson), while the crime fighting duo would be impersonated on the BBC by Carlton Hobbs and Norman Shelley for 17 years (and also by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson).
The character of Dr. John Watson was originally portrayed on American radio by Leigh Lovell, and later by Nigel Bruce, Alfred Shirley, Ian Martin, Wendell Holmes and finally Eric Snowden. In the radio scripts by Edith Meiser and her successors, the role of Watson was expanded, and the good doctor grew into the charming figure that would become the model for the character in Hollywood films. “I fell in love with Dr. Watson and I allowed myself to flesh him out into a rather cozy, warm gentleman with a sense of humor,” Meiser recalled in 1985, “and I began to be aware that Dr. Watson was getting more fan mail than Sherlock Holmes, and we always had to keep that a secret from the detective.”
After several seasons as a Hollywood-based series, Holmes returned to the airwaves September 28, 1947 in a New York-based production with John Stanley starring as the Great Detective. Although his Holmesian tones were almost identical to the legendary Basil Rathbone’s, Stanley was a far more-polished radio performer and his portrayal of Holmes was among the finest in history of the long-running series. Stanley had been born and raised in London, less than half a mile from Baker Street, and had relocated to the United States after two years on the London stage. “My father had told me so much about his native New England that I decided I just had to see it,” he explained in 1947. After working as an actor, announcer, and scriptwriter at Providence’s WJAR, Stanley moved to network radio. A devoted fan of Conan Doyle’s stories, John Stanley attended several gatherings of the Baker Street Irregulars and even authored a monograph on the handguns used by Holmes and Watson that appeared in the July 1948 issue of Black Mask.
The Bruce-Partington Plans
Sunday, September 26, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Frightened Bookkeeper
The Guy Fawkes Society
Sunday, October 3, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sunday, October 10, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Fabulous Windmill
Sunday, October 17, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sunday, October 24, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Uddington Witch
The Logic of Murder
Sunday, October 31, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sunday, November 7, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Ancient Queen
The Discordant Bells
Sunday, November 14, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sunday, November 21, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Well Advertised Murder
Island of the Dead
Sunday, November 28, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sunday, December 5, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Speckled Band
Sunday, December 12, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sunday, December 19, 1948 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Malicious Moor
The Knife of Vengeance
Monday, January 3, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
Monday, January 10, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Fabulous Celebrities
The Bloomsbury Ballad
Monday, January 17, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
Monday, January 24, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Devil's Foot
The Blood Stained Goddess
Monday, January 31, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
Monday, February 7, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
The Guest in the Coffin
Monday, February 14, 1949 - 30:00 - Mutual
Sherlock Holmes: The Lost Episodes from the 1948-1949 Radio Season
by William Nadel (Baker Street Irregulars) and Anthony Tollin
This exclusive set features twenty of the long-lost episodes of the final New York run of the "Sherlock Holmes" radio program, available for the first time in more than a half century in this groundbreaking collector's set from Nostalgia Ventures. (Two additional adventures - the first two from the fall of 1948 - can be found on the Nostalgia Ventures companion set "Great Detectives".)
On Sunday nights in 1948, at about 6:30, lines formed in front of the Longacre Theater on 48th Street in New York City. The crowd was not going to see a Broadway show, although the Longacre had been a Broadway theater prior to American's involvement in World War II. They were actually going to see a radio program performed on a stage. The last few months of 1948 into half of 1949 were the final chance for New Yorkers and visitors to see the Sherlock Holmes show on the East Coast, and the "world's first consulting detective" was in the hardest battle of his career, for the growing popularity of the hard-boiled style of sleuth had caused producer/director Basil Loughrane to take decisive action. Gone from the program was Edith Meiser, the woman who had brought Sherlock Holmes to the airwaves in 1930. She had refused to inject violent, hard-boiled elements into the world of the Baker Street sleuth. Replacing her were two writers with mystery-writing expertise: Howard Merrill and Max Ehrlich. Also joining the production were Ian Martin as Dr. Watson and Horace Braham as Inspector Lestrade, replacing Alfred Shirley (who had departed to star as Inspector Hearthstone of the Death Squad on "The Molle Mystery Theatre") and Bernard Lenrow (radio's former Doc Savage). John Stanley continued in the title role of the Great Detective. The rest of the cast and crew remained essentially the same as the previous season, with Cy Harrice announcing, Albert Buhrman providing the organ interludes, and Hal Reid working the sound effects, with all being expertly engineered by Don Williamson. Michael Fitzmaurice is heard in many of the broadcasts, advising listeners of the local New York stores carrying Clippercraft clothing.
"The Bruce Partington Plans" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted for radio by Max Ehrlich
September 26, 1948
Will Holmes be able to solve the murder of a young clerk and recover the secret plans of the Bruce-Partington submarine?
Conan Doyle's classic tale first appeared in the December 1908 issue of the Strand Magazine. Adapted for radio by Max Ehrlich (1909-1983), this adaptation costars Horace Braham as Colonel Valentine Walter. No stranger to mystery programs, Ehrlich authored many memorable "Shadow" scripts before becoming a successful science fiction novelist and Hollywood screenwriter. Ehrlich wrote the classic "Star Trek" episode, "The Apple", and his stories were later brought to the screen in "The Edict" (1971) and "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" (1974). Holmes' older and wiser brother Mycroft, who is "occasionally the British government", appeared in only one other case: "The Greek Interpreter". Always reluctant to leave his comfortable Diogenes Club surroundings, Mycroft was the inspiration for Rex Stout's corpulent crime-fighter Nero Wolfe.
"The Frightened Bookkeeper" by Howard Merrill, inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Red-Headed League"
October 3, 1948
Why is Humphrey Littleton late for his work as bookkeeper at the Overseas Bank? He claims it was due to the fact that the clock in the Merchant's Building has stopped. Could the cause really be the corpse that has fallen into the clock's works?
Wendell Holmes stars as "the frightened bookkeeper" in this most unusual script from the pen of Howard Merrill. Wendell Holmes would remain a fixture in the series, replacing Ian Martin as Dr. Watson the following week.
"The Guy Fawkes Society" by Howard Merrill, inspired by elements in "A Study in Scarlet"
October 10, 1948
Imagine returning home to Baker Street and finding a dead body in the hallway outside of your flat with "Guy Fawkes Lives" scrawled in blood on the wall. What kind of criminal puts this kind of message at the abode of the world's greatest detective?
Wendell Holmes steps into the role of Dr. Watson in this strange adventure. But how could a "Holmes" play Watson? Producer Basil Loughrane's solution was simple: he would use the old theatrical device of calling an actor whose identity must be hidden "George Spelvin". Ironically, this device is believed to have been originated by actor William Gillette, the first great portrayer of Sherlock Holmes and the author of the classic stage play.
Actor Bernard Lenrow makes a brief appearance as Jurado in this "revolutionary" tale. Michael Fitzmaurice, the local Clippercraft announcer, is best remembered for his radio portrayal of Superman during its final ABC season.
"Black Peter" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted for radio by Max Ehrlich
October 17, 1948
Why was former sea captain Peter Carey harpooned in his cabin in the woods? And just why does Holmes want a dead pig?
Readers of the Conan Doyle story in the February 1904 issue of Collier's Magazine were the first to know the answer -- and got to see Frederic Dorr Steele's Artwork as well. Steele quickly became the foremost American illustrator of Holmes' adventures, much the same as Sidney Paget was for British readers. Max Ehrlich's adaptation also reveals some missing moments from the life of the fiend known as Black Peter. Barry Thomson doubles as Patrick Caims and a harpoon salesman in this bizarre case.
"The Fabulous Windmill" by Howard Merrill, inspired by elements and characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Valley of Fear" and "The Empty House."
October 24, 1948
Who is the curious inhabitant of a supposedly abandoned windmill and what is the windmill's secret?
Howard Merrill makes use of a reference in "The Valley of Fear" while saluting "The Empty House" in this episode.
Bob Dryden, one of radio's most versatile performers, could play three characters in the same scene and amaze his co-stars with how each would sound and behave totally different. In 1980, he performed in a version of Conan Doyle's "The Lost Special" ("The Mysterious Rochdale Special") on "The CBS Radio Mystery Theater". Long accepted as one of the apocryphal Holmes stories, Dryden found himself acting alongside Ian Martin.
"The Uddington Witch" by Max Ehrlich, inspired by elements in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Valley of Fear"
October 31, 1948
Has a legendary Scottish witch returned after two centuries to enact revenge on the family of Lord Dunbar, and will Sherlock Holmes be able to a descendent of a legendary Witchfinder General?
Before she left the Holmes show in the summer of 1944, Edith Meiser had prepared a rough draft of a story about a witch and how the sleuth had solved a most baffling case. Never used on the program, Meiser rewrote her script so that Nick Carter could solve it in 1945. During her return to the series in 1948, Edith once again planned to use her "witch tale" - but she never got the opportunity. Instead, Max Ehrlich chose to do his version of the "witch tale" using an idea from "The Valley of Fear". Very similar to Meiser's plot, Ehrlich alters the case with many "red herrings" and more gore. But, why is Holmes preoccupied with the manor house's flower garden?
"The Logic of Murder" by Howard Merrill, inspired by elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Copper Beeches"
November 7, 1948
Is it possible to plot the perfect murder? A professor of logic is determined to find out.
The multi-talented Arnold Moss stars as logic professor Edward Roberts in this Howard Merrill script that uses a reference in "The Copper Beeches" to spotlight Moss' genius. In addition to being a great actor with many appearances on stage, screen and television, Moss was also a college professor and proud of the fact that he had written many New York Times crossword puzzles. A major Shakespearian performer, Moss is probably best remembered for his portrayal of Karidian in the classic "Star Trek" episode, "The Conscience of the King." While Moss never really planned the perfect murder in real life, as he does in this exploit, he later authored scripts for "The CBS Radio Mystery Theater".
Horace Braham, this season's Lestrade, appears as Briggs in this case. Yet, there is still one final puzzle: what is the significance that one of the main characters has the same first name and initials as Edith Meiser, the series' former scriptwriter?
"The Ancient Queen" by Max Ehrlich, inspired by a reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Golden Pince-Nez"
November 14, 1948
Can Holmes solve the mystery of the curse of Rameses' queen and is he able to outwit the "Society of the Sun?"
Veteran character actor Humphrey Davis stars as Sir Edward Norcross in this tale of an Egyptologist who discovers an unknown tomb and comes face to face with its horrible curse. Max Ehrlich's script revisits the famed curses and devices of the classic "mummy" films of the 1930's and 1940's, utilizing an allusion in "The Golden Pince-Nez". But just what is meant by "the sleep of death?"
"The Discordant Bells" by Max Ehrlich, inspired by elements in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Veiled Lodger"
November 21, 1948
What makes the jewel-encrusted bells at Blanford Abbey ring out murder? Could it be the unpaid debt of the Blanfords? Or is it some other unknown reason?
Max Ehrlich borrowed heavily from the Universal Sherlock Holmes thriller "The Scarlet Claw" for this tale which has its roots in a reference in "The Veiled Lodger". Barry Thomson stars as the "haunted" current Lord Blanford in this saga of bell ropes that hang all those who endeavor to ring the cursed bells.
"The Case of the Well Advertised Murder" by Howard Merrill, inspired by elements in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Devil's Foot"
November 28, 1948
Is Christine Blakely going mad? What is causing her uncontrollable urge to kill her husband? Will Dr. Campbell convince Holmes to help him prevent the murder of Richard Blakely?
Scripted by Howard Merrill, this episode features Barry Thomson as the worried Dr. Campbell and Rita Vale as Christine, and appears to be inspired by "The Devil's Foot".
Rita Vale was a radio veteran, having begun her broadcasting career in the early 1930's.
"Island of the Dead" by Howard Merrill, inspired by a reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lion's Mane"
December 5, 1948
Is it possible that pirates still roam the English Channel...or is this tomfoolery?
Arnold Moss pays a return visit to the world of Sherlock Holmes as Cavendish, the possible reincarnation of a legendary pirate who operated out of the English Channel. And what will befall the young couple who chance to land on Cavendish's island? While Moss was guesting on "Sherlock Holmes", he was also starring as Dr. Fabian on John Dickson Carr's "Cabin B-13". As the ship's doctor on the Maurevania, Moss narrated strange tales of mystery and adventure every Sunday night, a mere three hours after the Baker Street sleuth solved his crimes. So, on December 5, Moss went from the "Island of the Dead" to "The Man With Two Heads"; quite an accomplishment for a former college professor. Howard Merrill's script utilizes a brief reference from "The Lion's Mane".
"London Tower" by Max Ehrlich, featuring characters and elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Empty House"
December 12, 1948
What is the problem with the new guard in the London Tower? Will he be effective in preventing an attempt to steal the rare jewels housed there? And why is Colonel Sebastian Moran lurking outside the tower?
The day before this broadcast, at a dinner for mystery writer John Dickson Carr, John Stanley was honored by various members of the Diogenes Club branch of the Baker Street Irregulars and given a lantern, the club's award. A month later, Stanley also attended the annual dinner of the BSI where he performed a reading and was cheered by Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, and others.
This Max Ehrlich scripted adventure features Horace Braham as Wilks and Barry Thomson as Colonel Moran.
"The Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted for radio by Max Ehrlich
December 19, 1948
A sister's terrorized cry and a whistle in the night lead Sherlock Holmes into his strangest adventure!
In 1927, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was asked to select his favorite Sherlock Holmes adventures. Guess which one made the top of his list? Readers of the Strand Magazine were asked to match Doyle's selections for a prize. At that time, the author wrote about his tale that debuted in the February 1892 issue, proclaiming, "There is the grim snake story, "The Speckled Band". That, I am sure, will be on every list."
Perhaps the greatest of all Conan Doyle's short stories, this exploit has been dramatized by almost every one of his radio scripters. Max Ehrlich's version is one of the best - not a surprise, for Ehrlich's dramas were also heard on "The Shadow", "Mr. and Mrs. North", "The Warden Lawes Show" (recounting tales of Sing Sing prison), and "Murder at Midnight".
"The Malicious Moor" by Max Ehrlich, inspired by a reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem"
January 3, 1949
Why have Holmes and Watson come to Stratford-on-Avon? Is it to celebrate the Bard...or to solve a heinous murder?
Barry Thomson stars as Roger Mannering, an actor who has trouble playing Othello, in a Max Ehrlich story apparently inspired by the Ronald Colman film "A Double Life" and utilizing a reference from "The Final Problem". Is Mannering really on the edge of a nervous breakdown or is he a victim of a more diabolical scheme?
"The Knife of Vengeance" by Howard Merrill, inspired by an idea in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Creeping Man"
January 10, 1949
Why is an apparently kind knife sharpener driven to murder? Can Holmes stop him in time?
Ted Osborne, seen on the screen as a radio announcer in "Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum" and an early host of "Suspense", is best remembered for his portrayal of the serpent in Arch Oboler's infamous 1937 "Garden of Eden" sketch that got Mae West banned from the NBC airwaves for a decade. By the end of the 1940's, Osborne was working on mystery shows originating from New York. On several occasions, he appeared on the other famous detective show to emanate from the Longacre Theater, "The Shadow".
"The Fabulous Celebrities" by Max Ehrlich, inspired by ideas in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Mazarin Stone"
January 17, 1949
Can Holmes stop a mad killer targeting famous celebrities or will he be as puzzled as Scotland Yard?
After several "celebrity" crimes leave him at his wit's end, Inspector Lestrade is forced to consult Sherlock Holmes. Even Sir Harry Ames (Barry Thomson) of the Bank of England is to be a victim of this "killer-stalker."
Loosely based on ideas in "The Mazarin Stone," this Max Ehrlich story examines the public's fascination with the famous. Barry Thomson's most famous radio role was as the librarian/host of "The Crime Club", a Mutual thriller of the 1946-47 radio season.
"The Bloomsbury Ballad" by Max Ehrlich, inspired by elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Empty House"
January 24, 1949
Will Watson be able to solve the mysterious death of his friend Arthur Harvey? Or is this a case for the Great Detective?
Veteran character actor Humphrey Davis appears as the lawyer Reginald Dudley in this Max Ehrlich tale of an old mansion, its strange inhabitants, and those who lay claim to the Wickford inheritance. No stranger to radio mysteries, Davis co-starred as Fergus "Mac" MacMurdie on "The Avenger" and Waldo on "Nick Carter, Master Detective", but is best remembered as Sergeant Heath to Jackson Beck's Philo Vance. Near the end of his life, Davis portrayed Dr. Watson in a series of television commercials.
"The Devil's Foot" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted for radio by Max Ehrlich
January 31, 1949
What strange curse is plaguing the Tregennis family? Will Holmes be able to penetrate the veil of madness and death?
The December 1910 issue of the Strand Magazine featured one of the most unusual of all of the detective's adventures. Called by Holmes "The Cornish Horror," it occurs when the sleuth and his good friend are trying to get away for a rest. Barry Thompson portrays the fearless Dr. Leon Stemdale.
"The Blood Stained Goddess" by Howard Merrill, inspired by elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Man with the Twisted Lip"
February 7, 1949
Is the Baker Street sleuth ready to stop a revolution in China, and can he solve the case of the Chinaman murdered on his doorstep?
The game is afoot as Holmes chases through the shadowy alleys and dens of the most colorful and dangerous section of London. Bernard Lenrow makes a return cameo appearance in this adventure that takes Holmes into the depths of Limehouse, portraying a musician in a tale of an Asian revolt and its female leader. Lenrow was regularly heard as Inspector Lestrade during the previous season of "Sherlock Holmes" and had also starred as host "Geoffrey Bames" on "The Molle Mystery Theater", as Commissioner Weston on "The Shadow", and as Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze.
"The Guest in the Coffin" by Howard Merrill, inspired by characters and elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem"
February 14, 1949
Who is targeting the London police? What can stop the senseless killing of "Bobbies?"
Bob Dryden returns as Professor Moriarty in this tale of the planned murder of Sherlock Holmes. In one of Howard Merrill's most brutal scripts, we enter the world of a crazed serial killer who presents Holmes a gift of a coffin. In this fascinating reworking of "The Final Problem", Bob Dryden excels as the "Napoleon of Crime" while Horace Braham delivers one of his finest performances as Inspector Lestrade.
Special thanks to Tim Johnson, Special Collections and Rare Books, University of Minnesota Libraries