AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Scarlet Claw
Alternate Title: Sherlock Holmes in Canada
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
Release Date:   26 May 1944
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 18 May 1944
Production Date:   10 Jan--early Feb 1944
Duration (in mins):   74
Duration (in feet):   6,650
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Cast:   Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes)  
    Nigel Bruce (Doctor [John H.] Watson)  
    Gerald Hamer (Potts/[Jack] Tanner/[Alastair] Ramson)  
    Paul Cavanagh (Lord [William] Penrose)  
    Arthur Hohl (Emile Journet)  
    Miles Mander (Judge Brisson)  
    Kay Harding (Marie Journet)  
    David Clyde (Sergeant Thompson)  
    Ian Wolfe (Drake)  
    Victoria Horne (Nora)  
    George Kirby (Father Pierre)  
    Pietro Sosso (Trent)  
    Norbert Muller (Pageboy)  
    Al Ferguson (Attendant)  
    Eric Wilton (Night clerk)  
    Charles Francis (Sir John)  
    Olaf Hytten (Clerk)  
    Frank O'Connor (Cab driver)  
    Clyde Fillmore (Inspector)  
    Charles Knight (Inspector's assistant)  
    Harry Allen (Storekeeper, Bill Taylor)  

Summary: The townspeople of the small village of La Morte Rouge, just outside of Quebec, Canada, live in fear, as a glowing, murderous phantom has been stalking the nearby marshes. When Father Pierre goes to investigate the late-night ringing of his church's bells, he finds the murdered body of Lady Lillian Penrose clutching the bell rope. Meanwhile, Lord William Penrose is in Quebec, addressing a meeting of the Royal Canadian Occult Society about the history of the phantom. Also at the meeting are the famous English private detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted companion, Dr. John H. Watson. After learning of Lady Penrose's death, Holmes receives a letter she had earlier sent to him, asking for his protection, so he and Watson decide to go to La Morte Rogue and investigate her murder. Holmes soon discovers that Lady Penrose was Lillian Gentry, a popular English actress who disappeared years earlier. He then questions innkeeper Emile Journet, an ex-prison guard who moved to La Morte Rogue around the time of the phantom's reappearance. That night, Holmes investigates the marsh lands where the glowing phantom has been sighted, and after encountering the "monster," Holmes finds a piece of a torn cotton shirt soaked in phosphorescent paint. Later, Holmes learns that the expensive shirt had been purchased by a retired, wheelchair-bound magistrate, Judge Brisson. While visiting the judge at his home, Holmes uncovers that Brisson is not disabled, but merely fears for his life. Brisson tells the detective that he had ordered Nora, his housekeeper, to give some of his old shirts to a boatman. Along with police sergeant Thompson, Holmes and Watson find the boatman, Jack Tanner, but he escapes their clutches by jumping out a nearby window. Holmes then learns that Lady Penrose had retired from the stage after witnessing fellow actor Alastair Ramson kill another member of their stage company. Lord Penrose tells Holmes that Ramson was believed killed in a prison break, and Holmes quickly surmizes that Tanner and Ramson are one in the same. Learning that Brisson was the judge who sentenced Ramson, Holmes rushes to the magistrate's home, only to find Brisson murdered, having been killed by Ramson, then disguised as Nora. Later, Holmes is trapped by Ramson, who confesses to killing Lady Penrose out of jealousy and Brisson out of hate, then tells the detective that he plans seek revenge on a third person. Before Ramson can divulge the name, however, Watson arrives and rescues Holmes. Holmes quickly deduces that Journet is the third man, but when he and Watson arrive at the inn, they find the innkeeper missing and his daughter Marie murdered. Holmes and Watson later find Journet hiding in Brisson's home, and they convince the innkeeper to help them trap his daughter's murderer. Holmes, disguised as Journet, wanders through the marshes, where he is attacked by Ramson, now in the guise of Potts, the postman. Holmes fights off the murderous actor, and when Ramson attempts to escape, he is killed by Journet with the same garden hoe with which he had used to slit the throats of his victims. With the case solved, Holmes and Watson head for home. 

Production Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
  Stacy Keach (Dial dir)
  Melville Shyer (Asst dir)
Producer: Howard Benedict (Exec prod)
  Roy William Neill (Prod)
Writer: Edmund L. Hartmann (Scr)
  Roy William Neill (Scr)
  Paul Gangelin (Orig story)
  Brenda Weisberg (Orig story)
Photography: George Robinson (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: John B. Goodman (Art dir)
  Ralph M. DeLacy (Art dir)
Film Editor: Paul Landres (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Ira S. Webb (Set dec)
Music: Paul Sawtell (Mus dir)
Sound: Bernard B. Brown (Dir of sd)
  Robert Pritchard ([Sd] tech)
Special Effects: John P. Fulton (Spec photog)
Country: United States
Series: Sherlock Holmes

Source Text: Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Authors: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 5/5/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12904

PCA NO: 9988
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
 
Subjects (Major): Actors and actresses
  Disguise
  English in foreign countries
  Murder
  Physicians
  Private detectives
  Revenge
 
Subjects (Minor): Butlers
  Canada
  Churches
  Dogs
  Drunkenness
  Fathers and daughters
  Handicapped
  Hotels
  Housekeepers
  Impersonation and imposture
  Innkeepers
  Jealousy
  Judges
  Marshes
  Police
  Postal workers
  Priests
  Rescues
  Secret passageways

Note: The working title of this film was Sherlock Holmes in Canada . The film was also reviewed under the title Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Claw . Modern sources add the following names to the crew credits: Contr wrt Tom McKnight, Cam op Edward Cohen, Props Henry Gundstrom, and Stunts/Doubles Gil Perkins and Charles Morton. Modern sources add to the cast: Gertrude Astor ( Lady Lillian Gentry Penrose ), Tony Travers ( Musician ) and William Allen. For additional information on the "Sherlock Holmes" series and other films featuring the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, consult the Series Index and see the entry below for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror , and the entries for Sherlock Holmes and The Hounds of the Baskervilles in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4020 and F3.2009. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   6 May 1944.   
Daily Variety   24 Apr 44   p. 6.
Film Daily   6 Jun 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 1944.   
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 44   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Apr 44   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   15 Apr 44   p. 1850.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   29 Apr 44   p. 1867.
New York Times   19 May 44   p. 12.
Variety   24 May 44   p. 10.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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