Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ho Ho Holmes

As Janet Rudolph observes in her blog Mystery Fanfare, there have been myriad mystery novels and short stories written with Christmas themes and settings, or at least with strong references to that holiday (see here, here, here, here, and here). Radio and television crime dramas have found no less inspiration in these annual December festivities. Today we bring you two such broadcasts.

The first is an installment of the 1954-1955 syndicated U.S. TV series Sherlock Holmes, which cast Ronald Howard (son of the more famous English actor Leslie Howard) in the title role and Howard Marion-Crawford as Doctor John H. Watson. This particular episode, “The Case of the Christmas Pudding,” was originally shown on April 4, 1955 (not exactly the appropriate season). As described in the International Movie Database (IMDb), this is the story’s plot:
Just before the Christmas holiday, John Norton is convicted of murder and is sentenced to death. In the courtroom, Norton threatens Sherlock Holmes, and swears to kill the detective before the execution takes place. Although Norton has murdered five wives, his sixth wife still believes in his innocence. Shortly after she delivers Norton a Christmas pudding at his request, the convict escapes, despite the many precautions that prison authorities had taken. In the middle of the night, Holmes is informed of the escape, and he knows that he must take action at once.
The version of “The Case of the Christmas Pudding” embedded below comes from the video sales site Captain Bijou.

For our second presentation, we have the December 24, 1945, episode of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a radio serial that, for most of its long run (1939-1950), featured Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as his phlegmatic associate, Watson, both of whom were familiar from Holmes movies of the time. The broadcast featured below is titled “The Night Before Christmas.” As explained on YouTube, it finds Holmes’ landlady at 221B  Baker Street, Mrs. Hudson, asking Watson “to play Santa at a party for her two nieces. After Watson leaves, Sherlock Holmes … is visited by a wealthy friend who has decided to share some of his wealth by way of jewels and bank notes with his less-fortunate relatives. But Holmes’ old nemesis, Professor Moriarty, has found out about this act of generosity and is attempting [to] blackmail the yuletide benefactor.”

By the way, this was one of at least two episodes of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to have been rooted in this merry time of year. The second, “The Christmas Bride,” was initially broadcast on December 21, 1947. Rather than Rathbone and Bruce, it found John Stanley playing “the world’s most famous detective,” with Alfred Shirley as his chronicler. You can listen to that show here.

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