The film “Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green” is actually a Universal Studios adaptation of the tales of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle did not write this story, but it does contain portions from two of his stories.
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Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his friend Dr. John Watson (Nigel Bruce) became intrigued with an apparent serial killer who did away with at least five women in the city of London. Although his famed nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, had supposedly been caught and hanged in the city of Montevideo in Uruguay, Holmes believed that the murders had the mark of his old adversary.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in London stated that the series of murders were the most atrocious that they had seen since Jack the Ripper. The victims were from all walks of life and from different parts of the city. Each of them was mutilated after her death with the severing of a finger which was taken away.
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A Mutilated Forefinger
Holmes became involved in the investigation when the daughter of Sir George Fenwick (Paul Cavanagh) came to him with the story that her father had awakened one morning to find a woman’s forefinger in his pocket. The daughter, Maude (Eve Amber) spied her father burying the forefinger in their garden. She dug it up and showed it to Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes had seen Sir George previously at the Pembroke House while he and his friend Inspector Gregson were at the bar having a drink. Fenwick was with a beautiful blond lady. The viewer is able to watch as Sir George and the lady whose name was Lydia (Hillary Brooke) left the night club and went to Lydia’s apartment. Lydia’s maid Crandon (Sally Shepherd) brought the couple drinks, put on some music, and turned down the lights before she left.
After Sir George left Lydia’s at 10:30 p.m., he woke up the next morning in a cheap boarding house, not remembering how he got there. Professor Moriarty knocked on his door and returned to him his cigarette case which he had apparently found near the victim.
Sir George is Killed
Fenwick’s daughter Maude brought Holmes back to her father’s apartment where they found him dead, shot in the back. His hand was clenched, holding a Pembroke House match folder. A report from Sir George’s bank was on his desk, with the notation that he had drawn out his entire balance, 10,000 pounds.
In the next scene, Sherlock Holmes was in his apartment playing a tune on his violin when Dr. Watson received a call to come to the aid of a woman who fell over while reaching up to feed her pet bird. It was a ruse to draw Dr. Watson away. Professor Moriarty then visited Holmes alone in his apartment, proving Holmes’ theory that he was still alive. He claimed to be holding Dr. Watson hostage.
An Attempt on Holmes’ Life
After Professor Moriarity left, Dr. Watson returned, realizing that the call had been a hoax. He had ignored a street seller who wanted him to buy something. Holmes noticed that a window shade across the street in an empty house was now raised. He asked Watson to take a flashlight and investigate. Watson spied a man with a shotgun at the window aiming at Holmes’ sitting in a chair in his apartment. Fortunately, Holmes had substituted a plaster bust of Julius Caesar in his chair, and the gunman demolished the statue.
Inspector Gregson was called and arrested the gunman, who was a hypnotized ex-soldier. When he was asked why he tried to kill Holmes, he said in his stupor “She told me I had to do it.” Holmes believed he was speaking of the woman who was with Sir George at the Pembroke House, and was hoping that the ex-soldier would lead them to her house, where he had some drinks with the lady. However, the gunman was kidnapped, killed, and was found on Holmes’ front step.
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A Lecture on Hypnotism
Holmes’ attended a lecture on hypnotism by a learned scientist, and befriended Lydia, dressed in green, who was also at the lecture. She invited Holmes to her house where they continued their talk on hypnotism. Lydia asked if he would like to be hypnotized. Holmes initially declined but, upon her insistence, he agreed. She said she would give him a sedative to begin with. When she went to get him some water, it was obvious to the viewer that Holmes would come up with a ruse to avoid the sedative. She returned with the water and Holmes took the pills.
Holmes Outwits the Killers
When Holmes was apparently in a deep sleep, Moriarty entered the room and the charade continued. One of Moriarty’s henchmen cut the back of Holmes’ neck with a sharp knife to make sure he was hypnotized. Holmes’ never flinched. Moriarty commanded him to write a suicide note, stating “I have found a case I cannot solve. I have outlived my usefulness. Therefore, I have decided to end my life.” They then took him out on the porch, had him walk on the railing and intended to force him to fall to his death from the railing. Fortunately, Dr. Watson and Inspector Gregson walked in at the right moment, and rescued Holmes from the porch railing. Gregson took Moriarty away, but rather than be taken into custody, Moriarty jumped over the railing to his death. The viewer is left to wonder if we might not see Moriarty again, as he is an integral part of the Holmes series. Of course, Holmes revealed that he had taken a similar-looking pill when Lydia went for water, one that also made him insensitive to pain. His foresight is phenomenal. How could he have predicted that?
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Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Although Conan Doyle did not write “The Woman in Green,” the story had all of the markings of his writings. In his lifetime, he wrote 60 stories about Sherlock Homes and his loyal friend Dr. Watson. He began writing his stories when he was in medical school. One of his professors, Dr. Joseph Bell, was Conan Doyle’s inspiration to create his fictional character Sherlock Holmes. He was highly impressed with Professor Bell’s keen powers of observation. It would appear also that Dr. Watson was patterned after Conan Doyle himself.
He spent a few years trying to juggle his medical career with his love for writing. He finally gave up medicine to devote all of his time to the antics of Sherlock Holmes. His first published work in the series was “A Study in Scarlet,” followed by a sequel which he entitled “The Sign of the Four.”
At one point, he wanted to abandon his writing, but his mother insisted that he persevere. He went so far as to increase his fee to his magazine publishers in order to discourage them from buying his stories. They insisted on paying the large increase since their subscribers demanded the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became one of the best-paid authors of his time.