Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour

The Dastardly Past:  Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour

Sherlock Holmes Fatal Hour lobby card

On July 12, 1931, the movie Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour was released (it was entitled The Sleeping Cardinal in Great Britain).  It starred Arthur Wontner in his first Holmesian role, with Ian Fleming (no, not that Ian Fleming) as Watson.  Wontner starred in four more Sherlock Holmes stories during the 1930s.  His second Holmes movie, The Missing Rembrandt (1932), is officially considered a lost film.  Luckily, however, the Internet Archive has made the others available for viewing online

The Death of Sherlock Holmes

The Dastardly Past:  the Death of Sherlock Holmes.


Forget Star Wars.  The true importance of May the 4th is that it’s the day Sherlock Holmes died.  In Arthur Conan-Doyle’s story “The Final Problem,” set in 1891, Holmes and Moriarty meet at the Riechenbach Falls in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland.  They glare at one another.  They charge.  They fight.  They plunge into the torrent, locked in battle, and fall to their deaths. Finis.

The reading public, however, rejected this (or any) end to their analytical hero.  Conan Doyle, who had wanted to pursue other projects, held out from 1893, when the story was published, to 1901, when he relented and produced The Hound of the Baskervilles, set prior to 1891.  Aficionados refer to this period as The Great Hiatus.  A year later Holmes came back for good in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” Set in 1894, it details his remarkable escape from the clutches of Moriarty and his henchmen.  Holmes stories appeared regularly after that and no more thought was given to a permanent end to the immortal detective.

BigReichenbachJ. W. Turner’s view of the Reichenbach Falls.