For a long time, Rathbone’s Holmes was considered the definitive screen Sherlock. He certainly created the classic profile of a movie Holmes, with his high forehead, long features, and aristocratic hauteur. He played the detective in 14 movies between 1939 and 1946. The first two (The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), made for 20th Century Fox, were big-budget period spectacles, but when Universal acquired the rights, the films were limited to B-movie budgets and featured Conan Doyle stories that had been updated to the present day, with Holmes and Watson ferreting out Nazi spies and even visiting Washington, D.C.
Still, Rathbone continued to play Holmes as imperturbably straight; Nigel Bruce played Watson, in contrast, for buffoonish comic relief. Nonetheless, Bruce re-established Watson as an indispensible sidekick, after years of cinematic neglect.
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