Dressed to Kill (1946)

72 mins | Mystery | 7 June 1946

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Prelude to Murder . Five months after the film's release, producer-director Roy William Neill died of a heart attack in England. Dressed to Kill was the twelfth and last film in Universal's "Sherlock Holmes" series. According to modern sources, by the time of the picture's release, star Basil Rathbone had tired of the role and refused to continue it. Rathbone did, however, continue to play Holmes on radio, stage and television at various times throughout the rest of his career. Modern sources include Lillian Bronson, Olaf Hytten and Charlie Hall in the cast. For additional information on the series and other films featuring the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, please 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 Hound of the Baskervilles in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4020 and ... More Less

The working title of this film was Prelude to Murder . Five months after the film's release, producer-director Roy William Neill died of a heart attack in England. Dressed to Kill was the twelfth and last film in Universal's "Sherlock Holmes" series. According to modern sources, by the time of the picture's release, star Basil Rathbone had tired of the role and refused to continue it. Rathbone did, however, continue to play Holmes on radio, stage and television at various times throughout the rest of his career. Modern sources include Lillian Bronson, Olaf Hytten and Charlie Hall in the cast. For additional information on the series and other films featuring the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, please 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 Hound of the Baskervilles in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4020 and F3.2009. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 May 1946.
---
Daily Variety
16 May 46
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 May 46
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 46
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 46
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 46
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 May 46
p. 2987.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 May 46
p. 3007.
New York Times
25 May 46
p. 12.
Variety
22 May 46
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Dir of sd
[Sd] tech
Re-rec and eff mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Matte paintings
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Dir of makeup
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
SONGS
"Ya Never Know Just 'Oo You're Gonna Meet," words and music by Jack Brooks
"The Swagman," Australian folk song.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Prelude to Murder
Release Date:
7 June 1946
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 May 1946
Production Date:
22 January--mid February 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
13 May 1946
Copyright Number:
LP360
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
72
Length(in feet):
6,864
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11512
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At an auction in London, identical music boxes made at a local prison are sold to patrons Julian "Stinky" Emery, William Kilgour and Evelyn Clifford. Immediately after the sales, the underhanded Colonel Cavanaugh bribes Ebenezer Crabtree, the auctioneer, to give him the purchasers' addresses. The next night, Stinky visits his old friend, Dr. Watson, at the home of detective Sherlock Holmes, and tells them how he was robbed of a music box which resembled the cheaper one he bought at the auction. Intrigued, Holmes asks to see the cheaper box at Stinky's, and there admires the unusual tune it plays. After they leave Stinky's, Hilda Courtney, a beautiful acquaintance of Stinky, visits and asks him for his music box as a gift. When Stinky refuses, Hamid, the driver for Cavanaugh and Hilda, enters and kills him. Holmes soon investigates the crime scene, and, seeing the music box is gone, questions Crabtree, who reveals the addresses of the purchasers and describes Cavanaugh. Holmes and Watson hurry to Kilgour's to examine his music box, and after the housekeeper reluctantly lets them in and then leaves, they find a young girl tied up in the closet, who tells them the housekeeper, whom they realize was really Hilda, attacked her and stole her music box. The next day, Hilda and Cavanaugh follow Evelyn to the toy store at which she works, only to discover that Holmes has already purchased her music box. Outside, Hilda realizes that a Scotland Yard man, Sergeant Thompson, is following them, and they kill him. Meanwhile, Holmes deduces that the three boxes must work together to form a coded message, and learns that they were crafted by a prisoner ... +


At an auction in London, identical music boxes made at a local prison are sold to patrons Julian "Stinky" Emery, William Kilgour and Evelyn Clifford. Immediately after the sales, the underhanded Colonel Cavanaugh bribes Ebenezer Crabtree, the auctioneer, to give him the purchasers' addresses. The next night, Stinky visits his old friend, Dr. Watson, at the home of detective Sherlock Holmes, and tells them how he was robbed of a music box which resembled the cheaper one he bought at the auction. Intrigued, Holmes asks to see the cheaper box at Stinky's, and there admires the unusual tune it plays. After they leave Stinky's, Hilda Courtney, a beautiful acquaintance of Stinky, visits and asks him for his music box as a gift. When Stinky refuses, Hamid, the driver for Cavanaugh and Hilda, enters and kills him. Holmes soon investigates the crime scene, and, seeing the music box is gone, questions Crabtree, who reveals the addresses of the purchasers and describes Cavanaugh. Holmes and Watson hurry to Kilgour's to examine his music box, and after the housekeeper reluctantly lets them in and then leaves, they find a young girl tied up in the closet, who tells them the housekeeper, whom they realize was really Hilda, attacked her and stole her music box. The next day, Hilda and Cavanaugh follow Evelyn to the toy store at which she works, only to discover that Holmes has already purchased her music box. Outside, Hilda realizes that a Scotland Yard man, Sergeant Thompson, is following them, and they kill him. Meanwhile, Holmes deduces that the three boxes must work together to form a coded message, and learns that they were crafted by a prisoner named John Davidson, who years earlier stole and hid a set of five-pound note engraving plates from the Bank of England, from which counterfeit money could be made. When Holmes notices that Evelyn's music box plays a slightly different tune than Stinky's, he rushes to find Joe Cisto, an entertainer who can identify any song. After Joe affirms that the tune, an Australian folk song, is a few notes off and writes the correct notes for him, Holmes struggles throughout the night to decode it. Finally, due to a remark of Watson's about numbering the keys of a piano, Holmes understands that the off notes correspond to numbers which correspond to letters. He decodes the message: "Behind books third shelf secretary Dr. S," but knows that this is only one third of the statement. Soon after, his study is ransacked, but Holmes discovers that one of the criminals left behind an exotic cigarette, which he traces back to Hilda. He visits her, only to be ambushed by Cavanaugh and Hamid, who take him to a warehouse, handcuff him, set off a deadly chemical smoke bomb and hang him by the cuffs. As Holmes struggles to escape, Hilda visits Watson and, after tricking him into revealing the location of the box, steals it. When Holmes returns, Watson happens to recite a Samuel Johnson quote, which tips off Holmes as to the identity of "Dr. S." They rush to the Samuel Johnson memorial museum, in which the bookcase is located, and arrest the three thieves just as they are retrieving the plates. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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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.