Basil Rathbone did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of Baskervilles.
The Hound of Baskervilles marks the first of a total of fourteen films with Rathbone playing the most famous detective of literature. Rathbone certainly is the most prolific performer as Holmes, at least in terms of cinematic output, and I would say is definitely the most iconic depiction of the character. When the standard image of Holmes is thought of it is probably of Rathbone in the deerstalker. What of his actual performance as the detective though? I must admit I don't find Basil Rathbone to be the most consistent performer. When he goes over the top he's a rather bad ham, and there are times were he can be quite bland as well. Thankfully one would not notice this is they only ever viewed his performances as Holmes. The interesting thing though is that the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles features Holmes in a rather limited quantity, with Doctor Watson (Nigel Bruce) receiving more screen time given that he arrives on the foggy moor to investigate at a much earlier time than Sherlock Holmes. Once again though thankfully this does not seem to matter as Rathbone certainly uses the screentime he does have at his disposal to realize his own approach to the often played character.
Rathbone on the outset certainly succeeds in his creation of Holmes's personal style. Rathbone exudes that considerable confidence needed for the part as he suggests Holmes as a man who is absolutely in command of the investigation. Rathbone brings the needed eloquence to Holmes as he goes about deciphering the case, and is the smooth detective he should be. The intelligence of the character is made simply a constant by Rathbone as he makes it completely convincing as Holmes does not lose a moment in his attempt to decipher the clues. Now another pivotal aspect to any Holmes portrayal though is also how the actor plays Holmes as a man and not just a detective. This area is technically limited here once again since there is not a great deal of Holmes in the film, but also given the specifically non-personal association Holmes has with this case. Nevertheless within these margins Rathbone is still able to realize the nature of his Holmes as a person. Rathbone's approach to Holmes is rather interesting and quite surprising in terms of both Rathbone as a performer, and the character. That being Rathbone brings a considerable sense of fun to the detective.
Now Rathbone does have that certain lack of courtesy that is common in Holmes's portrayal, that being he never minds showing off his own intelligence and does not mind indicating the lack of intelligence of others. That goes even to Dr. Watson in this version which is fitting given that Bruce's approach to the character is that of really a buffoon. Rathbone does not make this seem as cruel as this probably should be given how there is a definite warmth that Rathbone carries in his approach that always keeps his ribbing of others rather good natured. Rathbone carefully avoids being smug in the least always providing a definite charm to the detective who does not mind letting everyone know he's a genius yet does in a fashion that somehow is rather endearing. Rathbone importantly keeps a complete lack of malice in any of this as he portrays a genuine friendship with Watson, but just happens to be aware of his friend's shortcomings as well. Rathbone doesn't overwhelm with levity either though as Rathbone's performance never loses the gravity of the situation created by the mystery. His reactions are particularly effective in that they do not reveal some otherworldly immortal especially during the climax where Rathbone reveals some understandable fear in the detective. Basil Rathbone's success in the role is evident, and his many returns are understandable as he gives an appropriately well rounded and appealing portrayal of Holmes. His detective is the genius he should be, with an ego to be sure, but still a man who cares about those he is trying to help.