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Sherlock Holmes through the decades


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Well, well, it seems the good doctor will get a makeover and a definite upgrade in the

looks department. I'll set the preliminary Hunkometer to an 8. Naturally, actors from

different eras have to be judged differently, so I'll give Nigel a -1 on the H. However, on

the Pip Pip, Cheerio, and All that Rot Ratings, he's way ahead of Law.

 

Saw a TV ad for the new SH. It's a spectacular entertainment and one of the top ten of

the year. All doubt is erased. :)

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That was just what the ad said. You know how they are. Every new movie is the

greatest thing since...the previous one. That's one thing that hasn't changed much

since the studio era. I'm still looking forward to the movie though.

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And speaking of our friend Sherlock, here's an interesting essay from the WSJ:

 

*The Burden of Holmes*

By JOHN J. MILLER

 

For Sherlock Holmes, the most important date on the calendar is Christmas?and not just because the latest film to feature him comes out on Dec. 25.

 

In a sense, literature's most famous detective was born on that day: The first story Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about Holmes, an 1887 novel called "A Study in Scarlet," appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual. Another entry in the Holmes canon, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," is a Christmas tale. Doyle's devotees often cite it as a personal favorite.

 

Later, when Doyle tired of Holmes, he killed off his character during the yuletide. In "The Final Problem," the fatal encounter between Holmes and his archnemesis, Moriarty, takes place in the spring, but the story itself appeared in the December 1893 issue of the Strand Magazine.

 

How will Holmes fare this holiday season? The answer isn't so elementary. Judging from a movie trailer full of fisticuffs, explosions and sexual innuendo, the big-budget action film will thrill fanboys who don't realize that the Baker Street Irregulars appeared on the printed page before the silver screen. Anguished purists, meanwhile, may choose to cover their faces with deerstalker hats.

 

Except that the most faithful followers of Holmes know that his legacy is already a mishmash of invention and reinvention. Take those deerstalker hats. Almost nothing is more associated with Holmes than the checkered twill cap with brims in front and back and a pair of ear flaps on the sides. In Doyle's stories, however, there is precious little evidence that Holmes ever wore such a thing. It entered the popular imagination because of Sidney Paget, a magazine illustrator whose work accompanied Doyle's fiction.

 

Doyle himself would have had mixed feelings about the rebooted Holmes. He suffered from a love-hate relationship with the character whose name has eclipsed his own. A market-minded author, Doyle certainly appreciated the goal of putting Holmes in front of large audiences. Yet he almost resented the runaway success that made him the most celebrated writer of his time.

 

Doyle was born in Scotland in 1859. He earned a medical degree in Edinburgh, traveled as a ship's doctor to Africa and the Arctic, and finally settled down to a private practice on the English coast. Money was always tight: Starting as a student, he wrote fiction to boost his income. His works encompassed a wide range of subjects, from mummies ("Lot No. 249") to man-eating plants ("The American's Tale").

 

For a while, Doyle balanced his dual career. The first two novels about Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet" and "The Sign of Four," attracted some attention but not enough for him to quit doctoring. In fact, he saw his detective fiction as hackwork and strongly preferred to write historical novels. Doyle regarded "The White Company," set in the 14th century, as his finest achievement.

 

In the early 1890s, Doyle moved Holmes out of novels and into short stories. It was a commercial decision. In London, the number of magazines was booming. Doyle believed that stories with a recurring character would enjoy an advantage over serialized novels, which turned off readers who missed installments. Moreover, Holmes and his puzzles were a better fit for a shorter form. "Sherlock Holmes was a sprinter, not a distance runner," wrote Daniel Stashower in "Teller of Tales," his biography of Doyle.

 

The stories were an immediate and astonishing success. Readers lined up at newsstands for each new episode. For two years, Doyle dedicated himself to his brilliant and insufferable hero, receiving ever-higher payments for his efforts. Yet the relentless deadlines soon became a burden. Although each story could be read in a single sitting, Doyle complained that the intricate plots demanded the mental work of novels. He also continued to think they were lowbrow achievements.

 

By 1893, Doyle had resolved to kill Holmes?"even if I buried my bank account with him," he wrote in his autobiography. He set the scene at Reichenbach Falls, an Alpine cascade in Switzerland. Doyle's editors despaired, but the author felt only relief: "I have been much blamed for doing that gentleman to death, but I hold that it was not murder, but justifiable homicide in self-defense, since, if I had not killed him, he would certainly have killed me."

 

Finishing off Holmes had the paradoxical effect of breathing life into the franchise. Had Doyle kept churning out mysteries throughout the 1890s, their quality inevitably would have declined?a common fate of series from Doyle's day to now, on both the page and the tube. Instead he observed the showbiz dictum: Always leave 'em wanting more.

 

His subsequent writings failed to recapture the magic?until he decided to bring back Holmes. The detective made his reappearance in a 1902 novel, "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Doyle emphasized that the story took place before Holmes had met his grim fate. The next year, however, the author relented. In "The Adventure of the Empty House," he proclaimed that the reports of Holmes's death had been greatly exaggerated. The detective had faked it, and the stories?56 in total, plus four novels?continued. Doyle wrote the last one in 1926 and died in 1930.

 

To the end, Doyle remained ambivalent about his spectacular success. "If I had never touched Holmes, who has tended to obscure my higher work, my position in literature would at the present moment be a more commanding one," he once complained.

 

Doyle would have been wiser to see Holmes for what he was back then and remains today: The best kind of Christmas gift, one that keeps on giving.

 

?Mr. Miller is the author of "The First Assassin," a historical novel, and he blogs at HeyMiller.com.

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Some of the Sherlock Holmes films to be shown soon on TCM are in a Mystery Classics 50 Pack which Amazon.com has discounted to $10.99. I know nothing about the quality of the prints but wanted to be sure that fans were aware of this.

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Reviews are now going up for the new movie coming up - with headlines like "Not Your Father's Sherlock Holmes". I'll watch it eventually, and probably enjoy it, but I probably won't ever like it as much as the classic Sherlock.

 

If anyone's interested here is the WSJ review:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704254604574614370555284990.html

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> {quote:title=redriver wrote:}{quote}

> I just got around to asking. How is MURDER BY DECREE? I've never seen it.

 

I hope someone here has seen it; I haven't. Though the cast looks really good.

 

And hope folks don't forget about the 1922 Sherlock Holmes, showing _tonight_ at 12am Eastern / 9pm Pacific. There's also a separate thread for that one in the Silents forum, btw.

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Red,

 

*Murder by Decree* is good as is *The Seven Percent Solution*. *Murder* has Christopher Plummer as Holmes and James Mason as Watson and was directed by Bob Clark of *Christmas Story* fame.

 

*Seven Percent* has Nicol Williamson (who I really like in the role) as Holmes and Robert Duvall as Watson with Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud.

 

If you can find them to rent, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts. I haven't seen either in at least 25 years.

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> {quote:title=lzcutter wrote:}{quote}

> *Seven Percent* has Nicol Williamson (who I really like in the role) as Holmes and Robert Duvall as Watson with Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud.

>

> If you can find them to rent, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts. I haven't seen either in at least 25 years.

 

Lynn,

Just FYI, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution has been OOP for a few years; the old DVD has been known to sell for $100 or more.

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Interesting article from CNN about "Sherlockians":

 

*'Sherlockians' say new film succeeds*

By Jo Piazza, Special to CNN

 

New York (CNN) -- Certain groups of die-hard fans are protective of the characters they hold on a pedestal. "Star Trek" has its Trekkies and "Star Wars" has the Jedi religion.

 

Sherlock Holmes has the Sherlockians, scholars of the canon of books and short stories written by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Many Sherlockians are members of the invitation-only literary society, The Baker Street Irregulars.

 

Group members have historically been critical of on-screen adaptations of their beloved consulting detective and his faithful sidekick, Dr. John Watson. While they, by nature of their adoration, saw flaws in the Guy Ritchie "Sherlock Holmes," which opened in theaters Friday, the consensus among these experts was that the film is a fun -- and even occasionally faithful -- romp through Sherlock lore that the author himself would have enjoyed.

 

"I liked it a lot more than I thought I would," said Andrew Peck, a United States magistrate judge. "What I particularly liked was the Holmes-Watson relationship. The movie really showed Watson as a trusted companion to Holmes, coming to Holmes' aid in times of need. The Watson of the books is a military man who played rugby and sports in college. He is tough. He is observant on his own and Holmes wants him around, not as a bumbling fool but as a trusted aide."

 

Watson has historically been portrayed in films as a bumbling sidekick, most famously by British actor Nigel Bruce in a series of films from the 1940s. But director Ritchie's imagining of Watson is as the quick-footed, sharpshooting contemporary of Holmes, with a rapier-sharp wit that can match the detective in the tongue-lashing department.

 

"The movie did an excellent job in portraying the relationship between the two. The actors work well together, as did Holmes and Watson. The movie shows Watson as intelligent, able to be a good assistant; Watson, the doctor, concerned about his friend's well-being; and it shows his reasonable frustration with his friend's often thoughtless ways," said Julia Carlson Rosenblatt, a Baker Street Irregular since 1972 and co-author of "Dining With Sherlock Holmes."

 

Doubleday editor Christopher Morley founded the Irregulars in 1934. The group has included mystery writers Rex Stout and Anthony Boucher and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. Honorary members have included presidents Harry S. Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

 

The plot of the new Sherlock Holmes movie, starring Robert Downey Jr., as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, isn't based on an actual Conan Doyle story. The action centers on ritualistic murders and black magic, all leading to a case that has all of London in danger.

 

Peck saw "Sherlock Holmes" at an early screening of the film on Tuesday in New York with a dozen other Sherlockians. Peck has been a member of the Baker Street Irregulars for 37 years, but has been a lover of the Holmes detective stories since he was in junior high.

 

"Certain lines of dialogue were lifted the from the books, which we as Sherlockians enjoyed. They got laughs from the 13 folks in the theater who were familiar with the stories, while everyone else was quiet. Other than that, it was all made up except for bringing in certain character names and the supporting characters," Peck noted.

 

Because they are so familiar with the entire canon of four novels and 56 short stories written by Conan Doyle, Sherlockians naturally nitpicked some minor details. For instance, in this film, Watson introduces his fiancee, Mary Morstan, to Holmes for the first time.

 

"But we know Watson met Mary Morstan because she came to Holmes for help in 'The Sign of Four.' Holmes already knew her," Peck explained.

 

And Holmes' love interest in the film, Irene Adler, the con woman played by Rachel McAdams, was in only one of Conan Doyle's stories, "A Scandal in Bohemia."

 

"While she was called an adventuress in the story, she was not a criminal by any means, as she is portrayed in this movie," Peck said.

 

Conan Doyle himself would have appreciated the newest on-screen display of his hero, says Arthur Rosenblatt, a Baker Street Irregular and retired appeals court judge.

 

"Conan Doyle was not without a sense of humor and might have been amused by this film. He didn't care enough about Holmes to insist on canonical accuracy," Rosenblatt said. "When William Gillette, working on a Holmes play, asked Doyle if it was OK for Holmes to marry, Doyle is said to have replied, 'You may marry him, or murder him, or do anything you like to him.'

 

"So if this portrayal is a combination of Holmes, James Bond, Indiana Jones and Spider-Man," he added, "it just rolls along with the times and with the current film genre dominated by brilliant, spectacular special effects, explosions, violence, and more explosions."

 

http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/12/25/sherlockians/index.html#

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Hi Iz, Hope you had a good Christmas. I saw MURDER BY DECREE some thirty years ago at the local theater,when I lived in Montreal. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Given the limitations of budget and such the cast was quite amazing:Plummer, Mason,Donald Sutherland,John Gielgud, Anthony Quayle, Gerald Sim,Susan Clark,Frank Finlay,and Genvieve Bujold. The incorporation of Jack the Ripper and the long-held suspicion that the Ripper murders were indeed politically-driven with Sherlock Holmes' characters was inspired.It wasn't the first time that Jack the Ripper was transported from fact to fiction. In 1979, TIME AFTER TIME, Jack escapes the clutches of Scotland Yard by travelling, courtesy of H.G. Wells' actual, functional time machine into the 20th century, where his brand of barbarism is commonplace.

Plummer's Holmes is much more sympathetic than other portrayals. I rather wish he'd have done him more than the one time.Mason was wonderful as Watson, adding odd bits of color and character that made him come to life.Some years later the Jack the Ripper murders were made into a TV movie starring Michael Caine which again explored the evidence supporting a politically motivated series of murders. No Sherlock Holmes this time, just dogged police work.As the evidence points towards people highly place in government who were members of the Masonic order,it beomes more planned, more odious, at least according to the two films' plot lines.It is also interesting to note that three films which had Christopher Plummer in them, all had references to the Masonic Order: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING,MURDER BY DECREE, and NATIONAL TREASURE. I'm not a conspiracy theory supporter, but I think it's an interesting coicidence.

MURDER BY DECREE is available once again on dvd.All the best, BruceG.

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As was mentioned in the Silent Films thread, the 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes is boring. It is worth seeing as a piece of cinematic history, and for a young (and weird-looking) William Powell. However, this movie did bring back some memories for me.

 

I recall seeing a Broadway play in the early 1970s called "Sherlock Holmes." I believe Robert Stephens may have played the lead, but I can't be sure. I do know the play was based upon a work of William Gillette, and, after watching this silent, it seems that this may be the version I saw on the stage. I don't recall many details of the play, but I do recall the ending and how Holmes snared Moriarty (who looks like Scrooge in this film!!). This film had the same ending. I also recall Moriarty in some kind of underground lair, as he had in this film.

 

On another note, as a kid in the 1960s, I visited the home of William Gillette, which is here in CT, and is known as "Gillette Castle." At the time, I thought Mr. Gillette had something to do with razors.

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> {quote:title=scsu1975 wrote:}{quote}

> As was mentioned in the Silent Films thread, the 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes is boring. It is worth seeing as a piece of cinematic history, and for a young (and weird-looking) William Powell. However, this movie did bring back some memories for me.

 

I recorded it but likely won't be watching it until next year. Anything with William Powell's wort watching at least once, imho. :x

 

> On another note, as a kid in the 1960s, I visited the home of William Gillette, which is here in CT, and is known as "Gillette Castle." At the time, I thought Mr. Gillette had something to do with razors.

 

Did you ever visit Mark Twain's house? It is the only famous house in Connecticut I've ever visited. Wish I could go back there, too, in case they ever decided to close it to the public.

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> {quote:title=HollywoodGolightly wrote:}{quote}

> Did you ever visit Mark Twain's house? It is the only famous house in Connecticut I've ever visited. Wish I could go back there, too, in case they ever decided to close it to the public.

 

No, and that's even closer to me than Gillette Castle.

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> {quote:title=mr6666 wrote:}{quote}

> didn't like how it ended with Holmes 'engaged'.

 

Yes, that was rather sappy, but I think that's what the playwright William Gillette wanted Holmes to do.

 

And speaking of Gillette, here he is as Holmes:

 

WGHolmes.jpg

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I just ordered "Murder by Decree" on DVD. I saw it when it first opened and thoroughly enjoyed it. The same with "The 7% Solution", both of these films were extremely well done with wonderful actors having a field day. I think "Murder" may edge out "7%" by a nose, but not by much. I remember the "Holmes" film from the 1965 "Study in Terror" with John Neville as Holmes and Donald Houston as Watson with a wonderful almost cameo by Robert Morley as Mycroft Holmes, where Sherlock meets Jack the Ripper. It was a good movie but no where as well done as "Murder" It will surprise a lot of people to find out Bob Clark directed "Murder", the same who directed "A Christmas Story" and the first 2 "Porky's" films. How sad he died as a result of a drunk driver hitting his car head on and killing him and his son on Pacific Coast Highway in 2007.....

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> {quote:title=fredbaetz wrote:}{quote}

> How sad he died as a result of a drunk driver hitting his car head on and killing him and his son on Pacific Coast Highway in 2007.....

 

Yes, it was such a tragic death, I was very saddened to hear about it.

 

Speaking of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, I have that one on laserdisc and hope to watch it again soon. I have good memories of it, but haven't seen it in at least 10 years.

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Fredb,

 

I love both *Murder by Decree* and *Seven Percent Solution*, if you made me choose between the two I would be hard pressed indeed!

 

I really enjoyed Christopher Plummer and Nicol Williamsons' portrayals of Holmes but I think you are right, *Murder* is the more enjoyable of the two. The Jack the Ripper angle and James Watson as Watson are really winners.

 

I hope that one of these days TCM is able to get the rights to both films and show them on a Holmes programming theme.

 

As for Bob Clark, he was always much more talented than he really got credit for. Most people remember him for *Porky's* (which made him more money than god) but classic film lovers remember him for *Christmas Story* and *Murder*.

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