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Best movie detective?


doctorxx
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My choice would be Sherlock Holmes as played by Basil Rathbone. I read somewhere that Holmes has been played by more actors than any other character. A story goes that Rathbone was stopped on the street in NY by a young boy and was asked for an autograph, which he signed. The boy said no not Rathbone but Sherlock Holmes. At that point Rathbone decided to never play the role again.

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I agree wholeheartedly that Basil Rathbone is the best Sherlock Holmes and the best detective.

 

I do also like Arthur Wontner's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He is more cerebral and less physical than Basil Rathbone and I feel that is closer to the author's intent.

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Well, seein' as how I was born and bred in the environs of The City of Angels, I've gotta say Phillip Marlowe has always struck more of a resonant chord with me than has any other fictional detective out there...shweetheart!

 

Yep, but not only when Bogie played him, but also when Dick Powell and Bob Mitchum played the gumshoe too. In fact, even James Garner's turn in the role wasn't all that bad in my book.

 

 

(...oh, and in the same sorta L.A. P.I. vein here, I've gotta mention "Jaaaaack" in the Jake Gittes role in the movie *Chinatown* as bein' one of favorites, also)

 

Edited by: Dargo on Feb 8, 2012 9:29 AM

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I would pick Bogie as both Phil Marlowe and Sam Spade.

 

Second would be Powell as Nick Charles. I rate Rathbone's Holmes lower because a really great detective wouldn't of had a dunce like Watson (as played by Bruce, not as written in the original books), be his side kick.

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Feb 8, 2012 11:47 AM

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If this is aimed at only big screen private detectives, then I have to disqualify myself. But if this is open to TV and detectives on the police force, then I have to cast for vote for the one detective that always outwits the cleverest criminals, and that would be Peter Falk's "Columbo".

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My favorite is Sherlock Holmes as played by Robert Downey Jr, maybe because he reminds me of my funny-curious spirit (although I have not seen Rathbone and now I'm curious since you all think he's great) but.. I really love that character, I love how they interpreted the Baritsu Sherlock Holmes does in the book and mixed together Jaritsu and Kung Fu to come up with it resulting in a type of street fighting with a gentlemanness quality to it

 

 

Another one is Daniel Craig as James Bond, I remember how upset people got when he was chosen because they said he looks like a "bad guy" instead of a lead, I was very young but I'd remember seeing him in Road to Perdition and thought he was amazing esspecially in the intensity he brought with that charachter, and I think he does a great job as james bond and I think the films now are very realistic and very intelligent, and I also love Madds Mikkelsen opposite Daniel Craig in Casino Royale they had great chemistry

 

 

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Jeremy Brett was great as Sherlock Holmes, too.

 

Oh, LittleAbner, he's my favorite, faaaaaaaaaaar superior to Rathbone and the new whippersnapper Cumberbatch. And he died too young.

 

But since the heading was for 'movies' I left Brett off - another favorite television detective is Thaw as Morse, ANOTHER excellent died too young actor.

 

 

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ACK! I forgot Charlie Chan - Toler, then Oland, and never the last guy, whose name mercifully eludes me.

 

And yes, Luke and Yung and don't forget Benson Fong.

 

And Peter Lorre's Mister Moto.

 

Thanks for the memory jog, wouldbestar.

 

Rats, Roland Winters' name just occurred to me, horrible Chan.

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Its a tie: William Powell as Nick Charles and Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes ! Everyone else is second rate :)

 

I'd definitely agree that those are the top two, but even though they're B-movies, I'll never get tired of Warren William's version of The Lone Wolf, or Chester Morris's Boston ****. The pizzaz is there, even if some of the plots are kind of pedestrian. Oland's Charlie Chan isn't too bad, either.

 

There are plenty of other great ones, some of which have already been named, but I figure that half a dozen films in the same role is the minimum for consideration.

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>

> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}Jeremy Brett was great as Sherlock Holmes, too.

>

> Oh, LittleAbner, he's my favorite, faaaaaaaaaaar superior to Rathbone and the new whippersnapper Cumberbatch. And he died too young.

>

> But since the heading was for 'movies' I left Brett off - another favorite television detective is Thaw as Morse, ANOTHER excellent died too young actor.

Thank you. Brett was so good, I used to say "It's Sherlock Holmes playing Jeremy Brett." :)

I agree with you about John Thaw as Morse. I *loved* him and Lewis.

 

 

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My vote is Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. While the British series with Jeremy Brett had more authentic Victorian flavor, I thought sometimes his performance was a bit mannered and over the top. Also, Basil looks the part. I just watched some of the Universal films in a DVD set I got for Christmas, and those shots of him with the dressing gown and the violin, even the shape of his head and profile are exactly like the illustrations in the original stories. Basil also has an undercurrent of sexiness when he plays scenes with women, even as Sherlock, which is rather appealing and surprising, since one thinks of him in the stories as rather asexual. On another note, I find Nigel Bruce's performances hammy and not true to the character of Watson at all. Maybe Bas as Sherlock and Jude Law as Watson -- there's an idea to contemplate!

 

Runner up -- Humphrey Bogart as either Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. No one can handle great dialogue from those hard-boiled writers like Chandler and Hammett the way Bogie can.

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With all due respect to Mister's Bogart, Powell and Rathbone: " Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown ". Best detective movie of all-time and Nicholson's JJ Gittes right up there with Bogie's Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. And don't get me started on Robert Downey's Sherlock movies. Gotta be the worst Holmes ever. And I like most of Downey's stuff and feel he is very talented, but on these Sherlock movies I feel they have missed the essence of Conan Doyle's character.

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

> On another note, I find Nigel Bruce's performances hammy and not true to the character of Watson at all.

 

I see that comment often.

 

Bruce's portrayal might have more truth in it than most people realize.

 

First, Watson supposedly wrote the stories, and no one ever describes themselves accurately. It's not hard to imagine a slow-witted oaf passing himself off, in print, as intelligent, suave, and experienced. Anyone can appear glib when they have an unlimited opportunity to edit, rewrite, and revise their conversations. I know several people who are absolutely tongue-tied when talking to people, but give them a pen and paper (or a keyboard and screen), and they come across as rivals of Dorothy Parker or Oscar Levant.

 

And how many times have you heard someone say, "I thought there was something wrong," when, at the time, they were as taken in as everyone else? A writer, knowing the ending before he begins the story, can put those doubts into their narration long before the denouement, or at least leave out the parts where they were led down the garden path.

 

Second, there's no reason Sherlock Holmes would want an intelligent and perceptive person around. People of similar skill are predictable while people with poor skills are so erratic they bring out overlooked aspects of the situation. (Vincentio Saviolo is supposed to have said, "The best swordsmans does not fear the second-best. He fears the worst.")

 

Why would Holmes want someone who is only a step or two behind him in observing minute details and reaching conclusions? He needed a partner who wasn't capable of thinking along the same lines as he was, someone who wouldn't go down the same dead-ends. In case after case, a rather inane comment by Watson brought Holmes out of a convoluted, morass of over-thinking and put him on the right track.

 

This opposite character is stated bluntly in The Hound of the Baskervilles when Holmes says, "It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it."

 

Third, Holmes needed a whipping boy to take out his frustrations on. In *The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,* Holmes tells Watson, "I'm afraid you're an incorrigible bungler." Watson looks like a puppy who's been kicked, but a pat on the back and a smile puts everything right again. Can you imagine saying things like that to any doctor you know and having them keep coming back for more? Of course not. It takes a dithering, socially inept, dimwit to take such abuse time after time and still consider you a valued friend.

 

It's probable that the screenwriters originally lightened Watson in order to provide some comic relief, and Bruce played it for all it was worth. But I think they saw behind the facade of the autobiographical passages and had an instinctive grasp of the true nature of the character.

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Nice writeup, Capuchin. As a doctor, I just wish he was a smidgin more intelligently drawn, otherwise I was fine with him. He also played the dunderhead to Grant in Suspicion, so perhaps he was typecast.

 

I think Martin Freeman does a good job in the Cumberbatch Holmes, as did Edward Hardwicke to Brett's Holmes.

 

 

 

And don't get me started on Robert Downey's Sherlock movies. Gotta be the worst Holmes ever.

 

So true, cinemanut. They are horrific CGI abominations which are apparently very popular with folks who like that garbage. They are welcome to them.

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> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}

> As a doctor, I just wish he was a smidgin more intelligently drawn, otherwise I was fine with him.

 

Watson was an army doctor. Doyle didn't feel that earned the same respect as someone who had gone through medical school and struggled to set up his own practice, as he had to. Army doctors were famous (or infamous) for knowing only how cut off legs and give you enough morphine to keep you quiet (the rate at which wounded soldiers became morphine addicts was astonishingly high).

 

The routine of Holmes explaining to Watson how simple observations led to obvious conclusions was at least partially due to Doyle wanting to show how an army doctor needed to be spoken to like a child. (Some of Doyle's early drafts were written in semi-omniscient, and the explanations were delivered to a bumbling police detective, but they took on a real edge when he made Watson the narrator who had to be tutored like a backward child.)

 

As the stories progressed, Doyle had to evolve Watson into a more respectable companion, but I found that wicked undercurrent was always there.

 

When the original scripts, and casting, were done, that feeling towards army doctors was still known.

 

> He also played the dunderhead to Grant in Suspicion, so perhaps he was typecast.

 

He was probably picked for the role because of his being a dithering dunderhead. It's a role he knew well. He was an air-headed fop as the Prince in *The Scarlet Pimpernel,* and the befuddled Willie in *The Last of Mrs. Cheyney.*

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My film favorite is Mr. James Lee Wong, aka Boris Karloff.

 

I've liked almost all the British detectives shown in the PBS TV series Mystery, now called Masterpiece Mystery, but my favorites were Leo McKern, as Rumpole of the Bailey, Jeremy Brett, Helen Mirren as Jane Tennyson, and David Suchet, as Hercule Poirot.

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