Sherlock Holmes wasn’t the first fictional detective but he remains the most famous and most beloved. His adventures have been serialized, televised, reimagined and reworked into every genre imaginable but we’re going back to the very beginning of Sherlock Holmes on the screen.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular creation is often thought of exclusively as a creature of Victorian London but that is not entirely the case. The Holmes stories were set between 1880 and 1914 ( over a decade beyond Queen Victoria’s reign) and in many ways Sherlock Holmes came of age alongside silent movies. He was “born” in 1887 with the publication of A Study in Scarlet (a year before Roundhay Garden Scene, believed to be the world’s earliest surviving celluloid motion picture footage) and made his last literary appearance in a pair of short stories published in 1927, the year of The Jazz Singer. (I don’t count any tale not written by Doyle, in case you were wondering.)
Naturally, such a popular character would make his way onto the silent screen. It all started with some unauthorized adaptations but Doyle also authorized several different screen incarnations of the character. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention all the goofy Sherlock spoofs of the silent era.
I have some great Holmes adaptations and spoofs picked out. Each and every one of these films will feature a different actor in the lead role. Maximum coverage is the goal! I hope you will enjoy the fun.
As an appetizer, you can read my review of John Barrymore’s take on the character with Gustav von Seyffertitz as Moriarty, Carol Dempster as the true love of Holmes (?), Roland Young as Watson and William Powell making his debut in a supporting role.
The French studio Eclair won the right to film the adventures of Sherlock Holmes with the legal blessing of Doyle. The results are accidentally hilarious.
The acclaimed Eille Norwood take on the Holmes character is under the microscope. Brilliant or overrated?
The audience poll
At the end of the month, I am going to hold an audience poll to discover your favorite silent Sherlock. We’ll vote on the best Holmes, best Watson, best adaptation and whatever else I can think of. See you there!