Sherlock Holmes on Screens 1
1929 - 1939
"The well-remembered voice" (empt)
To inaugurate its new Holmesian collection, the Sherlock Holmes Cyclopædia, Mycroft’s Brother is proud to publish the first of a series entitled Sherlock Holmes on Screens, intended to encompass productions broadcast on cinema, television and other screen media.
Volume 1 covers the period from 1929 (the advent of talking pictures) to 1939 which marked the release of Basil Rathbone’s first cinematic outings in the role. It was a crowded decade: sixty or so representations of Sherlock Holmes are identified in this new work, nearly five times the number previously listed in specialist filmographies.
The reader will “behold the fruit of pensive nights and laborious days” spent by American Sherlockian, Howard Ostrom. For years he has researched and assessed archives of all kinds, unearthing original, unpublished, and occasionally surprising information that now contributes to a clearer understanding of the significance, fame and influence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation for international audiovisual culture. Film by film we may follow the irrepressible rise of the Great Detective to motion picture celebrity status.
Prior to 1929, “the well-remembered voice” of Sherlock Holmes could only be heard fleetingly at live performance on theatre stages; he was visible but silent on film. That first talking decade brought Holmes to the masses in all his multi-dimensional glory. Holmesian turns of phrase, rarely canonical and often born on the stage, like “Elementary, my dear Watson”, permeate the imagination of moviegoers, prompted by the foregrounding of such dialogue in advertising and journalism.
The full Sherlock panoply begins to take precedence over Holmes’ personality; his calabash pipe, deerstalker and magnifying glass are seized upon as a visual shorthand, snaring the customer whatever the film’s content or quality. We see this now; then, it was irresistible novelty.
In this hardcover album, Howard Ostrom enriches his discoveries with a stimulating commentary and tasty anecdotes. Thierry Saint-Joanis, President of the Sherlock Holmes Society of France, has illustrated the text with more than three hundred unpublished or rare images that animate the author’s listings and supplement dozens of contemporary press clippings provided to record critical reception.
It is hoped these documents, collected for the first time from international press archives, will delight fans who may enjoy the comments and mistakes of journalists, and serve researchers who will finally have a rich source to confirm or refute the genesis of certain notions and legends that to this day often distort the original Sherlock Holmes imagined by Conan Doyle.
Naturally, Volume 1 contains all the famous names such as Clive Brook, Arthur Wontner and Basil Rathbone who gave a voice to Holmes between 1929 and 1939.
The reader will also encounter a whole gallery of actors (and actresses!), familiar and obscure, donning the mantle of the Great Detective (for better or for worse), all contributing in myriad ways to the burgeoning cinematic reputation of a seemingly inexhaustible character.
Perhaps these early lights of the talking screen help illumine the impact of those stellar Sherlocks of our own time like Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.
We are only seeing the beginning...
It is my business to know what other people don’t know, about Sherlock Holmes on screen. When you are done reading Sherlock Holmes on Screens book series you will know everything I know, and then some. This work will be a guide for you to be able to OBSERVE most of the wonderful (and yes, unfortunately some not so wonderful) sightings of Sherlock Holmes (or at least Quasi-Holmes) appearances on screen. Thanks to platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and the various Internet Streaming companies, many of the Sherlock Holmes shows you will read about in this work, are now at your fingertips.
Clive Brook appeared in three films as Sherlock Holmes,
the first being The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1929),
then Paramount on Parade (1930), and Sherlock Holmes (1932).
“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.” The Boscombe Valley Mystery
For your enjoyment, in chronological year order, most of the Sherlock Holmes related films and TV of the talking films era, from 1929 to 1939. Beyond listing the famous, we are retrieving the forgotten.
They are waiting for you
in Sherlock Holmes on Screens 1.
Reginald Owen played Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes (1932), and then Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (1933).
Arthur Wontner wears the crown as “the” Sherlock Holmes performer for the decade of the thirties by way of his fine performances in five Sherlock Holmes films: The Sleeping Cardinal (1931),
The Missing Rembrandt (1932), The Sign of Four (1932),
The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935),
and Silver Blaze (Murder at the Baskervilles) (1937).
“I am glad to have a friend with whom
I can discuss my results.” The Blue Carbuncle
It’s fantastic what the digitized newspaper archives offer in possibilities to find out things about the past. And we are only seeing the beginning.
Since the publication of volume 1, we have found around 20 unknown Holmesian films which are presented in detail in volume 2 and volume 3.
Previous books on Sherlockian cinema, signed by Anglo-Saxon authors, have forgotten, for lack of knowledge, many productions made in continental Europe and in the rest of the world.
Thanks to our international team of investigators, we have managed to find some which deserve to appear in the filmography of the British detective.