When you close your eyes, which Sherlock Holmes do you see? That is: Which actor is your Sherlock Holmes? Is he in black-and-white, or color, or colorized? Does he have intertitles, or does he speak? Does he speak very, very fast? Is he almost always calm, or does he seem to barely contain himself from leaping off the screen? Does he wear silly hats or silly hair? Is his Watson a bumbler, or a warrior, or a believable physician/author?
In our youth, very few Holmes films were easily available to the viewing public. Most of them had disappeared into vaults, for a variety of legal reasons. One might happen to see the odd Daffy Duck cartoon on television, but there was no way either to know it would be on or to record it if it aired. Then along came Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond's Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, with the slightly sleepy Robert Stephens as Holmes and Colin Blakely as Watson. This was followed by another dearth of cinematic Holmes. Then, about 1975, the 1939 Rathbone-Bruce Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Hound of the Baskervilles were restored and released to theaters. Soon after, the beautiful Seven-Per-Cent Solution was everywhere. And Holmes was back. The dozen films Rathbone and Bruce made for Universal were syndicated for televi-sion, filling the late-night gaps of UHF broadcasting.
We admit that Rathbone is the first Holmes that comes to our mind, though we had previously known him in various villainous roles. But the Holmes closest to our heart is the one in Private Life. What's yours?
The Editor's Gas-Lamp, Spring 2018, Vol. 68, No. 1.