William Gillette was the first actor to be universally acclaimed for portraying Sherlock Holmes, having written and staged the first authorized play in 1899. This film is the only preserved record of him doing Sherlock Holmes. See more »
A lost treasure one hopes will be one day be found.
This is the one and only film ever done by actor William Gillette and he was 60 years old at the time, a fact which shows particularly in photos of the photoplay. Also strange is the fact that those who conduct tours at the Gillette Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut don't even seem to know the film was ever made even though they display photos on the walls taken directly from the film.
William Gillette has an astounding record in terms of the role of Sherlock Holmes not only because he played the role over 1400 times in three mediums total, but also because he got permission from Conan Doyle himself to do things with the character that were never in print mainly because Doyle was so sickened of the stories that people did not seem to care about any of his other novels and publications. Gillette had no such problem since he relished playing the part particularly since it made him a rather wealthy man as well as a famous one.
Gillete also add bits of business that became so associated with the fictional detective that they exist to this day. Things such as the curved Meerchaum pipe and the dressing gown he so often wears in his digs at 221 B Baker Street. And in the last few serialized Sherlock Holmes stories in the American magazine Colliers, the illustrator intentionally made the detective hero look just like William Gillette.
Samuel French still prints the play and it was performed by no less than the Royal Shakespeare Company on Broadway as well as on the Wezt Coast. Still, when it was performed at the Williamsburg festival, there were changes made in the stage play making one wonder if there was more than one version of the play. Still these two things - the printed play and the videotaped production are all we have to go on in what this film may have been like since no print seems to exist.
Then there is the 1922 Sanuel Goldwyn film starring John Barrymore which tantalizes us further. While many here on this site have lambasted that version, it appears by all accounts to have been wildly successful.
SPOILER ALERT: Gillette in his version marries off Holmes to the character of Alice Faulkner who seems to have been based on the literary character known as "THE Woman" by Sherlock Holmes himself in a story in the Canon. Her name was Irene Adler.
Reportedly, when Gillette asked the creator Conan Doyle if he could marry him off, he was known to have said "You may damn well kill him off if you wish" As I have said in my summary title, I do hope that one day this film will resurface and be seen at all. One can only dream.
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