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Leslie S. Hiscott
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One of Barrymore's most prestigious early roles, this rarely seen film also presents screen debuts of William Powell and Roland Young. When a young prince is accused of a crime that could embroil him in international scandal, debonair super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes comes to his aid, and quickly discovers that behind the incident lurks a criminal mastermind eager to reduce Western civilization to anarchy. Written by
Reportedly, John Barrymore, the film's star, was responsible for getting William Powell into films. When MGM wanted to replace Barrymore in "Romeo and Juliet" in 1936, the actor showed his loyalty to the fading star by refusing the role. See more »
"When a young prince is accused of a crime that could embroil him in international scandal, debonair supersleuth Sherlock Holmes comes to his aid, and quickly discovers that behind the incident lurks a criminal mastermind eager to reduce Western civilization to anarchy. Adapted from the hugely popular stage version of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories (by William Gillette), 'Sherlock Holmes' not only provided Barrymore with one of his most prestigious early roles, but also presented the screen debuts of two notable actors: William Powell and Roland Young," according to the good folks at Kino International.
The star and property once made this one of the more missed "lost" films from the silent era. Then, in the 1970s, the 1922 version of "Sherlock Holmes" was found. However, this was no ordinary find. What they found was a cache of film canisters containing a jumble of the original film. There were multiple pieces of scenes, in no particular order, and with out the benefit of intertitle continuity (itself a curious and intriguing state). Kevin Brownlow and The George Eastman House set about restoring the film. That the restoration was ready in the 2000s indicated the level of work and dedication involved.
Now, we see the 1922 "Sherlock Holmes" is no classic. Even upon original release, there were complaints about the high level of reading (title cards and letters) as Mr. Barrymore and the cast conversed about plot elements. And, to miss reading a single intertitle will leave you confused. Also receiving understandable heckles in some quarters was the assertion that the famously asexual detective had a desire for Carol Dempster (as Alice Faulkner). This "romance" was carried over from Mr. Gillette's very successful version; at the time, leaving it out might have been more unwise. Audiences expected "Alice".
Goldwyn Pictures and director Albert Parker "embellished" the Gillette version by having the characters meet in college, during a long prologue. So, this is where Barrymore's Holmes falls in "love at first sight" with Ms. Dempster and meets malevolent professor Gustav von Seyffertitz (as Moriarty). Holmes is also introduced to the "prince and letters" plot by pre-shaved college pal Roland Young (as John Watson). This, and the London location footage, was meant to ward off the staginess of the source material. But, the film remains in the box. The last act excites, if you picture it occurring on stage.
***** Sherlock Holmes (3/7/22) Albert Parker ~ John Barrymore, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Carol Dempster, Roland Young
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