A Modest Review of William Gillette’s “Sherlock Holmes”

sherlock-holmes-william-gilletteOh wow, what a night!

Yesterday (Saturday, September 19, 2015), a group of Holmesians who are affiliated with my local scion traveled to Connecticut to attend a screening of the recently recovered 1916 William Gillette “Sherlock Holmes” silent film.

But we weren’t going to see the film at some random movie theater — oh no! We went to Gillette Castle, where the Friends of Gillette Castle were going to screen the film in the visitors center. Honestly, how perfect?

We gathered at the home of two very hospitable Holmesians to have drinks and nibbles prior to the show, which was just a lovely way to kick off the event. From there, we headed off to the state park.

20150919_164423Prior to the presentation, we were treated to delicious little sandwiches and local wine. We attended the 5 p.m. screening, and I was told after the event that all six shows this weekend (5 and 7 p.m., Friday through Sunday) were sold out. Congratulations to the Friends! The evening was beautiful, and it was possible to glimpse the castle through the trees. Unfortunately, the tours for the castle were over, but I’ve visited before and it is very interesting. Apparently, Gillette was a super cat lover (having 17 or so?) and parts of the castle were designed to be cat-friendly. Obviously, I knew then that Gillette was a superior human being, beyond Holmes and whatever. 😉



Gillette impersonators Tyke and Teddie Niver were on hand to greet everyone and pose for pictures — they are so fun.


Prior to watching the film, the Nivers gave a bit of the backstory, and then told us about their trip to San Francisco for the film’s premier. It sounded like they had a smashing time.  20150919_165930

Now, regarding the film: Here be spoilers. One non-spoiler: I thought it was beyond charming on so many levels. Onto the spoilers. Do not read any more if you want to see this movie with zero plot awareness.

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‘[Y]ou share my love of all that is bizarre:’ A Q & A with Actor Ben Syder

Ben Syder

In April of this year, ScarletSherlock and I cheerfully participated in a film tweet-along for Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes (2010), starring Ben Syder, Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto on Torchwood) and some dinosaurs. It’s a trip of a flick, and has enjoyed a cult-like status among Sherlockians. With good reason: It’s delightfully campy, directed with a wink and a nod, and both Syder and David-Lloyd are charming.

As the tweet-along began, Syder popped in to rally the watchers and add an extra dose of cheer. I asked him if he would answer a few questions, and he graciously agreed.

Many, many thanks to Mr. Syder for his time and attention!


Were you a Holmesian prior to this film? Have you read the Arthur Conan Doyle canon? If so, what is your favorite story/novel? You can pick two if choosing one is just too cruel.

Truthfully, I only had vague recollections of anything Holmes as my dad was a huge fan of the canon and of the Granada version from the 80s (For him Brett is the only Holmes!) – so I vaguely remember seeing snippets of the Granada show as a kid.  When I was auditioned for Asylum’s version I auditioned for the role of Watson but they also asked me to read for Holmes and I only found out at the very last minute that they wanted me to play Holmes.  I would have loved the opportunity to do proper research and familiarise myself with the canon and build a character but sadly this was last minute indie filming so I just had to roll with it!  After filming I watched both Robert Downey Jnr movies (I’m a big fan of his in general, and I was happy to see the return to form of director Guy Ritchie), but I can also say that since being a guest at 221B Con I’ve become more of a fan.  The guests’ passion was infectious and I literally got back from Atlanta and began to watch the BBC series that day (I’d seen a couple of episodes, but they’ve made me take it more seriously – in fact I’m literally hours away from going to watch the Sir Ian McKellan film – what have they done to me?!)

From the canon, well… you can’t beat a bit of positive discrimination for the gingers can you?  No, I enjoyed The Red-Headed League, but I’d say my favourite is The Final Problem.

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Itty Bitty Bit of Possible Info on RDJ!Holmes 3

We’ve gotten precious little information about the phantom third “Sherlock Holmes” film in the Robert Downey Jr. franchise. I mean, we’ve gotten the casual “Oh yeah, I’d love to do it if I’m asked but I know nothing because Hollywood,” from Jude Law and whatnot, but here’s what I just stumbled across:

“[Film producer Lionel Wigram] said: ‘We’re working on it. I think we have a really good idea, a good concept for it, and we’re working on it with Robert and Susan and everybody. We’ve had many, many meetings and we have a really good writer who is engaged.'” ~ from Lionel Wigram teases’ new Sherlock Holmes film.

Is that “good writer” Drew Pearce? Wigram is later quoted as saying everyone’s working on trying to come up with a “fantastic” plot. Hmm. I suppose I appreciate that, but it sounds like a stock response.

Also, as I was looking to credit this article, I noticed that 1) there was no byline and 2) the “article” gave no context. Who was interviewing Wigram to get these quotes? Where was this happening? Context, anyone?? Well, turns out the exact same “article” appears on at least two websites, so I’m smelling a press release-type situation. Why is Wigram throwing out such lame, teasing information? Is anyone appeased by this? Or is it the simple fact that at least someone is actively talking about the possibility of a third movie?

Call me when Jude Law officially signs on. 😀

Special Opportunity to See the William Gillette Film

Dear friends,

If you are going to be in the Northeast, specifically Connecticut, (or your willing to get yourself there) on Sept. 19, I have an opportunity to share with you regarding the recently rediscovered William Gillette film. It’s limited and reserved, and I have to know your intentions by 11 a.m. EDT tomorrow. I apologize for being horribly cryptic, but it’s a delicate situation! 😀 I mean, no one’s life is at stake (thankfully!), but I’m not at liberty to scream this from the treetops.

If you have an interest, please PM me here.



Let’s All Go Keep Some Bees With Fluffy Towels

Like most Holmesians, I have cheerfully tooled around London on my own (or with an organized group), visiting the Canon-relevant sites. It’s a necessary pilgrimage. But how about visiting the bucolic country house from the new film “Mr. Holmes” with Sir Ian McKellen? (Do you like how I casually pretend you actually haven’t heard of the movie?)

The lush estate is located in Winchelsea, near Rye, and it’s a National Trust B&B built in the 16th century.

And it turns out you can not only visit Wickham Manor Farm, you can actually stay there. Rooms can be rented from £90 per night, which, from my point of view, is unreal. I have a feeling that price is going to skyrocket very, very soon, but maybe go try to book your stay right now? Note that amenities include “Fluffy Towels.” These are not regular pedestrian towels, folks. These are fluffy, Holmesian towels. Because seriously, would the Great Detective use sub-par materials on his genius backside? HE WOULD NOT.

Read about several of the film’s locations, including Wickham Manor Farm, in an article titled “How to stay in Sherlock’s house from the Mr Holmes movie” by Jade Bremner for Radio Times.



Disappointment Abounds: No Sherlock Showing

We were so close, friends. SOCLOSE! Well, you were close if you were going to be in Chicago on Friday.

“Scheduled for June 19 and charging an ill-advised $75 entry fee, the Chicago premiere of the rediscovered Essanay silent feature ‘Sherlock Holmes’ has been canceled, according to its presenters (via the Chicago Tribune).”

So there it is. No lovely screening. However, the film will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 20 via flickeralley.com.

Gillette film a rousing hit!

News is slowly trickling in from this weekend’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival about William Gillette’s legendary 1916 Sherlock Holmes film. SFSFF was the SOLD-OUT American debut of the film, long thought to be lost but recently recovered and restored in France. (More on that here)

Check out #GilletteFilm on Twitter for first-hand accounts, pictures, etc. Several of the Baker Street Babes were in attendance along with many other Holmesians, critics, and fans. Rumors speculate that the film will be shown at more festivals and arthouse theaters over the coming year, and you can pre-order the blu-ray now.

By all accounts the film is a joy to watch, with many people mentioning their surprise and delight at how much characters like Watson and Billy were featured. Even those who did not like the storyline singled out Gillette’s performance and its obvious influence on future Holmes films and actors.


William Gillette Sherlock Holmes film coming to blu-ray!

HUGE NEWS! It seems that the long-lost William Gillette Sherlock Holmes film discovered last year is coming to Blu-Ray and dvd!!

The film is due to make its U.S. debut at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on Sunday May 31 at 7:00pm.

Gillette’s impact on Sherlock Holmes cannot be understated. I would venture that without his contribution to the world of Sherlock Holmes, we would not be on this website discussing the Great Detective today – at least maybe not in such minute detail. XD

From SFSFF’s website:

The silent film version of Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette has been found! Long considered lost since its first release, the Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Holmes on screen. Directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in 1916, it was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française recently.

By the time the film was made, Gillette had been established as the world’s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage. He gave his face and manner to the detective and inspired the classic illustrations of Frederic Dorr Steele. Dynamic but calm, he played Holmes in the colorful attire—bent-stemmed briar, ornate dressing gown, and deerstalker cap—that has been identified ever since with the character. Just as durable was Gillette’s distinctive bearing, preserved in the film: the charismatic, all-seeing detective who dominates scenes with his preternatural stillness. Booth Tarkington famously wrote after seeing Gillette on stage, “I would rather see you play Sherlock Holmes than be a child again on Christmas morning.” For the well-known Chicago bookman, Vincent Starrett, Gillette was beyond criticism. But perhaps the most telling accolade came from Arthur Conan Doyle himself, who had killed Holmes off and thought he was through with the character. After reading Gillette’s adaptation for the stage, he said, “It’s good to see the old chap back.”

“Sir Arthur, you don’t know the half of it,” says Professor Russell Merritt, the supervising editor of the film’s preservation project and member of the Baker Street Irregulars. “At last we get to see for ourselves the actor who kept the first generation of Sherlockians spellbound. We can also see where the future Holmeses—Rathbone, Brett, Cumberbatch, and the rest—come from. As far as Holmes is concerned, there’s not an actor dead or alive who hasn’t consciously or intuitively played off Gillette.”

The newly found Essanay production is not only Gillette’s sole surviving appearance as Holmes. It is also the only film Gillette ever made, a unique opportunity to view the work of a major American actor in the legendary role that he wrote for himself. The film faithfully retains the play’s famous set pieces—Holmes’s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions—and illustrates how Gillette wove bits from Conan Doyle’s stories, ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem,” into an original, innovative mystery play.

Restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Cinémathèque Française.
Live musical accompaniment by the Donald Sosin Ensemble

Underwritten by Glen Miranker

Special support from contributors to the Baker Street Circle

Co-presented by Flicker Alley


So it is with great pleasure and anticipation I say that the film is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com! It won’t be out until October 20, but I have already ordered one. 🙂 You can bet AitB will live-tweet the film ASAP!