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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! It won’t be out until October 20, but I have already ordered one. 🙂 You can bet AitB will live-tweet the film ASAP!


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