Sherlock Holmes (1916)
Article 5456 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Arthur Berthelet
Featuring William Gillette, Marjorie Kay, Ernest Maupain
What it is: Detective story
Sherlock Holmes is assigned to recover incriminating letters from a woman whose sister was betrayed by the crown prince. The situation gets complicated when the woman is kidnapped by swindlers, and Professor Moriarty appears on the scene.
At the time this movie fell off my hunt list and was consigned to my “ones that got away” list, it was believed lost. Since then, a copy was discovered in France (where it was released in four parts as a serial) and it was restored and released on DVD. For some reason, I never got around to getting a copy until recently, so I’m glad to finally get a chance to cover it.
William Gillette was a stage actor who gained fame playing Sherlock Holmes. This movie was an adaptation of a specific stage production written by Gillette, with the original stage cast reprising their roles in the movie. It’s basically an extended version of the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” with an elaborate Moriarty plot added to the mix. It was probably easy to convert to a serial, as each episode has a separate story arc while having an arc that extends through the whole work. Gillette was a good Holmes, and some of the Holmesian traditions originated with him, such as the Meerschaum pipe. Some of the elaborations to the story are a bit on the awkward side, but the movie is still entertaining enough, though Watson is mostly consigned to the edges of the story until the final act. However, I find it sorely lacking in the fantastic content that defines my series; the closest it gets is that Moriarty’s secret lair has a couple of small touches of horror to it. It was the only filming of Gillette in the role of Holmes.