1st December, No Comments
By John Watson
Those of you with nothing better to do than stumble upon my “writings” here will, no doubt, have noticed the paucity of my notes of late.
I have, as they say, been busy with other things but in the New Year I hope to be back on the case.
You have my permission to complain if do not honour that promise!
Posted in News
28th November, No Comments
By John Watson
It has been a very busy year with the research for my book on Holmes on the British radio unearthing new details that need further investigation and so little time has been devoted to anything else, including this website.
Anyway, whilst Mrs Hudson is busy in the kitchen, I can tell you about the first book that I want to put on this year’s list of presents for afficianados of the world’s first consulting detective.
The Murder of Mary Russell is the latest in the series of Russell’s memoirs and is one of those books that once you start it you will find it difficult to put down.
The possibility of Russell’s demise is not the real surprise of the book – it’s when a man comes to the door one morning, claiming to be Mrs Hudson’s son. The book took me by surprise but not Holmes, Hudson and Russell who were in one its secrets long before me.
You can find my review here.
Also this year, we have had The Marriage of Mary Russel where Russell and Sherlock Holmes embark upon the riskiest adventure of their partnership – their wedding. Note that this is only for the Kindle.
Also, but so far only available on Kindle in the UK (publishing problems have pushed the book back to April next year) is Mary Russell’s War containing nine short stories, seven of which have never previously been available in print, and one brand new, never-before-seen Sherlock Holmes mystery.
They begin with England’s declaration of war in 1914 from Russell’s teenage diaries where she tells of tracking German spies through San Francisco, and then an unimaginable tragedy strikes.
On a much lighter note, Eve Titus’s Basil of Baker Street stories are being republished.
Those who still enjoy the film Basil The Great Mouse Detective (listen carefully at the beginning for the unmistakeable voice of Basil Rathbone upstairs in 221B and look out for the charming portrayal of Toby the dog) will be pleased to know that all five books of the original stories are being republished – three so far and the remainder in 2017.
The stories comprise Basil of Baker Street (first published in 1958 republished 2016), Basil and the Lost Colony (1964 republished 2017), Basil and the Pygmy Cats (1971 republished 2016), Basil in Mexico (1976 republished 2016) and Basil in the Wild West (1982 republished 2017).
Last Christmas, I mentioned the first three volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Now there are two more.
The first, Part IV: 2016 Annual was published in May and the latest Part V: Christmas Adventures is published on November 21st. As before all the royalties from these collections are being donated by the writers for the benefit of the preservation of Undershaw, one of the former homes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Benedict Cumberbatch is certain to go down in history for one of the great portrayals of Holmes. Whether and for how long the BBC Sherlock will last is unclear but if you want to know more about Cumberbatch then a biography is released later this month.
Benedict Cumberbatch: London and Hollywood by Lynnette Porter covers his early success as a working actor through his dynamic trajectory to international star.
That’s all for this year’s Christmas list – just a few books as there’s nothing that caught my eye in the video or games departments. We are waiting to see what the New Year will bring – especially in the new series of the BBC’s Sherlock . . .
25th April, No Comments
By John Watson
It does, for the first time, make public the life story of the woman who probably knew more about my partnership with Holmes than anyone else. Mrs. Hudson has, for many years, kept secret the identity of many of our visitors and the details of many of the cases we had worked on together. Most of us, including me, had no idea about her life before Baker Street and much of what I have written about her is now clearly wrong!
When Russell made me aware of what she intended to make public in this chapter of her memoirs, I knew that she must have obtained Mrs. Hudson’s permission (and that of Holmes too) as it would provide previously undisclosed details of the case I have referred to as The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.
Holmes had related the story of this, his very first case, to me and had agreed that I could have it published. Holmes had asked me to change the name of one of the central characters but I had already sent the manuscript to the publishers and, unaware of its significance, I failed to get it changed. I assumed that my readers would just consider it a coincidence as I had failed to remark on the name in the actual story.
It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in April 1883 and subsequently was one of the stories in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. At the time of its publication, Holmes was furious that I had left the name of Hudson unchanged (as he had asked me to) but, at the time, I had no idea why he was so insistent about it as he had stated that it was the “merest coincidence” that one of the central characters had the same surname as our landlady.
Two years earlier than the story’s publication, when Holmes was looking for new lodgings and came across Mrs. Hudson, he was aware of the connection but I was never made aware of the connection and it was only much later, as Russell relates in this memoir, that she and eventually I, really understood the connection. When I put the story of His Last Bow to print, I still had no knowledge of Mrs. Hudson’s past, and the role she took in that story.
This memoir of Russell’s opens in 1925 (though readers of the UK edition will find the date misprinted as 1995) with Russell in fear for her life. What leads us to this point is the early life of our landlady, Mrs. Hudson. Therein lies the link to the story of the Gloria Scott and with it Holmes earliest career. As that story unfolds, how we all ended up at 221B Baker Street becomes clear (for the first time to me, too!) and with it how Billy the page boy and Wiggins of The Baker Street Irregulars came to our assistance.
Most of all we learn the important part Mrs. Hudson has played and why, in many ways, it was an act, but one that even fooled “a nervy, limping medical man recently out of the army” when he first came to look at 221B, and for many years after!
11th November, No Comments
By John Watson
Mrs Hudson has been out shopping to get the dried fruit and nuts to make her wonderful Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. So here is my list of possible gifts for those who admire Sherlock Holmes almost as much as I do!
To play games [REIG]
Here you can see them explaining the changes and how both games are played.
If we get a “long succession of southerly gales” (as I mentioned in [BLAC]), Mrs Hudson and I could happily distract ourselves with these absorbing games.
By the way, in the past, Gibsons have run various competitions to write new Sherlock Holmes cases and you can see some of these using this link.
To the theatre [BRUC]
There are a couple of films this year worthy of note.
Ian McKellen as Mr Holmes, is based on the book by Mitch Cullin, A Slight Trick of the Mind. As usual, when Holmes has hold of the pen I come in for a bit of stick over what he regards as my additions to his film persona (though I insist I had nothing to do with the deerstalker and the curved pipe!)
Nevertheless, for once it is Holmes who is being forgetful in this film rather than me (I have pre-deceased Holmes apparently) and there is a lot of humour in McKellen’s portrayal that makes for a very entertaining film. It is not often that someone from the Lancashire town of Burnley gets to play Holmes (as my current literary agent never tires of pointing out).
On television, I have to admit that now having watched the first three series of Elementary on DVD (Season One, Season Two, and Season Three as the Americans insist on calling them), it is much better than the initial reviews that I read and I am grateful for the reviews that The Woman did for me which were published here.
The other film of note this year is a very old film, William Gillette’s 1916 film Sherlock Holmes which I am looking forward to watching. I will give a more detailed review later of the copy Flicker Alley (who have produced the disk) have kindly sent to me.
Gillette’s sole filmed performance as Sherlock Holmes, considered lost for nearly 100 years, was recently discovered and restored by San Francisco Silent Film Festival and la Cinémathèque française. By the time it was produced at Essanay Studios in 1916, Gillette had been established as the world’s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage—having played him approximately 1300 times since his 1899 debut.
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. It also illustrates how Gillette, who wrote the adaptation himself, wove bits from my stories ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem,” into an original, innovative mystery play.
This release includes:
- Two complete versions of the film: the original French-language version as discovered at La Cinémathèque française, as well as an English-language version translated from the French.
- “From Lost to Found: Restoring William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes” – Presented by film restorer Robert Byrne at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival
- Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900): Courtesy of the Library of Congress and presented in HD, this is the earliest known film to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes
- A Canine Sherlock (1912): From the EYE Film Institute, the film stars Spot the Dog as the titular character.
- Più forte che Sherlock Holmes (1913): Also from the EYE Film Institute, this entertaining Italian trick-film
- HD transfers from the Fox Movietone Collection: Interview with Arthur Conan Doyle and outtakes from a 1930 newsreel with William Gillette showing off his amateur railroad (University of South Carolina)
- PDF typescript of the 1899 Sherlock Holmes play by William Gillette
- PDF of the original contract between William Gillette and the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company
- A booklet featuring images from the film and information about the restoration project.
Note that the versions being released include a region-free Blu-ray version and a region-free DVD NTSC version. The latter will not play on UK PAL DVD players but does play on computers.
There has been nothing new from the BBC Sherlock this year, except for various repackaging of the films from the first three series, and the Christmas special (The Abominable Bride) is not due to be broadcast until New Year’s Day so there’s nothing on my Christmas list for this year.
He looked over his books [STUD]
But the creators of Sherlock have put together a book of what they consider to be the best of my stories.
Sherlock: The Essential Arthur Conan Doyle Adventures contains the following stories – A Study In Scarlet, The Sign of Four, A Scandal in Bohemia*, The Red-Headed League*, A Case of Identity, The Man with the Twisted Lip*, The Blue Carbuncle, The Speckled Band*, Silver Blaze*, The Yellow Face, The Musgrave Ritual*, The Greek Interpreter*, The Final Problem*, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Empty House*, Charles Augustus Milverton, The Bruce-Partington Plans*, The Devil’s Foot*, The Dying Detective, each introduced by Gattis and Moffat.
It is interesting to compare this selection with the twelve that Sir Arthur regarded as the best short stories (he excluded the long stories) and the seven he later added. Those marked above with an asterisk appear in his lists. He also included The Dancing Men, The Five Orange Pips, The Second Stain, The Priory School and The Reigate Squires, but not The Dying Detective. So I look forward to reading the reasons for Gatiss and Moffat’s selections.
From October of last year to April of this year the Museum of London exhibition Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die and this sumptuous book reflects this marvellous exhibition about which one friend remarked that I was “quite criminally under-represented”.
For those who seek their amusement in what Holmes and I might have investigated, the number of pastiches available continues to rise, and here are “five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?” (from The Empty House)
Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories contains eighty-three stories, published over more than a hundred years. Including cases by modern-day Sherlockians Leslie S. Klinger, Laurie R. King, Lyndsay Faye and Daniel Stashower; pastiches by literary luminaries both classic (P. G. Wodehouse, Dorothy B. Hughes, Kingsley Amis) and current (Anne Perry, Stephen King, Colin Dexter); and parodies by Conan Doyle’s contemporaries A. A. Milne, James M. Barrie, and O. Henry, plus cases by science-fiction greats Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock.
There must be something there for everyone, but if not here are sixty more split over three volumes: The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part I: 1881 to 1889,Part II: 1890 to 1895, and Part III: 1896 to 1929
David Marcum, a prolific pastiche writer himself, has put together this three-volume collection, bringing together over sixty of the world’s leading Sherlock Holmes authors. All the stories are traditional pastiches. The authors are donating all the royalties from the collection to preservation projects at Sir Arthur’s former home, Undershaw.
Finally, though not really a pastiche, I am adding Zach Dundas’s The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes.
In this book Dundas carries out his investigation of Holmes from my nearly forgotten first manuscript of A Study In Scarlet to the award-winning series BBC Sherlock. He looks at the history and cultural influence of Holmes and I, weaving investigative journalism with text from my stories. Dundas provides detailed accounts of his travels across London, New York, and Los Angeles, exploring every facet of the Sherlock story, from societies dedicated to scholarly study to a self-trained “mentalist” who Holmes for his uncanny on-stage deductive powers, and includes interviews with Steven Moffat, create of the BBC series, bestselling author Laurie R. King, and others.
So there are quite a few items that could be added to a certain person’s wish list . . .
14th September, No Comments
By John Watson
Once in a while, Sherlock Holmes appears as a specialist subject on the BBC’s Mastermind quiz. On the 11th of this month he cropped up again.
Here are the 13 questions:
- In A Study in Scarlet what word is written in red letters on the wall in the room in which the murder victim is found?
- What is the occupation of Victor Hatherley who comes to the attention of Sherlock Holmes after Dr Watson has treated him for a severe thumb injury?
- Violet Hunter, a governess at the country house called The Copper Beeches becomes concerned about her employer’s strange behaviour and comes to Holmes for help. In which county is The Copper Beeches?
- In The Man With The Twisted Lip Neville St Clair gives up his job as a journalist when he discovers by wearing a disguise he can earn more money doing what?
- After Holmes is proved wrong in The Yellow Face what word does he tell Watson to whisper in his ear if he ever seems over-confident in his own powers?
- The initials “VV” found on a card next to a dead body allow Holmes to identify the real name of the so-called “Valley of Fear” where Birdy Edwards infiltrated a dangerous gang to bring them to justice. What’s the name of the valley?
- In The Sign of the Four Dr Watson’s future wife Mary asks Holmes to investigate the disappearance of her father. What’s his surname?
- What object is stolen from Sir Henry Baskerville when he’s staying at a hotel and used by Stapleton to give the hound Sir Henry’s scent?
- Dr Watson diagnoses that Mr Jefferson Hope, the murderer of both Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson has a specific heart condition by placing his hand on his chest. What condition?
- In The Solitary Cyclist Bob Carruthers tries to protect Violet Smith from a plot to force her into marrying a criminal. What does he wear to disguise his identity along with a dark suit and a cloth cap?
- In the climax of which short story are Holmes and Moriarty believed to have fought at the edge of the Reichenbach Falls and plunged to their deaths?
- What is the value of the Mazarin Stone, a yellow diamond, stolen by Count Negretto Sylvius?
- In The Six Napoleons Beppo has been smashing plaster busts of Napoleon because one of them contains what valuable object?
The contestant on this occasion correctly answered 10 of the 13 questions asked, got questions 11 and 12 wrong and passed on question 5 and unfortunately came last out of the four contestants after the general knowledge section.
How many would you have answered correctly? (Answers to follow at a later date.)
On a previous Celebrity Mastermind, Stephen Fry also answered 10 questions correctly.
Posted in Television
13th August, No Comments
By John Watson
It is with great satisfaction but with a tinge of sadness that I can report on Alistair Duncan’s final book in his trilogy on the life of my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whom I will always refer to as ‘Dear Arthur’.
I will also take this opportunity to thank the man who saw such promise in the jottings of a fellow medical men and encouraged me to continue in my attempts to bring knowledge of Holmes great gifts to the world.
Nevertheless it is to Alistair Duncan that we must now give our most grateful thanks for the many hours of painstaking research he has undertaken to produce these three books covering nearly forty years of Dear Arthur’s life.
His latest, and the last in this trilogy, cover the final years of Doyle’s life from 1907 to 1930 during which I saw very little of Doyle, save when it was necessary to discuss the publication of my latest stories concerning my friend and colleague, Holmes. The very busy schedule that Doyle undertook, travelling here, there and everywhere, is meticulously detailed by Duncan and goes a long way to explain why I often had trouble contacting him, not least to correct some of the errors that crept into my manuscripts, for which I accept all the blame.
Nevertheless, I am sure it is Duncan’s book that you really want to know about . . .
Alistair Duncan has written and published three books covering the life of Arthur Conan Doyle.
The first of these was The Norwood Author, covering just the three years (1891 to 1894) during which Doyle lived in Norwood, South London.
The second was An Entirely New Country, covering the period between 1897 and 1907 when Doyle was living at Undershaw in Hindhead.
This third and, by definition, final volume, No Better Place, covers 1907 to 1930. So it begins with Doyle and his new wife, Jean Leckie, on their way back to England from their honeymoon to their new home, Windelesham, on the outskirts of Crowborough in East Sussex. By the way, it is now a home for the elderly so I may find myself there someday!
Doyle was still battling to obtain a pardon for George Edalji and arranging the publication of the penultimate series of Holmes stories, His Last Bow, beginning with the two-part serialisation of The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge in The Strand in September and October 1908. Early in that year, Sidney Paget, who had illustrated Holmes stories from A Scandal in Bohemia onwards, died in 1908, and a new illustrator was need for the stories that would form part of His Last Bow.
In 1910, Doyle mounted a stage play version of The Speckled Band with H. A. Sainstbury as Holmes and Claude King as me. In that same year, George Newnes passed away, to whom Doyle and I had reason to be grateful for providing the platform on which Holmes stories were published (The Strand).
The following year brought the death of Dr. Joseph Bell, whom many considered (but not Bell himself) to have been the inspiration behind many of my stories (but not myself!).
On August 4th, 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and the following month the serialisation of The Valley of Fear started in The Strand and did not appear in book form until the following year.
1916 was the year in which Doyle went public about his belief in spiritualism. From then on to the end of his life, it became his main campaign and seems, in the latter years to have been his only campaign.
In 1917, the story of His Last Bow was published in The Strand, chronologically the last adventure of Holmes and I that I intended to publish.
It is notable that in Duncan’s book, the war years of 1914 to 1918 have the least detail due, in no doubt to the people (and the newspapers) being preoccupied with the war itself.
It has been noted elsewhere that the overwhelming loss of life that the nation suffered was one of the factors in the rise of Spiritualism during this period and it does seem that Conan Doyle’s promotion of his beliefs continued to gather pace throughout the rest of his life and seemed, by Duncan’s account, to consume almost all of his time and energy. He travelled extensively abroad following the war talking about these strongly held beliefs.
During the 1920s, the Cottingley Fairies story broke, and although of minor significance to Conan Doyle, seems to be held by many to indicate that he was not the intelligent, reasoned man whom many had admired.
The individual Holmes stories that comprised The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes were published in the 1920s leading up to the Casebook publication in 1927. The films with Eille Norwood as Holmes were also released early in this decade.
Although taken ill in 1909, Conan Doyle seems to have remained in good health until 1929 but ignored advice to slow down and collapsed when due to talk at the Home Office early in July 1930 and suffered a heart attack and died on July 7th, 1930.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Duncan has made a tremendous job of piecing together Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s last years from newspaper articles, letters and other evidence, in such a way that one feels one is reading Doyle’s personal diary. One gets a feel for a man of great determination, pursuing his beliefs until the very end.
Posted in Books
31st May, 2 Comments
By John Watson
In celebration of 100 years of Holmes in 1987, the BBC broadcast a number of programmes relating to his legacy. The Radio Times for the week of December 5th to 11th, 1987 carries a drawing of Holmes on the cover and there are seven pages inside covering “Sherlock – A study in the science of sleuthing” by H R F Keating and other articles. You can see these articles and the cover by the courtesy of Altamont in his Markings.
The programmes broadcast that week included:
- “Centenary, My Dear Watson” on BBC Radio 4 where we follow the men and women of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London who celebrated the centenary with a pilgrimage through Switzerland to the Reichenbach Falls. This programme can be heard here.
- “Food and Drink” on BBC Two in which, as a change from Christmas Pudding, what about Plum Duff, the exclusive recipe of our housekeeper (or is it landlady?) Mrs Hudson
- “The Case of Sherlock Holmes”, a 40 Minutes special on BBC Two (lasting an hour and ten minutes) in which Tim Pigott-Smith, who has played both of us, embarks on an investigation into why Holmes continues to fascinate. This programme can be seen here.
- “The Hound of the Baskervilles”on BBC Two which was Basil Rathbone’s first film as Holmes, and the start of a new season of Rathbone as Holmes films on the BBC
- “Out of Court” on BBC Two which carries out an investigation into vicious and ou-of-control dogs, citing the Hound as “an elementary matter for Sherlock Holmes to unravel”
Add to that a competition to win “a holiday for two near the Reichenbach Falls or a set of the new deluxe Super Cluedo Challenge”!
The only extra I have included here, courtesy of Mrs Hudson is her Plum Duff recipe:
These are the competition questions
- What was Holmes chief adversary called?
- What was Conan Doyle’s profession?
- What nationality was Hercules Poirot?
- Which technical invention caught Dr Crippen?
- Who was Lord Peter Whimsey’s manservant?
- Which of the following is not a character in Waddington’s Cluedo board game? (a) Miss Scarlett (b) Dr Green (c) Professor Plum
I’m afraid the competition is now closed . . .
3rd May, No Comments
By John Watson
This is the second instalment of a new series of articles tracing programmes about Holmes from the early days of radio broadcasting by the BBC through to when Holmes first appeared on BBC television to the latest Sherlock series.
The first instalment can be found here.
There is only one programme that I can find broadcast by the BBC Home Service in 1940. That was another “For The Schools” programme on October 7th. At 2.40pm there was an item for “Senior English”, planned and presented by Douglas R Allan about detective stories, with illustrations from Sherlock Holmes, Sexton Blake, etc.
Yet another biography of myself, entitled “My Dear Watson” was broadcast on the BBC Home Service at 7.30pm on February 2nd, 1941.
This appears to have been based on the facts recorded in the Adventures, Memoirs, Return, His Last Bow and Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes and also uses the “scholarship of S C Roberts and H W Bell”. In this programme, I am played by Cecil Trouncer and Holmes by Felix Aylmer.
Sidney Castle Roberts (S C Roberts) was an author, publisher and biographer and a noted Sherlockian, and was president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. In 1953 he published “Holmes and Watson A Miscellany”, a very amusing book that I am proud to have in my collection.
Harold Wilmerding Bell (H W Bell) was another writer who published a number or articles and books about us. These include “Baker Street Studies” published in 1934 which I would like to have in my collection.
Nothing relating to Holmes was broadcast in 1942 but “My Dear Watson” was repeated a couple of years after its original broadcast at 9.40pm on July 30th, 1943.
Earlier that same month on July 3rd at 9.35pm began the long association that Carleton Hobbs was to have with Sherlock Holmes though on this occasion he played myself alongside Arthur Wontner as Holmes. This was “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” adapted for the BBC Home Service by Ashley Sampson.
Later that year, Douglas Allan, in another “For The Schools” programme on the BBC Home Service at 2.40pm on December 10th, asked “Do you know Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson?” and introduced the “famous detective and his assistant“!
Nothing appears to have been broadcast in 1944 but on May 17th, 1945 at 10.45 pm the BBC Home Service broadcast an adaptation of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” with Holmes played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Finlay Currie playing me. The adaptation was by John Dickson Carr.
On August 9th, 1945 at 9.30pm, the BBC Home Service presented the first of a series of weekly dramas. Entitled “Corner In Crime”, the first of these was “Silver Blaze” with Laidman Browne as Holmes and Norman Shelley playing me as he would later when Carleton Hobbs appeared as Holmes.
Nothing the following year (1946) then on February 7th, 1947, Douglas Allan introduced Holmes again as part of a “For The Schools” programme at 2.40pm on the BBC Home Service.
On April 23rd that year at 6.15pm on the BBC Light Programme, Books and Authors presented a recent book that provided “an unusual study of Sherlock Holmes”. Any ideas what that might have been?
On December 27th the BBC Home Service re-broadcast “The Speckled Band” previously aired in 1945 with Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Finlay Currie.
Nothing in 1948 but on January 8th, 1949 the BBC Light Programme at 2pm in “New Books and Old Books” looked at the Sherlock Holmes stories.
From August 8th, 1949, the BBC Light Programme at 11pm on successive nights, presented “A Book At Bedtime”, in which Laidman Browne read three of my stories each one presented in five episodes. “The Speckled Band” from 8th to 12th, “The Norwood Builder” from 15th to 19th and “The Bruce-Partington Plans” from 22nd to 26th.
Laidman Browne would play Holmes again on the BBC in the 1950s and he appeared in the 1955 film The Dambusters that also included Nigel Stock who would later play me alongside Douglas Wilmer (and later Peter Cushing) as Holmes on BBC Television.
That was it for the 1940s apart from another “For The Schools” programme at 2.25pm on October 3rd, 1949 when the BBC Home Service had a reading of “The Speckled Band”.
These schools programmes will become significant in the next decade when then begin the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley pairing as Holmes and Watson. Tune in again soon for The Holmes Service 1950-1959 when Holmes and I first appear on BBC Television!
Posted in Radio
1st May, 5 Comments
By John Watson
With the British Film Institute’s release of a 4-DVD set of the BBC TV’s Sherlock Holmes series from the 1950s, now is a good time to review Douglas Wilmer’s portrayal of Holmes alongside Nigel Stock’s portrayal of me (which he continued alongside Peter Cushing’s Holmes on television in the 1960’s).
Wilmer is regarded by some as one of the best portrayers of Holmes and certainly watching these again for the first time in many years it is easy to understand why his Holmes is so widely revered. Let us not forget that he was assisted by a very good Watson in Nigel Stock who went on to play opposite Peter Cushing in the later BBC series.
Wilmer first appeared as Holmes in a the first of three BBC series entitled “Detective” appearing between 1965 and 1969. Each episode of this series introduced by Rupert Davies as the BBC was keen to follow up on the successful “Maigret” series. This “pilot” was “The Speckled Band” 50 minute broadcast on May 18th, 1964 at 9:25pm on BBC One and was the third in the first of the three “Detective” series.
- The Speckled Band (Pilot)
- The Illustrious Client (with optional audio commentary)
- The Devil’s Foot (with optional audio commentary)
This disc also contains the following extras:
- Spanish Audio Version of The Speckled Band (for overseas sales to be dubbed onto the video)
- Alternative Titles for The Illustrious Client (again for overseas screening and featuring Peter Wyngarde)
- The Copper Beeches
- The Red-Headed League (with optional audio commentary)
- The Abbey Grange (with optional audio commentary)
The Abbey Grange is a partial reconstruction as the picture and sound from the first reel is missing. Wilmer reads from my original story, with some adaptations to suit the screenplay, and then resumes the original broadcast after Holmes and I return to the Abbey Grange following our discussion about the “incident of the wine glasses”.
- The Six Napoleons
- The Man With The Twisted Lip
- The Beryl Coronet
- The Bruce-Partington Plans
In The Beryl Coronet the villain, Sir George Burnwell, is played by a young David Burke, who was Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Only the first reel of The Bruce-Partington Plans exists and so the second half is sound only.
- Charles Augustus Milverton (with optional audio commentary)
- The Retired Colourman
- The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
This disc also carries an interview with Wilmer “Douglas Wilmer . . . On Television” from 2012 which gives insight into how he decided to play Holmes and why some of the scripts he regarded as “disgraceful”.
The DVD set is accompanied by a booklet comprising:
- An introduction to the Sherlock Holmes stories and their appearance on stage and screen by Nicholas Utechin
- An interview with Douglas Wilmer by Elaine McCafferty
- An introduction to the BBC TV series that starred Wilmer as Holmes (by Jonathan McCafferty)
- A guide to the thirteen episodes on the disks
- A note about the restoration of the episodes by Peter Crocker
Wilmer has also produced his autobiography – Stage Whispers – which was launched at The Sherlock Holmes Society of London’s meeting in March 2009.
Wilmer appeared in a cameo role as a member of The Diogenes Club in the BBC Sherlock “The Reichenbach Fall”.
You will need to read the accompanying booklet to find out about the ambulance crew that attended Sherlock Holmes . . .
Posted in Television
20th February, No Comments
By John Watson
Whilst the arguments rage over who wrote this (it certainly wasn’t me which could account for the style and typographical and other errors) here is the text gleaned from the pamphlet for you to ponder over . . .
To me it seems that it was written either by Doyle or someone else but that the character describes here as me (Watson) is, in fact Doyle who is thinking about his future political stance at the Border Burghs.
DISCOVERING THE BORDER BURGHS,
and, BY DEDUCTION, the BRIG BAZAAR
‘We’ve had enough of the old romancists and men of travel’, said the Editor. As he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. ‘We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from “Sherlock Holmes”?’
Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. ‘Sherlock Holmes!’ As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ but to do so I should have to go to London.
‘London!’ scornfully sniffed the Great Man. ‘And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograph? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been “interviewed” without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good-day.’
I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.
. . .
The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. ‘Sherlock Holmes’ sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not ‘lying down!’ The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq.–
‘And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the “mysteries of the Secret Cabinet” will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.’
‘I am very sorry,’ replied Dr Watson. ‘I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.’
‘Ah! then you are going to the Border country at that time?’
‘How do you know that?’
‘My dear Watson, it’s all a matter of deduction.’
‘Will you explain?’
‘Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of “so-called’ reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to “Huz an’ Mainchester” who had “turned the world upside down.” The word “Huz” stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. “Huz an’ Mainchester’ led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the Sounth country I procured a copy of “Teribus.” So, I reasoned, so – there’s something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?’
‘Wonderful,’ Watson said, ‘and—‘
‘Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of “Sour Plums,” and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, “Braw, braw lads,” I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels – so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?’
‘So far so good. And—‘
‘Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet–a very sweet tune Watson–“The Flowers of the Forest;” then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must sold the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the “Tragedy of a Divided House,” I ordered in a tin of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!’
‘In my heart, Holmes,’ said Watson.
‘And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?’
‘I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.’
‘Is it in aid of a Bridge, Watson?’
‘Yes,’ replied Watson in surprise; ‘but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.’
‘By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.’
‘Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at “Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.” (You know I admire Macaulay’s works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the “Lay of Horatius,” and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate –
When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet’s plume,
When the goodwife’s shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told —
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.
Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on such exploit yourself?’
‘Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius’ words when you go to Border Burghs :- “How can man die better than facing fearful odds.” But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!’
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