Archive for May, 2015

Sherlock Holmes Centenary (1987)

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

  1. What was Holmes chief adversary called?
  2. What was Conan Doyle’s profession?
  3. What nationality was Hercules Poirot?
  4. Which technical invention caught Dr Crippen?
  5. Who was Lord Peter Whimsey’s manservant?
  6. 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 . . .


The Holmes Service 1940-1949

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.

00004725This 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.


Arthur Wontner

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.

Laidman Browne  The Dam Busters (1954)

Laidman Browne

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!

Douglas Wilmer as Sherlock Holmes

images-3With 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.

Disc 1:

  1. The Speckled Band (Pilot)
  2. The Illustrious Client (with optional audio commentary)
  3. 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)

Disc 2:

  1. The Copper Beeches
  2. The Red-Headed League (with optional audio commentary)
  3. 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”.

Disc 3:

  1. The Six Napoleons
  2. The Man With The Twisted Lip
  3. The Beryl Coronet
  4. 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.

Disc 4:

  1. Charles Augustus Milverton (with optional audio commentary)
  2. The Retired Colourman
  3. 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 . . .

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