Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It’s elementary, dear readers!

Who is Sherlock Holmes? What do you know about him? Here are some things I know about the super sleuth. He

is a 19th century fictional character
lives at 221B Baker Street
smokes a pipe
knows a lot about many things
has a sidekick named Dr. Watson
uses cocaine (which was legal in 19th-century England)
uses deductive reasoning
has a brother named Mycroft
works independently and with the police in an era when forensics was just beginning to be used as an investigative tool
is a master of disguise
plays the violin when he’s thinking
is messy
has a housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson
often battles his archenemy Professor Moriarity

So who was Sherlock Holmes? He was, in fact, the brain child of Arthur Conan Doyle who brought him to life when he needed money as a struggling young doctor.
Scottish actor David Hayman, himself a “television detective” narrates an excellent documentary, The Search for Sherlock Holmes, which I recently watched free with Amazon Prime. Following the previous link will bring you to an interesting article on the documentary as well as links to other related documentaries

Sherlock Holmes on the Silver Screen
Since 1911, the character has been portrayed in films by a variety of actors. One of my favorites was the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes  in which he meets the future Dr. Watson and first engages his archenemy, Professor Moriarity.
Basil Rathbone played the famous detective more than any other actor. Here’s a link to a list of his ten best films.  Other actors whom you might be surprised to know also played the roll are:

Patrick Macnee
Christopher Lee
Chalton Heston
Michael Caine
Peter O’Toole
Peter Lawford
Christopher Plummer
Leonard Nimoy
Larry Hagman
Roger Moore
Stewart Granger
Fritz Weaver
Orson Wells
Reginald Owen
John Barrymore
Raymond Massey
Here’s a complete list of actors who have played Sherlock Holmes

More recent cinematic portrayals
Add to the list Robert Downey, Jr., who has played the urbane detective in two films with a third possible.
And, Ian McKellen brings to life an aged Sherlock Holmes struggling with early dementia in the 2015 film Mr. Holmes. 

Sherlock Holmes on the Printed Page
Like most characters, Holmes had his beginning on the printed page. Here is a list of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels by the creator, Arthur Conan Doyle
Beginning in 1994, author Laurie R. King began a series of books based on the further adventures of a retired Sherlock Holmes. Book #1, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, is set in World War I era. I recently read this book as part of a mystery book club at my local library. While the members shared mixed opinions on the book, I and others loved it. Eventually I’ll track down the rest of the rather long volumes and read them.

Why do I like Sherlock Holmes?  
That’s easy enough--he’s good entertainment. I’m weary of the technically complicated twists and turns of modern detective fiction. The special effects in movies makes me want to run away to a quieter place. The language assaults my ears. The graphic sex which has nothing to do with the actual plot is tiring to sit through while one waits for the real story to resume.
When I go to a movie (rare) or read a book, I want to come away feeling I’ve been removed from the real world and transported to an imaginative and exciting place. I want to look back on what I’ve seen and read and smile--not feel I need to go stand in a shower and scrub myself.
While I don’t see Sherlock Holmes as a totally upstanding character/role model, he’s clever enough to hold my attention. He’s interesting. And when one looks for entertainment, interesting is what it’s all about.

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