Category Archives: Portrayals

Portrayals: Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. This character has been portrayed by many different men and other creatures. He’s been in movies, television series and cartoons. Rightfully so, he is a brilliant figure and there are a lot of possibilities with the way he can be played and portrayed. The difference between the martial arts using Holmes played by Robert Downey Jr. is a long way off from the Holmes played by Peter Cushing in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The first Holmes on the screen was played by an unknown man in the 1900’s movie Sherlock Holmes Baffled.

Kind of sad that Holmes his first movie adventure ended with him losing against a teleporting burglar.

A lot of actors played Holmes in the following years. Some only once but some played him in more than a couple, such as Georges Tréville who portrayed him 8 times. But even more impressive is Eille Norwood who played Holmes in 47 different films. Not full features off course. Most of them were around 30 minutes long, such as this one; The Dying Detective (1921).

Then Holmes made his appearance in the talkies. The first notable actor to portray Holmes with a voice was Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939).

Whatever it is he’s looking for, he’ll probably find it.

He played Holmes in 14 more movies and 1 TV show.The way he was portrayed then is how most people, up until recently, perceived him. The Jacket matching the hat, a looking glass and a big pipe.

Sherlock Holmes (1951) was the first TV series revolving around the detective. He was played by Alan Wheatley in this Mini-Series. Holmes remained mostly the same.

Whatever it is he’s looking for… He’ll probably find it. Again.

In the next series Holmes was played by Ronald Howard. Again the character remained the same.

In 1959 Hammer Film Production took a swing at the magnifying glass wielding genius with two of their biggest talents; Peter Cushing played the detective and Christopher Lee was Sir Henry in The Hound of the Baskervilles. One of the biggest changes was that Holmes was in color!

You have failed me for the last time, Watson!

Three years later Christopher Lee played Holmes in the German movie Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes or Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace. Peter Cushing reprised his role in the television series carrying the name of the detective.

In 1970 one of the greatest directors of all time, Billy Wilder, wrote and directed the crime/comedy The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Christopher Lee again enters the frame and again he plays a different character; Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. This time it was Robert Stephens who donned the coat and pipe.

In the following years a number of notable actors portrayed Holmes, among them:

– John Cleese, Roger Moore, Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella, Peter O’Toole, Tommy Cooper, Michael Caine, Jeremy Irons, Charlton Heston, Alfred Molina and even Jimmy Fallon (in his own show).

Here is a fragment of The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977) starring Cleese. It is a fragment mostly starring Arthur Lowe as Watson but Cleese is in there too.

Next to that impressive line of actors who portrayed Holmes, here are some TV-shows where the character made an appearance:

– Star Trek: The Next Generation, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Real Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live, Animaniacs and the Muppets Tonight.

Here’s the Star Trek version:

Jep, That just happened.

Then, in 2009, Holmes was re-introduced to us by Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes. This Holmes was unlike any we had seen before. Besides the fact that he is more charismatic and muscular than previous Sherlock’s, the biggest difference is that he actually fights like a trained MMA fighter. This was an action blockbuster first and foremost, the crime and mystery took a backseat. Downey is joined by Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and Mark Strong to create a star-studded cast.

On TV Holmes was also on the move; Benedict Cumberbatch (Holmes) and Martin Freeman (Watson) portrayed the duo in modern London. Despite the modern twist the character is much closer to the Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle than the Guy Ritchie Holmes is. The name of the series is Simply Sherlock.

The next project about the detective is very similar to Sherlock. Also in a modern setting only this time in New York, it’s stars are Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu (The first female Watson). The name of the series will be Elementary and debuts on September 27th on CBS. I hope people don’t compare Sherlock and Elementary too much and give Elementary a fair shot.

Here’s the Elementary trailer:

Side note: This actually has 1100 dislikes on YouTube! People really don’t look forward to this.

Well that’s it.There are a lot of films and series I didn’t mention because the post would have been way too long. And I made it without using the famous quote: It’s elementary, my dear Watson!

Well… I guess I didn’t.


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