September 12, 2019

Our continued fascination with Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate


Photograph of Bruce McRae as Dr. John Watson and William Gillette as Holmes in the play Sherlock Holmes.

According to the LA Times, two venerable institutions are throwing their energies behind a search for lost Sherlock Holmes films. Christi Carras writes:

The UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Baker Street Irregulars, America’s foremost Sherlockian society, are on the case with “Searching for Sherlock: The Game’s Afoot,” a mission to recover and restore missing Holmes films from the silent era and beyond.

The news probably pinged the public’s radar because Robert Downey Jr., the star of the latest cinematic iteration of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective, is the honorary chair of the project.

But we’re here for the Baker Street wordplay. The LA Times reports it pretty straight but for some references to “sleuthing” and above-quoted use of “on the case.” The project itself also took a lesser known Holmes-ism for its sub-title—“The Game’s Afoot”—which we would slot somewhere between “When you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” and, “There can be no question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before breakfast,” in the pantheon of Holmes’ canonical utterances.

Everyone somehow resisted dubbing the project “The Adventure of the Missing and Only Hypothetically Extant Silent Film Prints,” but that is essentially the gist of it. The researchers will be combing through the Library of Congress, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and archives across Britain, Germany, France, and other countries for any lost films, according to Carras’ reporting.

There is no one thing they are specifically looking for. No fainting heiress or rattled red-head came forth with a deceptively complex conundrum that called for a culling of the archives. It’s more of a fight against the inevitable degeneration of historical artifacts and the considerable, institutional energies that must be marshaled in order to erect a bulwark against the tides of time.

From the book publisher’s perspective, though, it is heartening that one man’s fictional character not only spawned spin-offs and adaptations, but actually produced so many that we can only hope to collate and catalogue some small fraction of them.

Another nugget of publishing news from the article is that Nicholas Meyer, author of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (the 1974 Sherlock Holmes-Sigmund Freud cross-over that really leaned into the cocaine narrative) has another Sherlock Holmes pastiche coming out this fall, called The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. Apparently, this one features the Orient Express, but I don’t think we’re going to get a Hercule Poirrot-Sherlock Holmes crossover. Although, if we need to confirm whether such a concept is somewhere out there, we now know who to ask.



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.