A long lost silent film starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes has been discovered and will premier at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The find, made a few weeks ago at the Cinémathèque Française, is one of the most important discoveries in both Holmesiana and silent film that I can recall.
The film marks the only recorded appearance of the legendary William Gillette performance as Holmes. Gillette introduced the bent-stem pipe to Holmes lore, and more fully evoked the original Sidney Paget illustrations by wearing a deerstalker cap and using a large magnifying glass and violin as props. All subsequent stage and film depictions of Holmes can trace some element back to Gillette.
Conan Doyle had tired of Holmes and killed the character off in 1893, only to find himself short of cash. He made a deal with Gillette to bring the character to the stage. Gillette studied the stories and wrote a play that became huge hit, further cementing the success of Holmes.
Until now, no filmed version of his performance has ever been seen. This version was made for Essanay Studios in 1916.
Note: The light blogging for the past week has been due to a family health crisis that is now, thank God, finally passing.