The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most formidable literary characters in history. First appearing in The Strand back in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character has been the protagonist of dozens of mystery stories, all of which are still considered classics today.
More than a century since, people have all but forgotten the enigmatic super-sleuth. The Guinness Book of World Records has proclaimed him as the most portrayed movie character of all time. Other than films, there have been other versions of Sherlock Holmes as well. Here are some Sherlocks which you may or may not know about.
- The Burglar and the Lady (1905)
Written by Langdon McCormick, the play pits Sherlock Holmes against AJ Raffles, another fictional character created by Doyle’s brother-in-law EW Hornung. Raffles has his own collection of short stories and is said to be the opposite of Holmes. The play premiered at the State Street Theater in New Jersey, then moved to the American Theatre in 1906 for a week-long run.
- Sherlock Holmes (1939)
This 14-film series starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson is one of the most iconic Sherlock adaptations. These films established Watson’s clumsiness and incompetence as a sidekick to Holmes, something which had not been implied in the novels. Rathbone is widely considered to be the Sherlock Holmes of his time, and one of the best of all time.
- Baker Street (1965)
Loosely-based on A Scandal in Bohemia, Baker Street is a musical set in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It twists some elements of Doyle’s work, making Irene Adler a friend rather than enemy, thus allowing a romance to blossom between the two. It won the 1965 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design and ran a total of 311 performances.
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1994)
This television show was produced by British television ITV Granada, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes, and David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as John Watson. Burke played the role on the show’s first year but was replaced by Hardwick after leaving to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. The series earned the nickname Granada Holmes and is one of the most iconic retellings of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
- Without a Clue (1988)
In this comedy, Sherlock is a fictional character created by Watson, who is the protagonist in a series of short stories published in The Strand Magazine. He uses the character to be able to solve crimes while in the process of applying to an exclusive hospital, a senior staff member of which dislikes this particular hobby of his. In the end, he doesn’t get the post, but to satisfy public demand, he hires actor Reginald Kincaid to play Holmes. Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley play Holmes and Watson, respectively.
- House, MD (2004–2012)
This medical drama is not a direct Sherlock adaptation, but its writers have gone on the record saying that the main character of the show is directly influenced by the famous sleuth. Instead of crimes, Dr. Gregory House uses his deductive capabilities in order to diagnose difficult medical problems. Watson takes the form of Dr. James Wilson in a team with four other doctors who are willing to work alongside the difficult Dr. House. Much like the original Sherlock Holmes, Dr. House is tough, formidable, and drug-dependent.
- Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law take on Holmes and Watson, respectively, in this modern retelling, still set in Victorian England. Directed by Guy Ritchie, these films are two of the more Doylian adaptations in recent years. In the films, Holmes is more than just a detective; he is also a crime-fighting action hero.
- Sherlock (2010–Present)
In 2010, BBC started airing Sherlock, a television show that is a modern adaptation of the Doyle stories. The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. The show currently has three seasons, with each season having three 90-minute episodes. The show takes the classic stories and adjusts them to fit the twenty-first century. Contemporary references include the presence of smartphones and Dr. John Watson coming home injured from the war in Afghanistan.
- Elementary (2012–Present)
Another contemporary adaptation, this show takes Doyle’s characters and gives them a modern update. Here, the characters are twisted more than fans of the classics would like. Jonny Lee Miller plays Holmes, who’d just come from rehab and is currently consulting for the New York Police Department. Lucy Liu plays Jane Watson, Holmes’s sober companion and a former surgeon whose license had been revoked because of the death of a patient. There are more twists to other characters, such as Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, Moriarty, and Irene Adler.
- Holmes (2015)
Ian McKellen stars in this art house film as a now-retired Sherlock Holmes. He goes to Japan in search for a plant with rare capabilities and is devastated after witnessing nuclear warfare. Afterward, he flies back home to live the rest of his days, tending to his plants and bees. Now he lives near a farmhouse accompanied by his housekeeper and her son, Roger. Holmes relies on the latter in helping him revisit the unsolved case, which led to his retirement.
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