Tag Archives: Jeremy Brett

Catching up on The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes

Brett_BakerStreet2The third and final installment in my look at Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes went well over at The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes. I think I’ll tackle The Memoirs and The Sign of Four this year as well.

The week after that, I mentioned Turner Classic Movies’ ‘Summer of Darkness, which is a 24 hour noir film fest every Friday in June and July. It’s an unequaled slate of noir and hard boiled flicks well worth checking out.

Pipe_RathboneEver wonder how Holmes got his magnifying glass, pipe and deerstalker? Well, read this and wonder no more!

This week, it was a Case Commentary for The Bruce Partington Plans. I’ve always particularly liked that story.

I think that The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes has appeared over at Black Gate for 66 consecutive Monday mornings and we’re certainly not done yet!

Benedict Cumberbatch – Holmes or Parody?

Cumberbatch_FreemanI do some of my best thinking while mowing the lawn. Last time around, the subject was BBC’s Sherlock. Which was one of my top five favorite shows after season two but isn’t even a top 10 favorite Holmes after season three.

Which has me thinking about what I liked so much in the first two seasons. For example, I loved all those Doyle references dropped in everywhere. They did a great job. But something else was scratching for attention. Then it came to the surface.

As a Christian, when reading the Bible, we’re supposed to ask, “Where is Jesus in this?” The Bible is the story of Jesus Christ. It should point to Jesus.

PAget_SpeckledWhen watching Sherlock Holmes on screen, what if you ask yourself, “Where is Doyle?” Sure, you can reference a story name, or put in a plot point. But is Holmes really Holmes?

A lot of people decry Nigel Bruce’s Watson because he played the character as a bumbling buffoon. While that fits the comic sidekick role for movies, it is a poor portrayal of the good doctor as described by Arthur Conan Doyle. And while it certainly created a lasting image, it’s not a favorite among Holmes fans: especially as the nineteen forties fall further and further away in the rear view mirror.

Cumberbatch_soicopathWhich leads me to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. He is certainly obnoxious and lacking in social skills, just as Doyle’s creation is. But I kept coming back to something. Early on, he is described as a psychopath. Cumberbatch’s Holmes retorts, “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high functioning sociopath.”

This became one of the first catchphrases of the series, popping up on internet memes and t-shirts. It’s kind of a face of his Holmes. But does not that characterization take Cumberbatch’s Holmes as far from Doyle’s as Bruce’s Watson did?

Would you look at the Canon and say, “That Holmes, he’s a sociopath. A well-operating one, but still, a sociopath?”

You know what character I think of as a high functioning sociopath? Jack the Ripper. Not Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes_DaffyDuckWithout decreasing the enjoyment I had in the first six episodes, I now lean towards Cumberbatch’s Holmes being more of a parody than a true depiction. I can watch Rathbone, Richardson, Cushing, Wilmer, Wontner and of course, Brett, and see Doyle’s detective. But a deep look at Cumberbatch and it’s hard to see. Not because it’s modern day London, but because they’ve moved the character away from Doyle.

Brett_ViolinKevin Jackson of The Independent wrote, “Everything that he – Jeremy Brett – does, can ultimately be justified by chapter and line from Conan Doyle’s stories but he has taken liberties with the myth so confidently that he has, over the last decade, taken possession of it and displaced the literary Holmes. For me that is the hallmark of great acting; to illuminate a text in a way that he author could not have visualized.”

Is that what Benedict Cumberbatch, under the direction of Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat, has done? Or has the trio cast Doyle aside and created their own Holmes? Instead of illuminating the text, have they torn the page out and written their own?

I don’t know. I’m focusing on just one line, but I do think that line is pretty indicative of the character. There are other elements that I think do reflect Doyle’s Holmes, such as the bond of friendship between Holmes and Watson.

Cumberbatch_ChristmasNow, I may LOVE the Victorian Era Christmas special, forget about season three and move Sherlock back up my list. I’m certainly hoping it goes that way. But I wonder if a critical view of Cumberbatch is going to put him in the category of not really Holmes (where I would put Johnny Lee Miller, who I enjoy watching).

If you’ve read Steven Moffat’s introduction to Alan Barnes’ Sherlock Holmes on Screen, you know he’s not interested in an authentic recreation of Holmes (he uses the word ‘insane’ in the same sentence as ‘authentic’ as a benchmark for Holmes films and movies). And he and Gattis prefer the doofus Watson to the more restrained one in the first two Rathbone films. That’s fine; I guess. But is his Holmes so far away from Doyle, that it’s not truly Holmes?

Sherlock_MoriartyI find Freeman’s Watson to be far more Doyle than Bruce. On the other hand, making Mary Morstan an ex-CIA assassin was beyond goofy. As for Moriarty, they might as well have just pulled in a Bond villain: this one shares nothing more than the name with Doyle’s creation.

I’d like to hear from other folks on either side of the issue. I’m just sticking my toe into this particular pool and I don’t know what I think of the water yet. But I do think it might (or might not) be a valid assertion.

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – More on Granada’s Adventures

Here’s part one.

Holmes_Brett RoseSo, part two of my look at Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes went up on Monday over at Black Gate. Of course, I’m biased, but I think there’s some good stuff relating to Jeremy Brett’s best work in the series. And I imagine there’s a tidbit or two in there for the Granda fan.

Next Monday will be the third and final installment covering The Adventures. I’m reasonably sure there will be one more post, giving some observations on the rest of the entire Holmes series by Granada.

I re-watched a few of the early episodes for these posts and I was reminded that Jeremy Brett really was a fantastic Holmes. He combined the energy of Basil Rathbone with the cerebralness (yep: made that up) of Arthur Wontner. For a couple of reasons, the second half of the series was not as good and Brett’s performance does decline: there’s no denying that.

But still, I think Brett will be the finest Holmes of my lifetime (I was born in 1967).

If you search “Jeremy Brett” here on my site, several prior posts will come up.

Granada’s Short-Lived Train Car

Paget_TrainSurely the this scene from The Silver Blaze is one of the best known Sidney Paget drawings.

Holmes is explaining matters to Watson as they take the train to Dartmoor to find the missing Silver Blaze.

Granada built a train car for use in the series, planning on showing Holmes and Watson in that classic Victorian setting on several occasions.

BRett_Train1However, they discovered that even the flattest road in Manchester (where the studios were) was so bumpy it was virtually impossible to shoot scenes. The car was used for a couple scenes, including a faithful reproduction of Paget’s famous drawing. However, they realized that it simply wasn’t going to be a workable option, so they abandoned the concept.

BrettTrainBackOf course, when the curtain is pulled aside, the illusion is dispelled. As you can see, it didn’t look like a train car from the outside. But it worked in the scene above (which was actually from The Speckled Band).

While it’s well-known that Michael Cox and the Granada folks tried to reproduce at least one Paget drawing in every episode (often recreating several), BBC Sherlock has also drawn on the original Pagets, updating them to fit the show, of course. The railway picture is one such example.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – The first Jeremy Brett Adventures Post

Brett46Today (May 4), The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes featured the first of three articles talking about Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, featuring Jeremy Brett. The next two Mondays will include the others.

Here’s how it opened:

For several decades, Basil Rathbone, star of fourteen Holmes films in the thirties and forties, was generally the most recognizable and popular screen Holmes. And of course today, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr are internationally recognized for their turns as the master detective.

But in between Rathbone and Cumberbatch, one actor (with apologies to Peter Cushing) stood above all other portrayers of Sherlock Holmes. And that was Jeremy Brett.

Head on over to Black Gate and look for the rest of the series!

Catching up on The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – and Jeremy Brett’s coming!

Brett_BakerStreet2So, this coming Monday (May 4) over at Black Gate, I’m starting a three part series on Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Should be fun.

This week’s The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes post was about Richard Diamond, Private Detective. I’m a fan of old time radio shows and that’s one of my favorites, starring Dick Powell. I plan on writing several more OTR-related posts. Johnny Dollar is surely on the way!

I think Robert E. Howard was a fanastic writer and I’ve got quite a Conan collection. On April 20th, I reviewed Harry Turtledove’s Conan of Venarium.

O'Toole_CoversThe week before that, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes looked at four animated Holmes films voiced by Peter O’Toole. I like them!

And to kick off April, I shared some thoughts on what Sherlock Holmes story might be the best to read first.

CityWatch_GuardsCoverBack in January, I posted about Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian. I am crazy about Pratchett’s Discworld books. Sadly, on March 12, Sir Terry succumbed to Alzheimer’s. I was already preparing a followup post. On March 30, I talked about his excellent City Watch books from the Discworld series.

Every spring, my reading attention turns to baseball: mostly, Dodgers-related books. This year was no exception (along with another viewing of 42, the Jackie Robinson story. I’ve got a review of The Last Good Season up over at my old blog.

TBT – Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Haining_FinalAdventuresA review I wrote for Peter Haining’s ‘The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a nifty book. 

A collection of stories, plays and essays about Holmes that are not part of the Canon but certainly make nice supplementary reading. An excellent addition to any Holmes library.

A few years ago, an article in the Wall Street Journal was about Barnes & Noble’s in-house publishing imprint. They have been reproducing classic works for years and selling them at affordable prices. But they range father afield than that, and my Sherlockian bookshelf includes several of their titles, such as The Sherlock Holmes Companion, The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
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TBT – Jeremy Brett’s Golden Pince Nez

Another unpublished entry from my series on Granada’s Sherlock Holmes, written for the Austin, TX Sherlock Holmes Society,

Brett_PinceNezIn 1994, the cast and crew were preparing to resume the Granada Sherlock Holmes franchise. June Wyndham Davies was expecting to make two more two hour features. With a poor choice of story selections remaining, she decided to introduce pastiches suitable for two hour episodes into the series. David Stuart Davies was writing his latest Holmes novel, the Book of the Dead, and with some drastic reworking, it was agreed that it would be the next entry in the Granada series. Then things unraveled.

Granada changed format again and wanted one-hour episodes. Davies’ proposal to film a two-parter of his story was rejected. Finally, Jeremy Brett, still disappointed with the public and critical reception of The Last Vampyre and The Eligible Bachelor, demanded that only Doyle’s original stories be used. June Wyndham Davies was forced to scramble for suitable scripts. The first filmed, but third aired, was The Golden Pince Nez.

Gary Hopkins made a fairly faithful adaptation. However, Edward Hardwicke was filming Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins, and was unavailable. In a completely un-Canonical departure from Doyle, Mycroft (played well again by Charles Gray) accompanies Sherlock to Yoxley Old Place and fills in for Watson. To help fill up an hour time slot, a sub-plot involving women’s suffrage was introduced without changing the main plot. Also, Coram is killed in his bed at the very end; something that did not occur in Doyle’s story.

Brett does not appear quite as pale as he does in the latter episodes, but he bears almost no resemblance to the lean Holmes of years gone by and it grows increasingly more painful to watch him as the Memoirs go on. He also continued to add odd character enhancements to Holmes; usually involving yelling at someone. It’s quite possible a combination of his medications and his desire to find some new aspect of playing Holmes led to these odd choices. An erratic, bloated Brett, the absence of Watson and a second-tier story resulted in a weak offering.

TBT – Jeremy Brett’s The Last Vampyre

Part of my Granada history for the Austin Sherlock Holmes society, I was looking at the four double-length installments. 

Brett_VAmpire1If The Master Blackmailer was the last hurrah for the Granada series, then The Last Vampyre was the beginning of the end. June Wyndham Davies was informed that a two-hour feature was needed quickly. Jeremy Paul agreed to write a screenplay in less than three weeks. He chose The Sussex Vampire and dramatically reworked the story. Much of the film was shot in Cotswald (not Sussex). With the significant changes in story and setting, a new title was needed and The Last Vampyre was chosen.

It can be argued that the main character in the episode is Stockton, suspected by the townspeople of being a vampire. If this sounds unfamiliar, that is because the character was created for the show and does not appear anywhere in the Canon.

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