Tag Archives: Throw Back Thursday

Throw Back Thursday – Jack Tracy’s Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha

Since I wrote about Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, here’s a look at Jack Tracy’s Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha. I wrote this for Mia Stampe’s Holmes book review site.

Tracy_ApocryphaSherlockians like to hold the Canon (Doyle’s Holmes stories) in the same esteem that Christians hold the Bible. So it should come as no surprise that there are some works by Doyle that are comparable to apocrypha. The term refers to early Christian writings not included in the Bible.

Jack Tracy, author of the popular Encyclopedia Sherlockiana, collected some authentic and near-authentic Holmes works that are not part of the Canon. Few books made up of Holmes fiction can justifiably sit on your bookshelf next to Doyle’s short stories and novels about the wisest and finest man Dr. Watson ever knew. This book is one of that rare numbers.

No one who has looked at Tracy’s Encyclopedia can doubt his Sherlockian scholarship. He utilizes his vast knowledge in an efficient and readable way in Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha. Each section begins with info about the writings that follow. Interesting and “must know” details set the stage for the pieces themselves.

For instance, chapter one contains three parodies. Doyle wrote the first for the Edinburgh undergraduate magazine. How Watson Learned the Trick, in which Doyle actually lampoons himself, was composed for Queen Anne’s dollhouse. The Adventure of the Two Collaborators followed upon the disastrous Jane Annie, a play co-written by Doyle and Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie. Four well-written pages tell the reader why and how these three parodies came about. There follows the full text of the stories. The book follows this pattern, and it is an accessible way to present the contents.

Next are two Doyle stories: The Man with the Watches and The Lost Special. Both were published in The Strand in 1898: after The Final Problem and before Holmes’ temporary revival in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Both tales include an unnamed amateur detective who could easily have been Sherlock Holmes. The great Edgar W. Smith argued that these two tales should have been included in the Canon as Holmes adventures. Doyle may have killed off Holmes, but it appears he wasn’t quite through writing about him. Well, or at least writing the same types of tales.

Next is my favorite chapter, William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes. There is a fascinating mini-history about Gillette’s two Holmes plays: Sherlock Holmes; A Drama in Four Acts and The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes. Then we are treated to the full text of both plays. This book is worth the price for the Gillette plays alone!

In a natural progression, Doyle’s two Holmesian plays follow. A half dozen pages tell about the creation of The Speckled Band and The Crown Diamond. The first is a good play and was successful on stage. The second: not quite a keeper.

Hesketh Pearson found the outline for an unwritten Holmes story when he was researching his biography of ACD. That short outline is included in this book. It wouldn’t have been much of a Holmes tale.

The book ends with The Case of the Man Who Was Wanted. Pearson also discovered an entire previously unknown Sherlock Holmes tale in 1942. The Doyle estate (always quick to try and make a buck) surprisingly enough resisted pressure to publish it. Finally, in 1948, they accepted an offer from Cosmopolitan and it was published.

Then the bad news: Arthur Whitaker said that he had written the tale and sent it to Doyle in 1910, hoping it would become a collaboration. Doyle declined and suggested Whitaker rewrite is as non-Holmes tale. Finally, he purchased it for 10 pounds. Doyle set it aside and never used it. Whitaker produced the carbon copy of his typescript, as well as Doyle’s own hand-written letter in which the author had offered to buy the script.

The Doyle Estate refunded some of the money they received for selling the story and Whitaker was paid 150 pounds to be quiet about the affair. He died not long after and the matter was dropped by all parties. Cosmopolitan never admitted the story wasn’t by Doyle, and the Estate had no comments.

Tracy’s book is valuable alone for the fact that it was the first reprinting of Whitaker’s table since a 1949 appearance in Britain’s The Sunday Dispatch over 30 years before.

In short, The Published Apocrypha is almost The Canon and should be nestled close to Baring-Gould’s or Klinger’s Annotated versions of the stories on your Sherlockian (or Holmesian) bookshelf. I thoroughly enjoy my copy.

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 – How George Raft Made Humphrey Bogart a Star

I’m a HUGE Bogie fan. I really enjoyed writing this essay several years ago. I mean, you couldn’t make this stuff up!

OK, I’ll admit that the title is a bit of an over-simplification. However, in the annals of Hollywood, never has one actor so torpedoed his own career, while making another actor a star at the same time. Let’s take a

Bogart_RaftGeorge Raft grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, where he was a childhood friend of Owney Madden, who would become a powerful mobster in the days of Prohibition. Raft toyed with being a boxer and then taught himself to dance, hitting it big in Vaudeville in the early twenties. At the same time, he hung out with professional gangsters, gaining access through his friendship with Downey. He studied how they walked and talked, and mastered the art of imitating their mannerisms.

After appearing in a few films as a dancer, he broke through in 1932. Long before Rod Steiger and Al Pacino played Capone roles, Paul Muni made a classic gangster film: Scarface – Shame of a Nation. Raft had a part as Rinaldo, a coin-flipping gunman. He played a great gangster because he had many real life friends to emulate and he received strong reviews.

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TBT – The Real Life Merstham Tunnell Mystery (Solar Pons Gazette)

 MarymoneyI did a little research into a real-life crime that inspired one of the Notebooks of Solar Pons entries by August Derleth. This appeared in Issue Three of the Solar Pons Gazette.

‘From the Notebooks of Dr. Lyndon Parker’ can be found in A Praed Street Dossier. The Notebook entry for December 14, 1919, features a discussion between Pons and Inspector Jamison regarding a woman’s body found in the Merstham Tunnel.

The basis for this snippet is a real life murder committed in 1905. August Derleth borrowed the specifics of the killing for his entry and then offered a speculative solution involving blackmail. Though the real killer was never caught, there is no doubt that Derleth used the sad story of Mary Money for this Notebook entry.

Pons 1905
The corpse of a young woman is found in Merstham Tunnel The corpse of a young woman is found in Merstham Tunnel
The body was mangled by a train, one leg nearly severed The body was mangled by a train, one leg severed
The girl, Angela Morell, was a clerk in a dairy The girl, Mary Money, was a clerk in a dairy
She was of good reputation She was of good reputation
She left her lodgings, saying she was going for a short walk and was killed shortly thereafter She left her work place, saying she was going for a short walk and was killed shortly thereafter
A piece of a veil was found in her mouth A scarf was found stuffed down her throat
She was likely gagged and pushed out of the moving train She was gagged and pushed out of the moving train
The killer was never identified or caught The killer was never identified or caught

Holmes_BruceWindowElements of the Merstham Tunnel Mystery appeared in a better-known detective story: The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans, featuring Sherlock Holmes. The body of Cadogan West was disposed of in a tunnel; for all appearances, having been thrown from a train. However, this was a ruse by the killer, the murder having not occurred on the train at all.

It is quite likely that Doyle discussed the Mary Money killing at one of the meetings of The Crimes Club, since a fellow member was very interested in the case. Thus, Doyle likely had access to more information and analysis than most, laying the groundwork for the incorporation of this crime into a Holmes tale.

TBT – Arthur Wontner’s Silver Blaze/Murder at the Baskervilles

I’ve posted parts one and two of this series on Arthur Wontner which I wrote for the Austin (TX) Sherlock Holmes society. Here’s the third and final piece on one of the finest screen Holmes.

Wontner_SilverBlazeWontner made his fifth and final film as Sherlock Holmes in 1937. It is justly considered the weakest of the series. Perhaps again feeling that there simply wasn’t enough source material in the original short story, a few liberties are taken. Sir Henry Baskerville is introduced, and things take a radical turn after Holmes finds the missing horse. Moriarty has Moran use his air gun to kill the horse just before the finish of the race. Watson follows one of the henchmen and finds Moriarty. However, he is captured. Holmes arrives to save him just as Watson is about to be thrown down an empty elevator shaft.

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TBT – Arthur Wontner’s The Missing Rembrandt, The Sign of Four and The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes

Last week was part one of my the series on Arthur Wontner, which I wrote for the Austin (TX) Sherlock Holmes society. Here’s part two, with the conclusion coming next Thursday.

The Missing Rembrandt

Wontner_RembrandtRealizing that they had a hot property, Twickenham quickly filmed a second Wontner project, The Missing Rembrandt. The source material was much closer to the original tale chosen; this time, Charles Augustus Milverton. The villain, however, is Baron von Guntermann, and he is not only a blackmailer, but also an art thief (thus, the title). Presumably the plot was expanded because the original short story didn’t provide enough substance for an extended length film. The Granada folks would discover this problem a half century later. Unfortunately, there is no known surviving print of this film.

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TBT – Arthur Wontner’s The Sleeping Cardinal/The Fatal Hour

Wontner_PosterFatalArthur Wontner made five Holmes films and he’s one of my favorite Holmes’. This is part one of a three part series I wrote on Wontner for the Austin (TX) Sherlock Holmes Society. It’s going to be included as part of a longer article in an upcoming HolmesOnScreen edition of The Baker Street Essays.

The Sleeping Cardinal (retitled The Fatal Hour in America) included elements of The Empty House and The Final Problem, though having Moriarty, rather than Colonel Moran, fire from the empty house is certainly a non-Canonical change.

Watson was played by Ian Fleming (no, not the creator of James Bond). He was to play the part in four of Wontner’s five Holmes films. Fleming comes across as rather harmless and lightweight. He doesn’t add any heft to the role. Fleming’s portrayal feels more proper for a Thin Man film than as the good doctor. He did not provide the comic relief seen when Nigel Bruce took on the role, but neither did he contribute much on-screen. There is no real chemistry between he and Wontner.

Cardinal_Wontner3Norman McKinnell was the nefarious Professor Moriarty. He would be replaced by Lyn Harding for the final two films in the series.

The film was a success both critically and commercially, not only in Great Britain but America as well. In those pre-Oscar days, it won the New York Critics’ Cinema Prize as the best mystery drama. American reviews included such praise as:

  • “…Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour…is one of the best of the English films to be shown this side of the Atlantic.” and
  • “Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour is so smooth, so beautifully timed and acted, that there is nothing to criticize adversely.”

It is interesting to note that Twickenham, who could certainly have used the money, did not reap a windfall from the film’s success. Warner Brothers handled the UK distribution for the film. Apparently Twiceknham did not expect much of The Sleeping Cardinal in America and sold the distribution rights to a subsidiary (First Division Pictures) for only 800 pounds.

Picturegoer Weekly said “..Wontner’s rendering of Sherlock Holmes is wholly convincing, even to the smallest mannerisms.”

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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TBT – Why the Thumbprint? (The Norwood Builder)

Norwood_1Jonas Oldacre seemed to have committed as perfect a crime as possible. Holmes is completely stumped and cannot find any clue that would prove Inspector Lestrade wrong and establish McFarlane’s innocence. After a fruitless day of investigation, Holmes says to Watson, “…but unless some lucky chance comes our way I fear that the Norwood Disappearance Case will not figure in that chronicle of our successes which I foresee that a patient public will sooner or later have to endure.”

Holmes has all but given up. Lestrade has goaded him and is thoroughly enjoying an extremely rare victory over the famous detective. Holmes is now resorting to Lady Luck to bail him out. That’s how frustrated he is with his own efforts. So why does Oldacre plant the bloody thumb mark (not the entire hand, as the Collier’s cover by Frederic Dorr Steele would have us believe) on the wall?

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