BBC America has added a new show called Copper to it’s Fall line-up and it’s about the first police force in 1860s NYC…sound familiar? Lyndsay Faye’s brilliant The Gods of Gotham has been out for a while now and I suppose ‘convergent invention’ is possible (like Newton and Leibniz both independently discovering differential calculus) but I wonder if we’re seeing the product of some sort of collective longing for a time when America was on the brink of becoming more than a backwater ex-colony and Manhattan didn’t go above 14th Street? Gothamist also posted a feature (“Slangs of New York”) about the argot of 1860s NYC (i.e. ‘Flash’) which will be used in Copper and even referred to George W. Matsell’s Vocabulum, Or, The Rogue’s Lexicon: Compiled from the Most Authentic Sources, who of course was a character in Gods.
[The Rogue’s Lexicon title page.]
The New Yorker published a piece ‘Getting Sherlock Holmes Right Onscreen’ about various Sherlock Holmes portrayals on the big and small screens over the years. After trashing Ritchie’s “Holmesavision” (ie. “the name given to the director Guy Ritchie’s method of turning every quasi-Holmesian deduction or confrontation into an action sequence”), the best thing the author can come up with to say about the Game of Shadows DVD release is that: “[t]he most worthy item on the Game of Shadows disc may be an advertisement for the second season of “Sherlock.” Unlike Holmesavision, “Moffatvision’s” (my term) flashy tricks work because “they mesh with the narrative instead of sticking out from it.” The article ends with plenty of praise for the newly released DVD set featuring all of Rathbone & Bruce’s Sherlock holmes films which endure because of the “way that they capture the tinge of romance that Holmes so wisely accused Watson of injecting in his stories.” Overall, a pretty nice piece about what’s new in terms of Sherlockiana DVDs. (I assume Jeremy Brett is not mentioned because this article is actually about recently released Holmes DVD sets and not an exhaustive look at Holmes on screen.)
[All 14 Rathbone and Bruce films on Blu-ray DVD.]
Sir Arthur Conan Doilies (originally posted on But Darlings the Show Must Go On) re-posted this fantastic photograph of Jeremy Brett with Jean Conan Doyle (whose full name/title was: Air Commandant Dame Lena Annette Jean Conan Doyle, Lady Bromet DBE, AE, WRAF, ADC). Jean Doyle (1912 - 1997) is of course the daughter of ACD and became the literary executor of ACD’s estate in 1970 after her brother, the notoriously cantankerous, unreasonable and slightly insane Adrian Conan Doyle passed away. I strongly encourage you to read any letter Adrian ever wrote to Edgar W. Smith (or other Baker Street Irregulars) in the 1940s or 1950s - many fine examples of which can be found in Jon Lellenberg’s brilliant multi-volume history of the BSI. From what I understand Dame Jean Doyle was orders of magnitude more reasonable than Adrian (and his brother Denis) had been, and many Sherlockian who worked with her in the 1970s and 1980s seem to have pleasant things to say about her. JB certainly seems taken with her in this photo:
[Jeremy Brett and daughter of the literary agent Dame Jean Doyle.]
Dan Andriacco reviewed the newly re-released The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book by Kathleen Kaska, first published over ten years ago: “In addition to 80 memory-straining quizzes and five challenging crossword puzzles, Ms. Kaska offers us a treasure trove of fascinating facts about the Great Detective and his creator.” In other Mr Andriacco news, late last night the cover art for his third book in the McCabe-Cody Mystery SeriesThe 1895 Murder - a title I just can’t resist - was posted to Twitter and Facebook. Click on the image below for The 1895 Murder in all it’s glory! Way to go Dan!!
[Rumor has it that a certain blog is cleverly referenced…]
Holmesosis re-blogged (originally posted by Moon Jam) a great little piece of Russian Sherlock Holmes ephemera: a promotional postcard of some sort that appears to be signed by at least one of the original cast. The original post also had a link to the Russian site www.221b.ru which appears to be all about the Russian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but it’s totally in Russian and Google Translate doesn’t work on it so for now it must remain a mystery. Just enjoy this cool Soviet-era promotional material instead:
[Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin live on!]
F-k Yeah Granada Holmes (reposted from Deductivism) wins the animated GIF of the week with this series from Granada’s “Scandal in Bohemia” featuring a very disappointed David Burke/Dr Watson. This scene also happens to be the very first Granda scene and is lifted almost word for word (except Watson is drunk on Beaune wine) from the beginning of The Sign of Four (“”Which is it to-day,” I asked, “morphine or cocaine?” He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened. “It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”“). SCAN of course begins with Watson, newly in harness, visiting 221B and suggesting that Holmes’ deductive powers might have got him burned as a witch in less enlightened times. Their conversation also famously speaks of the number of “steps which lead up from the hall in this room” (the answer is seventeen, of course!). In the slightly sanitized Granada version, Holmes is just pulling Watson’s leg and tricks Watson into a misdiagnosis (re: the syringe) when in fact Holmes just received a letter on curiously thick Bohemian paper.
Quick Sherlock Links:
Cinema Greats (thanks for the tip Holmesosis) posted five excellent stills from Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). One of my favorite Sherlock Holmes adaptations of all time (and one of the reasons I started down this glorious Sherlockian road in the first place). Click on the still below for the full series:
[Being private at the Diogenes Club.]
Alistair Duncan posts, in words and pictures, his experience during the recent Sherlock Holmes Society of London boat trip that follows “the river route taken by Sherlock Holmes in pursuit of the Aurora in The Sign of Four.” Sounds like a really cool experience and an excellent excuse to drink on a boat. Let’s hope someone toasted poor Tonga along the way though. To Tonga!
The Times of India published a piece celebrating the 125th anniversary (by their calculations) of the Great Detective. The article looks at various aspects of the ‘Holmes phenomenon’ and highlights a few of the best moments from Sherlockiana in the last 125 years.
Baker Street Babes announced the Second Annual Sherlock Holmes Picnic In Regents Park. Regent’s Park is of course one of the Royal Parks of London, which sadly means only people in London can attend. Sounds like an awesome time and I can’t wait to see pictures.
The Slacker Heroes considers the concept of the ‘reboot’ in relation to the three latest iterations of Sherlock Holmes. It will be interesting to see if the new Russian Sherlock adaptation (a fourth iteration) ends up making it over to the US and UK and if it will have an impact on the general TV/film going public who has taken a shine to all things Sherlockian as of late.
Huffington Post (in an article from last year but still worth re-posting) speculated on which ‘fictional’ detective would win in an organized “Literary Detective Death Match”. The piece even organizes the contenders in a college basketball ’bracket style’ tournament framework. (Thanks to Bob Katz for the tip!)
The True Story of Dr Joseph Bell, a documentary about ACD’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, is a good introduction to Dr Bell and his relationship to the young ACD. If all you know about Bell is that he was ACD’s teacher and was “good at deduction” then you should definitely watch this. Even if you are Bell expert, there’s still some good footage, entertaining re-creations and of course rare interviews with various Sherlockians and medical historians. (Thanks to Howard for the tip!)
South Bend Tribune looks at The Acting Ensemble Stage Company’s recent foray into Sherlock Holmes: both William Gillette’s 1899 Sherlock Holmes as well as a recent stage adaptation of the novel The Infernal Device, a pastiche told from the point of view of Professor Moriarty. (As always, big thanks for Howard Ostrom for the tip!)
Stephen Seitz the author of the soon to be published Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula (on MX) posted this press release: “Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula is set in motion when Mina Murray asks Holmes and Watson to find her missing fiance Jonathan Harker, last seen at Castle Dracula. The tale recounts the partners’ adventures in Transylvania, Holmes’ hunt for the Count in London, what really happened at the Reichenbach Falls and its aftermath.”
Sesame Street ran a segment entitled “The Case of the Missing Cat” featuring a too cute for words muppetized Holmes and Watson. Click on the still below for a link to the full segment:
[Spoiler Alert: “The cat is under your hat Lady Agatha!”]
LA Review of Books published a refreshingly provocative piece entitled ‘Whither Holmes?’ by Nicholas Meyer, author of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, the infamous Holmes novel which did for Sherlock in the 1970s what BBC Sherlock is doing for Sherlock in the 21st century (ie. for better or for worse, an insane upswing in interest in all things Sherlock Holmes is afoot). Mr Meyer appears to have thought long and hard about the state of the current resurgence we find ourselves awash. He then found a semi-popular but literate media outlet (LA Review of Books) to unleash his rather grim conclusions: “Which brings us to the dilemma of Holmes in a postliterate age, and the larger question of how one adapts literature for the movies, for an audience that has never read the original.” Wasting no time softening the blow, Meyer proclaims: “The answer, I fear, is a depressing one — depressing, at any rate, to those of us who grew up reading and loving the original, written incarnation…” The gist of the rest of the piece is that due to an unholy alliance of Hollywood producers (worse than marauding cannibal philistines), well-intentioned ‘up-daters’ (why do we need to always update everything all the time?) and attention deficient audiences (“who cannot tolerate a shot that lasts more than four seconds, who has no use or interest in narrative coherence” oh, snap!), the Sherlockian culture that we know and love is slowly rotting from the inside out. It’s clear that this article is going to make A LOT of people very angry/defensive (cf. see just the comments so far), but I think that Meyer’s essay might just be one of the most insightful, brave and relevant pieces written about the current state of Sherlock Holmes published thus far. For all intents and purposes (and I admit being guilty of this as well), the majority of general ‘Sherlock Holmes and contemporary culture’ articles/blogs/talks are at best naively optimistic and self-aggrandizing ‘love fests’, and at worst, highly delusional and ultimately destructive ‘sell outs’ to the lowest common denominator. Which in turn slowly succumbs to and even approves of that great Culture destroying pestilence known as ‘watering down’ - watering/dumbing down the intellectual, the cerebral and, most devastatingly, the source (i.e. the Canon). Banished to the historical curiosities section, the source or original text become less and less important until it ceases to matter at all (I think we’re beyond kidding ourselves at this point that CBS’s Elementary is anything other than this state of affairs writ large.). More passionate then I would have ever imagined or assumed, Meyer has noticed something rotten in the street of Baker, and ‘Whither Holmes’ is a wake-up call (or call to arms) to all those whom the Great Detective means more than simply the ‘latest adaptation’ spoon-fed to us by “second-rate minds”. If you read/share one article I post this week, please let it be Nicholas Meyer’s ‘Whither Holmes?’
[I feel like I just had a ‘Network Moment’ based on how worked-up Meyer’s essay just made me. Wish Dr Watson was around to give me some brandy to calm my nerves!]
Baker Street Babes, to commemorate what would have been Basil Rathbone’s 120th birthday this week (Wednesday, June 13, 2012), created a very special Rathbone birthday card; and it’s truly a thing of beauty! For those of you who have seen the Christopher Morley birthday cards I’ve created in the past, you know the Babes’ card is a design after my own heart. Let’s all raise a glass to Sir Basil Rathbone! P.S. I woke up early this morning and watched Rathbone/Bruce in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) and was, as usual, completely blown away by the garden party ‘singing and dancing’ scene which a disguised Sherlock Holmes features so prominently. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Rathbone probably dons the second greatest (non-canonical) Sherlock Holmes disguise of all time. (First place of course going to Douglas Wilmer for his disguise towards the very end of The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax - 1965.)
[Click on the image to see Rathbone in all his birthday glory!]
Sherlock_NYC is putting together a trip to the hollowed grounds of Gillette Castle in Connecticut. For those unfamiliar, Gillette Castle (also known as Gillette’s Folly) is the former home of William Gillette, perhaps the most important actor to have ever donned the role of the Great Detective and for all intents and purposes the Cumberbatch of his day in both popularity and sexiness. “Sherlock NYC presents a very special outing in Connecticut! Join us Saturday, June 23rd,  for a day of exploring the breathtaking Gillette Castle and learning all about the life and career of William Gillette, one of the ultimate Sherlockians of his time. Our day starts at Gillette Castle in East Haddam, CT, where we’ll be having a private tour of the Castle and grounds. We’ll also be learning about William Gillette himself – architect, playwright and Sherlockian. We’ll then be heading to the Gelston House for a three course meal and reader’s theater of Ken Ludwig’s ‘Postmortem’, with your fellow Sherlockians as the stars.” I hear things are filling up quickly so act fast!
[Gillette’s Castle or Gillette’s Folly? Either way, Gillette had a sweet place to call home.]
SherloCon 2012 (not to be confused with 221BCon, set for April 13/14 2013 in Atlanta, GA, which I’l be posting more about during this Friday’s Links) is a recently announced Sherlock Holmes convention set for the weekend of August 24-26, 2012 in the “crime capital of Germany” in the Rhineland city of Hillesheim (not sure what makes it the “crime capital” or why attending an event in a crime capital is a good thing). If Google Translate can be believed, this is the “first Sherlock Holmes convention in Germany” (ever?) and the producers appear to have a very organized weekend planned for Sherlock fans of all stripes and allegiances (The Canon to the BBC and everything in between from what I can glean).
[SherloCon 2012 - taking place in Hillesheim, Germany.]
Mirror, that UK stalwart publication known for it’s integrity and hard-hitting journalism, ran an interview with BC: “Why do women go nuts for me? Benedict Cumberbatch on his weird life as a sex symbol.” The interview is pretty standard stuff but my favorite line has to be: “he says the part of his body he dislikes the most is “the size and shape of my head,” adding, “I’ve been likened to Sid the sloth from Ice Age”.” Celebrities, they’re just like us…and they have disproportionately sized skulls too!
The Well-Read Sherlockian reviews Joe Riggs’ forthcoming The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Mysterious Method and Curious History of a True Mental Specialist (London: MX, 2012). “It’s essentially a monograph, only on mental techniques rather than 140 types of tobacco ash. Riggs begins with a thorough dissection of psychic methods” and from there explores connections between what a mentalist does and what tricks, methods and techniques Sherlock Holmes used to investigate and fight crime in Victorian London. Leah Guinn, author of The Well-Read Sherlockian, approaches what is sure to be a somewhat controversial book in an even-handed and open minded way allowing the reader to decide what to make of Mr Riggs’ unorthodox yet original take on The Master and his methods.
[“Get ready to see everyone and everything in a way you never thought possible. These skills and techniques will catapult you into the world of literal mind reading and mental acuity.” - MX]
Quick Sherlock Links:
Tea at 221B shows off some vintage Sherlock Holmes-themed collectors cards. “Included in select boxes from The Jamie Boix Chocolate Company, Barcelona Spain. Twenty one cards were released depicting scenes from The Speckled Band.” I love rare and/or obscure Sherlockian items like this and I’m happy to see more and more of this stuff is being documented online.
I’m Boldly Going posted an excellent Granada still from “The Final Problem” that I don’t think I have ever seen: Jeremy Brett and David Burke (in his final outing as the good doctor before Edward Hardwicke took over) posing in front of the rather impressive backdrop of that deadly cauldron which was soon to become the sepulchral of Professor Moriarty.
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!