Best Sherlock Holmes Portrayals

Earl Hamilton
• Wednesday, 18 November, 2020
• 23 min read

It was 125 years ago that a young Scottish physician called Arthur Conan Doyle wrote some stories about a master detective, mainly to amuse himself between appointments at his surgery. His creation, Sherlock Holmes, loosely based on his mentor, forensic surgeon Joseph Bell, first appeared in the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual, in a story called A Study In Scarlet.

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The maverick detective has since appeared numerous times in films and on television, portrayed by a cornucopia of eccentric actors from around the world, though chiefly from Britain and America. The iconic image of deerstalker, pipe and tweed overcoat was a gift to comedians, and consequently, Holmes has been embodied by (amongst many others), Buster Keaton, Peter Cook and John Cheese.

More recently, David Mitchell and Robert Webb played both Holmes and Watson in a confusing sketch where the two continually swapped roles. There are so many great performances out there, that just bubbling under is Rupert Everett, who appeared with Ian Hart in 2004’s BBC movie, The Case Of The Silk Stocking.

A true method actor, Norwood studied the role with enormous diligence and brought a wonderful intensity to his portrayal both in film, opposite Hubert Willis as Watson, and on the stage. Some three years earlier, Guy Henry played a juvenile Holmes in ITV’s Young Sherlock made by Granada television.

The 1982 BBC television production of The Hound Of The Baskerville, shown in the Sunday afternoon classic serial slot, was well-received. While not a role he’s immediately associated with, Tom Baker was a memorable Holmes, and the part was a gift for his natural eccentricity and boundless charisma.

Arthur Winner won the role of Holmes having played Sexton Blake, a character seen as a flattering imitation of the Baker Street detective. Winner earned appreciation from staunch Holmes experts, including Conan Doyle’s wife, for his approach to the role in the film The Sleeping Cardinal, which fused two separate stories: The Empty House and The Final Problem.

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Silver Blaze, for instance, was later retitled Murder At The Baskerville in an attempt to draw attention away from the successful Basil Rathbone movies. Nigel Stock appeared as Watson, a role he continued to play when Douglas Wilmer handed over the deerstalker to Peter Cushing in 1968.

Supported by Jude Law as a rather dignified Watson, Downey Jr has made the part his own and delights a new generation of fans with his unkempt eccentricity and Tigger-like enthusiasm. Although Peter Cushing first portrayed Holmes in the 1959 Hammer version of The Hound Of The Baskerville, he is perhaps better remembered for the 16-episode, 1968 BBC series, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, when he replaced Douglas Wilmer as the Baker Street sleuth.

His impact is enduring, not least on those who grew up loving the films, whether at the cinema or on television (a special season was transmitted on BBC2 in 1978, which introduced me to the character, and aired again to celebrate the centenary in 1987). Doctor Who is a supremo Steven Moat and writer and actor Mark Gates created a series of stories loosely based on Conan Doyle’s work, but with a distinct modern day slant.

The BBC has a major hit with this superb and (at times) controversial 21st century retelling of the adventures of the world’s most famous consulting detective. Supported first by David Burke and then Edward Hardwick, both intelligent and thoughtful as Watson, Jeremy Brett made Sherlock Holmes so many his own that any fresh television adaptation would have to approach Conan Doyle’s work from a very different direction.

Brett was bipolar, which heightened his mannered performance as Holmes, making his sudden flashes of manic thought, wit and melancholic malaise truly convincing. Like Ellie Norwood, Brett became obsessed with character, often taking method acting to the extreme to fully embody the spirit of Holmes.

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Due to scheduling conflicts, Thad and I were unable to record our episode of Beneath the Screen of the Ultra-Critics. This time both our voices will be audible, so it doesn’t sound like one long Andy Kauffman style prank.

This week though Thad and I decided, in light of Elementary being renewed for another season, to rank our favorite Sherlock Holmes in film and television. What this means is characters like Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) who are clearly inspired by Holmes are not eligible.

Nor is Justin Play fair (George C. Scott) on the list because he only believes he is Sherlock Holmes and that doesn’t count either. Sadly, this means Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham) is nowhere to be found, but rest assured he is, in fact, one of the great fictional detectives.

Once again, we blithely court controversy by daring to rank the portrayals of a fictional detective over a hundred and thirty years old. SherlockHolmes’s iconic deerstalker hat came not from Doyle, so much as from the illustrations that accompanied the Holmes stories in The Strand.

Likewise, the image of Holmes we conjure up in our brain when we think of the Baker Street occupant is more than likely Basil Rathbone’s. The sly sardonic smile and steeped fingers practically thrive in the public conscious when we think about the great detective.

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They called for a simmering and brooding Holmes with acidic quips and sharp denunciations and that’s what Rathbone gave us. Far from the first American to play Sherlock Holmes, Downey brought his singular energy and presence to the role.

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes pay little heed to Doyle’s original source material. Ritchie’s characters tend to be the types found on the floors of local bars near closing time.

The contrast between Doyle’s staunch upper-class tendencies and Ritchie’s deeply embedded working-class humor leads to a weird adventure yarn more suited for a Doc Savage book than a Sherlock Holmes story. His Watson (Jude Law) hews much more to the stuffy tweed wearing visage of his origins.

Mixed with Downey’s street brawler Holmes though the two make the whole thing feel like an idea Shane Black had but never got around to working out. His determined gait and calculated movements now replaced with shaky hands and a walking stick less for show and more for necessity.

Filled with regret and longing for the choices he’s made McAllen’s Holmes is a tragic melodramatic figure. The picture of Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) with Watson (Lucy Liu) is apt.

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By addressing it and understanding that addiction is a lifelong progress, Elementary forces Sherlock to evolve not just as a character but as a human being. He trains Watson because she shows an intellectual aptitude and a moral fortitude to what Holmes believes to be a higher calling, a private detective.

Cool and calm under fire but hesitant to leap to the floor crawling at the floorboards to reveal a hiding spot. The Case of the Blue Carbuncle, in particular, shows him scouring the London streets on Christmas Eve to help out a local policeman who’s come to him for help.

No sir, we’re proud of you.” Brett’s cool demeanor cracks as he receives validation from a source he respects very much. Rarely has the great man ever been portrayed with such passion, glee, and deep sympathetic humanity.

A shining example of a near flawlessly faithful adaptation of a canon of classic literary genius, Granada television's stylishly lavish series redefined the established film and TV image of the world renowned inhabitants of 221B Baker Street, and in the process produced an undisputed television classic that rivaled even the best of the BBC's legendary historical drama output. Under the guiding hand of then Head of Drama at Granada, Michael Cox, and a hand-picked team of top flight writing and production talent beginning with the 13 part Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, viewers were introduced into what was undoubtedly the definitive realization of the mystery laden, fog shrouded menace, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian master detective and his trusty aid and companion Doctor John Watson.

But while breathtakingly faithful adaptations of the original stories, and scrupulously authentic attention to even the smallest of period details were undoubtedly major factors in the series success, the really crucial element which elevates the series to the heights of a genuine classic, was in the all important casting of the central characters. In Jeremy Brett's flamboyantly brilliant interpretation of Holmes, viewers where treated to a masterly tour de force performance, which for many finally succeeded in not only eclipsing the enduring image of the late Basil Rathbone's splendid portrayal, but also captured the true essence of the character in such a way that Brett's Holmes appeared to have sprung to three-dimensional life directly from the printed page.

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According to our readers, Sherlock Holmes is the perfect way to get back into the reading habit. Play begins as a ghost hunt and becomes a murder mystery as everyone tries to solve the case.

The Scarborough Theater Guild’s first production of the season, The Reluctant Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by David Belle, begins as a ghost hunt that tuns into a murder mystery and a battle of logic and wit in an attempt to solve the case. When a ghostly presence disrupts the household at Baffler Grange, the manor of Desmond and Abigail West haven (Gregory Her tel, Karen Brown) and their daughter Rose (Julie Costed), Desmond calls on Arthur Conan Doyle (Len Henderson) to help with the haunting that has caused most of their staff to leave in fear.

Doyle, a doctor, is also the famed author of the most beloved detective of the literary world, Sherlock Holmes (Damien Guide), and once he arrives at the manor, so does Mr. Holmes. Posted in Blog | Tagged Arthur Conan Doyle, Scarborough Mirror, Sherlock Holmes | Opening night will soon be upon us.

Guide created this Character Acrostic to help his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes : Scientific | Heedless | Excitable | Rational | Logical | Obsequious | Cunning | Kinetic Honorable | Observant | Linear | Misogynistic | Egotistical | Skeptical And since his inception up to today Holmes continues to hold the throne as “the world’s greatest detective.” Many actors have portrayed this legendary figure.

Posted in Blog | Tagged BBC, BBC Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes | The Reluctant Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by David Belle is a comedy-mystery that challenges Conan Doyle, and the audience, to match wits with the world’s greatest detective! In this movie we are introduced to Holmes with the deerstalker hat, the violin, the disguises and the ability to tell things about a person by just looking at something they owned.

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We are also introduced to Dr. Watson, who is not bumbling here, but more faithful to the character portrayed in the books. The movie is fairly faithful to the book and takes place on the moors of Devonshire.

This movie was based on the William Gillette play which began touring the US around 1899. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were great as Sherlock and Dr. Watson, George Stucco was also wonderful as Moriarty.

I’m going to bring off right under your nose the most incredible crime of the century, and you’ll never suspect it until it’s too late. Watson is again the perfect observer of Holmes brilliance and is also a great element of comic relief, as he is in all the movies in this series.

Sherlock battles the Nazis in this propaganda war film made in 1942. A Swiss inventor of a bomb sight for airplanes, which may change the course of the war, is rescued from the Nazis and then protected by Holmes and Watson.

Watson, for all his buffoonery, saves Holmes again by observing how heavy a trunk two men were carrying was. Lionel Twill makes a great Professor Moriarty.

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This was the last of the fourteen movies starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion, Dr. Watson. Sherlock really shows off some of his logical skills as he battles a group of counterfeiters.

Sherlock and Dr. Watson guard the Star of Rhodesia from being stolen on a train. A disciple of the late Professor Moriarty, Colonel Sebastian Moran is who is villain after it.

On the train there are a lot of people who look suspicious, but the Colonel is the one you would be least suspect. There are a lot of dead bodies, but Holmes doesn’t really get a chance to do too much.

A good version of the story with an opening sequence that shows Sir Hugo Baskerville murdering a young girl which brings down the curse on the family. Christopher Lee does a good job playing Sir Henry Baskerville.

Directed by the great Billy Wilder, this movie brings us the iconic Holmes, playing the violin, smoking his pipe and reaching for his needle in times of pain and boredom. It showed a Holmes who was human, but it also remained faithful to the Arthur Conan Doyle character.

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The movie had an interesting, twisting plot with a nice part for Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes. It also had midgets, canaries, monks, the Queen and the Loch Ness monster.

Dr. Watson is a brilliant criminologist, but he was interested in getting into a prestigious medical society, so he hires an actor, Reginald Kincaid, to play detective for him. Reginald, who takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes and gets famous as Watson writes the stories for Strand Magazine, is a drunkard, a gambler and a womanizer.

Michael Caine does his usual great job at playing the drunk and Ben Kingsley does a good job playing the frustrated Watson, who would like to get rid of his creation but cannot. There are a lot of good lines in the first half of the movie as Sherlock and Watson battle more than they partner.

In this regard it was more faithful to the Conan Doyle stories than the Rathbone movies, but it wasn’t as much fun. Shylockian will admire the portrayal, but I’ll take Nigel Bruce.

The comic relief he gave those movies was a big part of their charm. Although he played a young Sherlock, he still didn’t seem to capture the essence of the man.

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I also didn’t think the movie did a good job of capturing Victorian England. A secret document that is being transported from England to the US by an English agent is intercepted and Holmes and Watson join in the chase to find the document before it falls into the wrong hands.

Watson reads a book on American mannerisms on the flight over and is soon using slang, chewing gum and drinking milk shakes. When he finally finds the bad guys he is saved by Watson who comes crashing through the doors with the police.

The movie opens up with the newspapers on the London streets reporting the current rash of “Pajama Suicides.” When Holmes faints and falls in the river, the death of Sherlock Holmes in broadcast in all the papers.

He says some negative things about Sherlock and Watson punches him in the face. Sherlock Holmes : Directing them is one of the most fiendishly clever minds in all Europe today.

Sherlock shows up at the gaming tables with a turban and a beard. When he loses at the table she offers him a loan if he will “temporarily” name her as beneficiary of his life insurance policy.

It doesn't take The Spider Woman, played by Gale Sondergaard, too long to figure out whom he really is, and she is soon plotting his real death. A huge spider makes its way in through the window and towards Holmes bed.

Holmes : Watson, if you ever see me getting to sure again, fancying myself more clever than Area Spending. The movies last scene are at a side show as Holmes searches for his pygmy.

Holmes takes some shots at the shooting gallery at Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini. Lestrade and Watson are getting ready to take a turn shooting.

Holmes : Basil Rathbone Watson : Nigel Bruce Luckily Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are in Canada at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Occult Society.

One hundred years ago there were murders at La More Rouge, and now they are starting again. Holmes comments to Watson, “Consider the tragic irony: we've accepted a commission from a victim to find her murderer.

Holmes and Watson begin the investigation without the help of the husband, who quickly becomes a suspect. We find out that the psychopath killer is a former actor, playing a variety of roles in town.

Sherlock Holmes : Relations of friendly intimacy with the United States on the one hand and their unswerving fidelity to the British Commonwealth and the motherland on the other. Canada, the link which joins together these great branches of the human family.

Holmes : Basil Rathbone Dr. Watson : Nigel Bruce Dr. Watson is serving as resident doctor at Mus grave Hall in Northumberland, a stately home which is also used as a hospital for a number of officers suffering from she'll shock.

Watson enlists the help of Holmes after his assistant is attacked. Inspector Lestrade also arrives after the first in a series of murders which seem to be tied up with an ancient and apparently meaningless family ritual.

Holmes realizes that the words (queen, bishop, king, knight) in the ritual describe movements of chess pieces, which are in fact clues to the location of something. Since the black and white floor of the main hall resembles a chess board, Holmes has the rest of the household move as human chess pieces.

He then goes in to the cellar beneath where the last move landed him and finds the crypt of a knight, Ralph Mus grave, in which is hidden an ancient land grant signed by King Henry I. Holmes devises a plan to lure the killer back to the tomb later that evening.

Holmes then fakes his own death and allows the killer to leave -- but he walks right into the hands of Lestrade and his policemen. This sets up another of Holmes great patriotic curtain speeches.

We're beginning to think of what we *owe* the other fellow, not just what we're compelled to give him. The time is coming, Watson, when we shan't be able to fill our bellies in comfort while the other fellow goes hungry, or sleep in warm beds while others shiver in the cold.

The Ministry calls Sherlock Holmes for help with the Voice of Terror. Sherlock gets the members of the criminal class, stirred by patriotism, to help out (somewhat reminiscent of M).

The Voice gets on the radio again and says that Germany will strike England on their weakest coast, tomorrow morning. Holmes identifies Sir Evan Bar ham as the Voice of Terror.

Holmes has figured out that the real Sir Even had been replaced years ago by a German agent. But its God’s own wind nonetheless and a greener, better, stronger, land that will lie in the sunshine when the storm is cleared.

Sherlock, back at Baker Street, tells Watson that the Pearl is as “Real as death old fellow. Lestrade enjoys the turn of events and kid an unamused Holmes and Watson about it.

As Holmes plays the violin back at Baker Street the message does get out. Watson has punched a newspaper man who cast wrote badly about Holmes.

When the Creeper, played by Rondo Patton (who would reprise this role three more times in non- Holmes movies before his death two years later) comes on the screen late in the movie, it is something of a shock. There is a great scene where Watson tries to impress a disguised Giles Con over with his deductive abilities.

Con over leaves a booby trapped book for Holmes. Another murder, another victim with a back broken, and smashed china all around the body, again.

Holmes analyzes the china and recognizes statues of Napoleon in all three murders. Holmes investigates and finds that there were six busts of Napoleon in a shop near Con over's escape, and he must have hidden the Pearl in one of them.

Naomi Drake calls Conover, but Holmes listens in and gets the real information. With ten minutes to go in the movie we finally see the Creeper.

Holmes ending dialogue references the greed in the world (not mentioning Napoleon or Hitler but clearly pointing at them). No more than the symbol of the greed and cruelty and lust for power that have set men at each other's throats down through the centuries and the struggle will go on Watson for a pearl, a kingdom, perhaps even world dominion till the greed and cruelty have burned out every last one of us and when that time comes perhaps even the pearl will be washed clean again.

Once a man has dipped his fingers in blood, sooner or later he'll feel the urge to kill again.” When a member is delivered a message containing orange pips, he does not have much time left on earth.

Watson : Trolley Walters Gerson Holmes : Gene Wilder Moriarty : Leo McKean Gene Wilder, Madeline Khan, DOM Demise and Marty Feldman take on the Sherlock Holmes story.

Sherlock wasn't in this movie too often but his younger brother, Gerson (Gene Wilder) was. The movie opens with Sherlock and Watson discussing a problem given to them by the Queen to solve.

While Sherlock is gone he is gone he passes on some less important cases to his younger brother, Gerson. Orville Stanley Sacker (Marty Elder) to talk to his brother.

When Gerson starts doing the Kangaroo Hop with Jenny Hill and Orville they begin to lose their audience (me). Gene Wilder is a very funny actor when he is working for another director and writer.

In the first scene a dart from a blow gun hits a man in the neck on the snowy London streets, He soon suffers from delusion that his dinner, a pheasant is attacking him. Sherlock finds about the deaths and thinks they are connected bit Mr. Lestrade doesn't.

A jealous fellow student, Dudley, sets up Sherlock as a cheater, and he is kicked out of school. Holmes friend and mentor, Professor Wax flatter who also is Elizabeth's uncle gets hit with a dart next.

Watson finds the fall gun that someone has dropped at the scene. As Sherlock and Watson investigate the blow gun they find it is hooked to some followers of an Egyptian god.

The followers use a blow gum gun that uses thorns that are dipped into a hallucinogenic. In a scene very reminiscent of the one in Gunge Din, Holmes, Watson and Elizabeth look out onto a cult ceremony inside a temple.

Just like Cary Grant in Gunge, Sherlock sneaks down for a closer look. He screams to save the newly wrapped person who is still alive and is quickly pursued by everyone.

Professor Rather, another of Sherlock's mentors, intervenes and tells Holmes and Watson that they must leave the college. While investigating at her uncle's Elizabeth discovers that Professor Rather is up to no good.

Rather takes were to be the fifth princess in the reburying ceremony the cult is planning. Holmes saves the day but as he is leaving Rather takes a shot at him that kills Elizabeth.

Dark, cloudy London streets open up the movie with eerie music playing in the background. Holmes and Watson are in a box waiting for a play to begin.

When the Prince arrives he is booed as much as he is cheered; he is not a very discreet man. But there is a monster out on the street, strangling women with his bare hands.

Meanwhile, another murder occurs with the women being carried from the carriage in plain site of the driver. Holmes is chased away from the murder scene by Sir Charles from Scotland Yard.

A pretty creepy Robert Lees claims to have seen Jack the Ripper in his visions. Annie Crook (Geneviève Build), has been committed to an insane asylum.

She hasn't spoken a word in six months and Sir Charles was instrumental in her committal. We find out that her and “Eddy's” baby has been entrusted to Mary Kelly, who everyone seems to be looking for.

Holmes searches for Mary and finds he, a bloody corpse, with two men cutting her up. Holmes, recognizing the men, is startled and is struck down with a red-hot poker.

The heir to the throne had a child with a lower class women and a Catholic at that. The helpers searched through Whitehall for the child, bringing along with them the myth of Jack the Ripper, by those hoping to disguise their work as that of a madman.

The story was kind of convoluted and again looking to tap into the Da Vinci Code conspiracy themes. I hope the sequel in 2012, where Sherlock meets Moriarty is more of a battle of the minds.

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