Monday, January 25, 2016

DVD: William Gillette in Sherlock Holmes -- January 25, 2016

Moving Picture World, 21-October-1916
Back in 2014, I wrote about William Gillette, author of a famous play about Sherlock Holmes and the first actor to become famous for playing the part:

At that time, Essanay's 1916 production of Sherlock Holmes, starring Gillette in his only feature film appearance, was thought to be lost.

Later in 2014, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Cinémathèque Française announced that a print of the film had been discovered at the  Cinémathèqe.  The two organizations worked together to restore the film and translate the French titles into English.  It debuted at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Later in 2015,  Flicker Alley released it on DVD and Blu-Ray.  I ordered and received my copy in early 2016.

Moving Picture World, 07-October-1916
The box contains two discs and a booklet.  The first disc has the movie with English or French titles.  Neil Brand provided the musical score.

The second disc has several extras.  There is a talk about restoring the film by Robert Byrne at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  I liked his use of illustrations.  American Mutoscope and Biograph's 1900 "Sherlock Holmes Baffled" was the first known Sherlock Holmes film.  "A Canine Sherlock Holmes" was a 1912 Charles Urban production starring Spot, the Urbanora Dog.  Spot gave a strong performance.  "Più forte che Sherlock Holmes" was a 1913 Giovanni Pastrone trick film. Talkies were the Fox Movietone interview with Arthur Conan Doyle and film of Gillette's miniature steam railroad at his Connecticut estate.

The booklet has essays on William Gillette, the production of the film, its restoration, its musical score and the two Movietone productions.

The feature was found in a set of cans, each containing several small sections of film.  The feature had been cut up into a serial for French exhibition.  The titles and intertitles had been roughly translated into French.  The film was divided up for tinting into orange for day scenes and interiors and blue for night scenes.

I was surprised while watching the film to see several fades that occurred in the middle of scenes.  They did not seem to represent time lapses.

Bisbee, Arizona Daily Review, 24-December-1916
William Gillette was old, but I saw that Orson Welles was right, Sherlock Holmes did look like William Gillette.  He could be commanding.  Edward Fielding didn't bring any character to Watson.  Marjorie Kay was pretty as Alice Fielding, but didn't display much acting.  French actor Ernest Maupain was scary as Moriarity.

The exterior of 221B Baker Street did not look appropriate.  The finale took place in Watson's office, after a title that said 221B had been burned.

I went to sleep while watching the movie on two different days, but it was not the movie's fault.  I have had to work late several days.

I'm grateful to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Cinémathèque Française and Flicker Alley for giving me the opportunity to watch this movie.

Moving Picture World, 01-April-1916

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