Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adaptations of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is an enormously famous, widely beloved, fascinating, timeless character that we don't seem capable of getting sick of. He has been adapted to the big screen and the little screen, among other media.

Film Adaptations

Sherlock Holmes (1916) In 1899, William Gillette wrote a stage adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. In 1916, that play was adapted to a silent film, and Gillette himself played Sherlock. It drew inspiration from four different cases, including this week's review book, A Study in Scarlet. Presumably, no copies of this film still exist.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1921-23) This was a silent, black-and-white film series comprising 45 short films and two full-length films, starring Eille Norwood as Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes 1922 poster.jpg

Sherlock Holmes (1922) This film was released as Moriarty in the UK, and was a silent film starring John Barrymore as Sherlock. It was thought lost for a long time, but was rediscovered in the '70s.

The Sleeping Cardinal, The Missing Rembrandt, The Sign of Four: Sherlock Holmes' Greatest Case, The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes, and Silver Blaze 1931-37) This was a film series starring Arthur Wontner as Sherlock.

Poster of Sherlock Holmes (1932 film).jpg

Sherlock Holmes (1932) was also based on William Gillette's play, this time starring Clive Brook as Sherlock. 

Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes.jpeg

Sherlock Holmes (1939-46) was a series of fourteen films made in America starring Basil Rathbone.

There seems to have been a drought of Sherlock Holmes films after WWII, though, because the next Sherlock Holmes film was...

Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, in-character. The background is a window display, featuring shelves containing miscellaneous objects relating to the story. The poster reads "Sherlock Holmes" across the top, with the tagline "Holmes for the holiday" centered at the bottom. The poster is predominately turquoise coloured.     Sherlock Holmes2Poster.jpg

Sherlock Holmes (2009) starring the dashing pair of Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock and Jude Law as Dr. Watson, followed by the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011).

Sherlock Holmes and a Tyrannosaurus Rex

In the intervening year between those two movies, there was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (2010), a direct-to-DVD movie with - and I feel I cannot emphasize this enough - a T. rex on the cover. It was a mockbuster riding the coattails of the aforementioned 2009 film, and starred Ben Snyder, playing Sherlock.

TV Adaptations

Sherlock Holmes (1951) was a one-season, six-episode series on BBC starring Alan Wheatley as Holmes and Raymond Francis as Watson.

Sherlock Holmes (1954) was the first American TV adaptation of Holmes, with one season of 39 episodes, starring Ronald Howard (no, not Ron Howard) as Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as Watson.

Sherlock Holmes (1965) was the BBC's second TV Holmes, with two series (seasons, in England-talk) and 29 episodes. Douglas Wilmer played Holmes and Nigel Stock was Watson.

Statue in Moscow of Holmes and Watson as portrayed by
Livanov and Solomin
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (1979-86) Russia got in on the action with five made-for-TV movies starring Vasily Livanov as Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Watson.

Alt=Series titles over a streetview of Baker Street

Sherlock Holmes (1984) ran for 9 series and 41 episodes, covering 42 of the 60 stories Doyle wrote for his character. It was aired on ITV (Britain) and starred Jeremy Brett as Holmes and David Burke as Watson. It was a very popular portrayal of these familiar characters.

Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) Poster

Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992) was a made-for-TV movie starring Christopher Lee (yes, Saruman) as Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Watson. There were other made-for-TV movies in the same decade with the same stars, and there is surprisingly little information about these.

Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century.jpg

Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (1999) made it a shocking 2 seasons and 26 episodes on Fox Kids in the US and STV in the UK, despite sounding absolutely terrible. It even got a nomination for a Daytime Emmy. Jason Gray-Stanford played Holmes and John Payne played Watson.

A view of the London skyline, with the word "Sherlock" in black letters     

Sherlock (2010) is still on the air after two series and 6 episodes, and you've probably seen it - or at least stills from it on the internet. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, Smaug... and Khan) as Holmes and Martin Freeman (yes, Bilbo... and Arthur Dent... and Tim from the original The Office) as Watson. It was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, whose names you may recognize from Doctor Who credits.

Elementary intertitle.png     

Elementary (2012) is also still on the air on CBS after one season and 21 episodes, and stars Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes and - our first woman version of the character - Lucy Liu as Watson. It is also the first American TV adaptation since 1954.


  1. I love Sherlock Holmes! I had no idea there are so many silent and tv adaptations. The BBC Sherlock is PHENOMENAL. I haven't watched in months, but I think about it all the time. And of course, RDJ is my hero so I love the new movies. Great post!

    1. Katy, you continually surprise me. I would not have pegged you for a Holmes fan.

      The BBC version is on Netflix, but only like... six episodes. I might watch them anyway.