Recently I’ve been thinking about my relationship with the fictional character Sherlock Holmes.
Like many people, my first experience of Sherlock Holmes was through Basil Rathbone who played the great detective in those 1940s wartime propaganda films. More often than not his cases involved the destruction of a Nazi spy ring or the thwarting of plans to sink an allied submarine. Rathbone was dashing and heroic and for many years was the definitive Sherlock Holmes. Sadly Watson was played as a bumbling idiot by Nigel Bruce which I’m sure was not by choice. No doubt the studio felt that they needed some comic relief in those films and Bruce provided that in droves.
However as I grew older I began reading Conan- Doyle’s original stories and rejected Rathbone’s Holmes. He looked and sounded the part but had none of the intelligence of the Holmes I was reading about. It was incredibly exciting discovering the stories by myself and quickly Holmes became mine. The kids at school had pop music and masturbation I had Sherlock Holmes and masturbation (not at the same time). However while they danced and attempted to finger Stacy from the year above, I was working my way slowly towards heartbreak.
When I was a kid I went on holiday with my Mum, Dad, Sister and Grandma to Corfu- which back then was a rather lovely Greek island. At the airport I bought The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and started reading it on the plane, and I was totally enthralled. For the first part of the holiday the book never left my hand as I ploughed through Silver Blaze, The yellow face, The Stock-broker’s Clerk, The “Gloria Scott”, The Musgrave Ritual, The Reigate Puzzle, The Crooked Man, The Resident Patient, The Greek Interpreter and The Naval Treaty. Until one hot Mediteranean afternoon while sitting by a swimming pool I settled down to devour the final story in the book. This story was called The Final Problem and read it incredibly quickly, it very exciting and when I’d finished, I put the book down, walked to a seclude spot and burst into tears. My hero was dead.
Thankfully before the holiday was over somebody suggested to me that I should buy The Return of Sherlock Holmes as soon as I got back to England. Which I dutifully did and after reading ‘The Empty House’ I danced around like a twat.
Of course I didn’t just read Holmes stories, I watched every film and television adaptation I could find on VHS, but they never really lived up to the joy of the books. Although, oddly, one of my favourite Holmes was Ian Richardson who did a few U.S TV movies.
Then ITV announced they were going to do a new series of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which would stick to Conan-Doyle’s stories and Holmes would be played by and actor called Jeremy Brett. Who I had never heard of, surely Holmes should be played by Tom Baker or some other well known actor. I was a little disappointed but never the lesson the 24th April 1984 I sat down and watched the first episode. I was was astonished, it was only fucking Sherlock Holmes walking and talking and being brilliant. Jeremy Brett got it! He knew who Holmes was and played him perfectly. He is, for me, the definitive Holmes.
Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t rejected all future adaptation of the stories in fact I enjoy them more because now the best version has been made, so I no longer feel protective of the great detective.
Now we have a new Sherlock Holmes and he is young, sexy and like Rathbone, his Holmes is set in the modern world.
Now some of you might think that I hate it. You may imagine that I have dismissed it out of hand and turned to my pile of books but you would be quite wrong. I love the new Sherlock, it is a triumph. We have three more to come next autumn and I can’t wait.
Happily until then, I have the last series on DVD and Jeremy Brett to keep me company.