William Gillette Sherlock Holmes Found

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Rob Farr
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William Gillette Sherlock Holmes Found

Postby Rob Farr » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:57 am

From the folks at the San Francisco Silent Film Fest:

SHERLOCK HOLMES: 100-YEARS-LOST FILM
FOUND AT CINÉMATHÈQUE FRANÇAISE
Cinémathèque Française and San Francisco Silent Film Festival to Restore!

The silent film version of Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette has been found! Long considered lost since its first release, the Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Holmes on screen. Directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in 1916, it was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française only a few weeks ago.

By the time the film was made, Gillette had been established as the world's foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage. He gave his face and manner to the detective and inspired the classic illustrations of Frederic Dorr Steele. Dynamic but calm, he played Holmes in the colorful attire-bent-stemmed briar, ornate dressing gown, and deerstalker cap-that has been identified ever since with the character. Just as durable was Gillette's distinctive bearing, preserved in the film: the charismatic, all-seeing detective who dominates scenes with his preternatural stillness.

Booth Tarkington famously wrote after seeing Gillette on stage, "I would rather see you play Sherlock Holmes than be a child again on Christmas morning." For the well-known Chicago bookman, Vincent Starrett, Gillette was beyond criticism. But perhaps the most telling accolade came from Arthur Conan Doyle himself, who had killed Holmes off and thought he was through with the character. After reading Gillette's adaptation for the stage, he said, "It's good to see the old chap back."

"Sir Arthur, you don't know the half of it," says Professor Russell Merritt, the supervising editor of the project and member of the Baker Street Irregulars. "At last we get to see for ourselves the actor who kept the first generation of Sherlockians spellbound. We can also see where the future Holmeses-Rathbone, Brett, Cumberbatch, and the rest-come from. As far as Holmes is concerned, there's not an actor dead or alive who hasn't consciously or intuitively played off Gillette."

The newly found Essanay production is not only Gillette's sole surviving appearance as Holmes. It is also the only film Gillette ever made, a unique opportunity to view the work of a major American actor in the legendary role that he wrote for himself. The film faithfully retains the play's famous set pieces-Holmes's encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions-and illustrates how Gillette wove bits from Conan Doyle's stories ranging from "A Scandal in Bohemia" to "The Final Problem,"into an original, innovative mystery play.

THE RESTORATION PROJECT
A nitrate dupe negative of Sherlock Holmes was found in the vaults of the Cinémathèque Française. Originally assembled for French distribution, the negative contains French flash titles and color annotations. This color information is quite surprising for an Essanay film, since usually Essanay's domestic releases were usually in black and white. The colors in this case were probably intended for French distribution.

The film is now being digitally restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Cinémathèque Française, the third such partnership between the organizations. The restoration is also made possible by the financial support of private individuals from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Film restorer (and SFSFF Board President) Robert Byrne says, "It's an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette's magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time."

The European premiere will take place at the Cinémathèque Française's festival of film restoration, Toute la Mémoire du Monde, in January 2015. The American premiere will take place at the San Francisco Silent Film festival in May 2015.

Use the links here for more information about Cinémathèque Française and San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Rob Farr
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Re: William Gillette Sherlock Holmes Found

Postby Rob Farr » Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:03 am

I'd love to know the backstory of how the Cinematheque discovered they had this. Didn't they know? I mean, I get discovering a film in a barn. Perhaps it was a recent donation and they just catalogued it. Or maybe it was in a can marked "Sherlock Holmes - Barrymore".
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Richard M Roberts
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Re: William Gillette Sherlock Holmes Found

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:23 am

Rob Farr wrote:I'd love to know the backstory of how the Cinematheque discovered they had this. Didn't they know? I mean, I get discovering a film in a barn. Perhaps it was a recent donation and they just catalogued it. Or maybe it was in a can marked "Sherlock Holmes - Barrymore".



Well, remember, this is the Archive that once misplaced for a number of years what was then considered the only known print of THE UNKNOWN with Lon Chaney because it was filed among hundreds of other reels of film marked "Unknown".

And sometimes unknown films can sit in archives for decades and remain unknown until the right person with the right knowledge happens to get a look at it and knows what it is. Not all Archival staff are film historians and not all film historians are total "experts" in all fields. I still find it amusing that apparently a couple of months ago, the Library of Congress ran an untitled print of Edwin S. Porter's TRAIN WRECKERS (1905), a not particularly obscure early film (as it is Porter's follow-up to THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY and on both the Edison DVD set and Youtube), to 120 some so-called "experts" and their own staff at the Mostly Lost symposium and nobody knew what it was, and they most likely have multiple prints actually filed under the title.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

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Re: William Gillette Sherlock Holmes Found

Postby Gary Johnson » Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:53 am

I'm with Rob. I find the backstory to all of these film discoveries intriguing but they are rarely mentioned.

"I was looking for a beige shoelace that had broken off of my black wing top dress shoes when, lo and behold, there was HAT'S OFF"


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