The fictional character Sherlock Holmes, having first appeared in publication in 1887, is a London-based detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Easily the most recognized fictional detective, Holmes is known for his intelligent, analytical, and deductive capabilities. Assisting Holmes with his investigations is his good friend Dr. John H. Watson.
The character of Sherlock Holmes was the central figure in many of the most enjoyable detective movies of the 1930s and the 1940s. My favorite actor playing the role of Holmes was Basil Rathbone, with Nigel Bruce in the role of Dr. Watson. The two starred together in a series of films that ran from 1939-1946. However, this famous detective has been around on the movie screen since the 1916 silent film Sherlock Holmes, starring actor William Gillette. Acting legend John Barrymore also played the title role in the 9 reel silent film of the same name produced in 1922.
In 1929, the first in the movie series to be filmed with sound was titled The Return of Sherlock Holmes. The filmed featured actor Clive Brook as the detective and although this film was not very popular it did provide the origin of Holmes trademark phrase “Elementary my dear Watson”. However, the phrase itself was never used in the written stories of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Holmes arch nemesis is the character of Professor James Moriarty, who can only be described as a criminal mastermind and super villain, was introduced in Conan Doyle’s tale The Final Problem. It was the original intention of this story to kill off the famous detective. Conan Doyle felt that his Sherlock Holmes stories were a distraction to his writing of more worthwhile literary efforts. Holmes was to meet his end during a fight with Professor Moriarty over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. As it turned out, Holmes great legion of fans would not hear of his demise and demanded more.
In total, Conan Doyle penned four novels and fifty-six short stories that featured the master sleuth. The movie industry would often combine several of the short stories when producing the Sherlock Holmes series of films. Only one, The Hound of the Baskervilles, can be said to closely follow the authors original story. The film was an unexpected hit for Twentieth Century Fox and they immediately followed with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The rest as they say is “elementary”.
For mystery and crime film fans, the Sherlock Holmes detective movies provide a lot brain food. The tight storylines, combined with Holmes’ intensive use of logical thinking and deductive reasoning, make the character unforgettable and the films a leading candidate for the best Hollywood detective movies of all-time.