|Starring Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies - Reviewed|
The definitive illustrated history of Holmes on screen
Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed on screen more often than any other character in history. This beautifully produced book is the definitive illustrated guide to the films and television series featuring the master detective, with an unprecedented collection of colour and black and white stills, posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes shots, including much rare and previously unpublished material.
Every Sherlock Holmes film and TV series is covered (including foreign and lesser known productions), from the silent movies, through the famous portrayals of Basil Rathbone and Peter Cushing, up to the celebrated television series starring Jeremy Brett and beyond. Also covering the stage and radio works, the Holmes world and Conan Doyle himself, this book is simply a must for any Holmes fan.
David Stuart Davies is one of Britain's leading Sherlockian writers. He is the editor of Sherlock Holmes: The Detective Magazine, and the author of four Holmes novels, the hit play Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act, and an acclaimed biography of Jeremy Brett. He is also an advisor to Granada Studios Sherlock Holmes Museum.
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Review is copyright Charles Prepolec 2001.
|Starring Sherlock Holmes
Author: David Stuart Davies
Publisher: Titan Books.
UK Release: 20 July 2001
Available in USA August 2003
The book features a reversible dust jacket displaying either Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone as Holmes. Includes numerous photographs and illustrations throughout.
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|Reviewed by Charles Prepolec - August 9, 2001|
|“Offer any actor in the world the part of Sherlock Holmes, and I am willing to wager that you will get an affirmative response. No matter whether they be too short, too old, or too fat, the lure of the Great Detective is irresistible. Part of the attraction lies in those traits which, while not admirable in themselves, are those we would secretly love to have…”|
|- Excerpt from the foreword by Ian Richardson|
|“It was as though film and programme makers had decided collectively that too much reverential homage had been paid to the sage of Baker Street, and now was the time to take him down a peg or two. On television in Britain, a less than sensible Sherlock Holmes starred in a 1973 episode of the BBC series Comedy Playhouse, ‘Elementary, My Dear Watson’, which featured John Cleese as the detective and Willie Rushton as Watson. The bizarre script was by N. F. Simpson – a playwright whose comedies of the absurd include Rhinoceros and One-Way Pendulum – and involved a family curse, five dead solicitors, a television panel game and Fu Manchu. It was the pilot for a series that never materialised, but John Cleese returned to the role in 1977 with Arthur Lowe (of Dad’s Army fame) as his Watson…”|
|- Excerpt from the chapter “Sherlock in the Seventies”|
|June 27, 2001 - Titan Books Publicity Information and Chapter Excerpts|
|For those interested in the film, television and stage portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, David Stuart Davies book Starring Sherlock Holmes is a ‘must have’! This beautifully designed and laid out large format hardcover is a treat in nearly every way. Most noticeable on the first read through are the glorious illustrations, nicely balanced between monochrome and colour, many of which seem to be previously unpublished, while images from some rather obscure productions are also present. While the pictures alone nearly justify the book, Davies text is equally rewarding.
The book begins with an introduction by Ian Richardson followed by a few pages of background on Conan Doyle, it then moves into a solid breakdown of films in a chronological manner. The early silent films are lumped together over 4 pages in a general overview sort of way, although Eille Norwood and John Barrymore each receive their own two-page spread. From those Davies moves into the talkies, generally giving one or two pages to each film, with major series (such as those featuring Wontner and Rathbone) being accorded individual title listings. The film listings are occasionally broken up by the insertion of nice background/overview pieces such as Basil Rathbone: The Ideal Holmes, Curtain Up: Sherlock Holmes on Stage and Jeremy Brett: Dancing in the Moonlight. These inserts allow the author a chance to range beyond specific titles and address various trends, periods or influential actors. My only criticism of the inserts is that these are occasionally teasers with rare photographs dropped in without much explanation other than a caption (as in a photo of Frank Finlay as Conan Doyle with Richard E. Grant as Sherlock Holmes from a production entitled “he Other Side) or productions given short shrift in one or two-line mentions (as in the Russian Holmes series featuring Vasily Livanov). Television productions are included, although anything prior to the 1950’s Sheldon Reynolds series is lumped into a 4-page insert entitled Holmes in View: The Early Television Adventures. Major series such as the Wilmer and Cushing productions of the 1960s each receive a 2-page spread with individual episodes being listed only in the Filmography section (which includes general production data, air dates and key cast lists) at the end of the book. Needless to say, Jeremy Brett and the Granada series receive a great deal of coverage, with separate 4-page spreads for each series and 2-pages apiece for each of the individual 2-hour productions. The titles represented are extremely current and run up to and include the recent Matt Frewer version of The Sign of Four.
The layout for each of the specific programs is nicely done, with a tight synopsis heading each listing followed by interesting commentary, liberally laced with appropriate photographs, on the particular production under consideration. While I often find myself disagreeing with David Stuart Davies analyses, I found the writing to be both highly enjoyable and informative. Quotations from other critics are regularly included, adding a nice balance. While the book has the benefit of being the most up-to-date at the moment, it doesn’t make previous books on the topic, including the authors own Holmes of the Movies, redundant. The level of detail provided here on specific productions is not generally as far-reaching as in some other books of this type, but the sheer breadth and beauty of Starring Sherlock Holmes, plus the amazing array of photographs, makes it a worthwhile compliment to the Holmes film-analysis bookshelf.
Highly Recommended! Order your copy from Amazon UK or Amazon USA today.