Last month I blogged about the BFI’s search for a lost Sherlock Holmes film dating from 1914. Yesterday it was announced that a different Holmes film, dating to 1916, had been discovered at the Cinémathèque Française. Although two years younger, it is arguably the more important film, as it stars William Gillette, the American actor who first adapted Holmes for the stage, who first introduced the deerstalker and pipe combination, and the man who actually wrote the line ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’. It was Gillette’s only film but he sounds admirably suited to silent movies:
One of his greatest strengths as an actor was the ability to say nothing at all on the stage, relying instead on an involved, inner contemplation of an emotional or comic crisis to hold the audience silent, waiting for the moment when he would speak again.
The recovered film was directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in the US. It consists of four episodes based on a variety of the original stories and retains many scenes from the Gillette play, such as an encounter with Moriarty and a daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber.
The nitrate film was discovered in the archives of the Cinémathèque Française a few weeks ago. Unless my GCSE French fails me, the rediscovered film had been colour-tinted especially for showings in France.
The film is being restored as part of a 2-year project to save American films in the archive of the Cinémathèque Française. It will be shown in France in January and at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May next year.