Lost Sherlock Holmes film discovered
I don’t usually do news stories, but this one is too awesome and too important to let pass. A film starring world renown Sherlock Holmes actor William Gillette was discovered this week in the French film archive, the Cinematheque Francais. This archive contains the most films on record in the world and stores them for posterity. This film is over 100 years old.
William Gillette may not be the most famous Sherlock Holmes or the best, but he certainly is the most important. He invented most of the Holmes quirks we know today, including the deerstalker hat and pipe. His stage career is legendary and he performed as Sherlock Holmes for over 30 years, from 1890 to the early 1900s. He only starred in one film. One single Sherlock Holmes film, in 1916. Considering how many times he was seen on stage, the film is a true rarity. It virtually preserves one of the most legendary Sherlock Holmes performances for all time.
A restored version of the film is going to highlight a European festival in January 2015. The news will probably pop up again at that time. I am very excited to see what they will do with this film and how it will be received. It is a silent film, of course, but it is one of the most important silent films ever made. I think it will be interesting to check out.
ihearofsherlock.com had this interview with the head of restoration:
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere: Who are you and what do you do?Robert Byrne: I am an independent film preservationist and restorer, specializing in films of the silent era. I am also the president of the board of directors of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.IHOSE: How did you come to be involved in this discovery?RB: In prior years we have partnered with the Cinematheque Francaise to restore two titles from their collection: THE HALF-BREED (1916) and THE GOOD BAD MAN (1916). We were very fortunate that when the materials for SHERLOCK HOLMES were identified earlier this year that the Cinematheque contacted us with the idea that we would work together on this project. We are thrilled and deeply honored to be working on them on this amazing project.IHOSE: What’s the significance of such a discovery?RB: William Gillette’s SHERLOCK HOLMES has been sought for generations as one of the most important “lost” films of the silent era. To have these materials come to light, and in complete form, seems almost miraculous.IHOSE: Why did it turn up now?
RB: There is a time for everything. Apparently Destiny decided that it was time for SHERLOCK HOLMES to return just in time for the film’s 100th anniversary.IHOSE: Tell us more about the restoration process.RB: The Cinematheque Franciase and SF Silent Film Festival are collaborating on a complete restoration of the film, a project that has already been in progress since early summer. The restoration will include image repair and re-creation of the original color tinting. The final result will be new 35mm film preservation elements that will be preserved at the Cinematheque Franciase, and new 35mm film prints for theatrical exhibition. We will also create Digital Cinema Packages (DCP) for use in venues that do not support variable-speed 35mm projection.IHOSE: Did we learn anything about the film that wasn’t previously known?RB: We are learning that it is a very good film! What a disappointment it would have been to have discovered the holy grail only to find that the acting was hammy and the settings were cheap. Quite the contrary! I predict that audiences are going to be mesmerized with the final result.