Being a child of the 1950's, I watched alot of black and white movies on television while growing up. In fact, I watched black and white movies that were already old in the 1950's. Maybe this is the reason that one is such a purist when it comes to certain things. For instance, in one's mind Margaret Rutherford will always be Miss Marple
Jimmy Lydon will always be Henry Aldrich
Bela Lugosi will always be Dracula
and the Bowery Boys will aways be . . . er . . . the Bowery Boys
Which brings us to Sherlock Holmes and my stating here and now that, to one's mind, Basil Rathbone will always be Sherlock Holmes. Or possibly not . . . . .
Faithful readers of this blog (God bless you every one) will recall that a while ago I ranted and raved at the notion of Robert Downey Jr. playing Holmes in a film. Robert Downey Jr. Madness! And to compound the insanity, Jude Law was to play Dr. Watson. Tosh!
As it turned out, whilst Downey's Holmes was more steampunk than Savile Row, one just might see one's way clear to admitting that one was wrong about the whole Downey/Holmes casting thingy. Okay, and about the Law casting thingy, as well. After all, Downey didn't try to be Rathbone as Holmes, but instead Downey put a new twist on Holmes and made the role his own. And Laws' suave rather than bumbling Watson worked, as well. Who knew?
So, in the end, one learned to live with and even embrace the notion of a newfangled Holmes. The film was a novelty, enjoyable in its own right, but Rathbone still ruled. So, one went back to living one's quiet life, satisfied that, once more, all was right in the world. No sooner had one done this than one was yet again asked by the Gods of Tampering to accept yet another assault upon Sherlock Holmes. By the BBC, no less! What had Holmes ever done to the Gods and why couldn't they leave him well enough alone? Surely Conan Doyle was racketing around in his grave by this point, never mind simply turning over in polite fashion.
One was now being asked to accept Sherlock, the television series. Not only would it be set in present day London (madness!), but it would star a relatively unknown actor by the name of Benedict Cumberbatch. Were the Gods having one on? Cumberbatch was younger than Rathbone, even younger than Downey and as far as one could make out, the only thing he had in common with the actor who originally played Holmes was an improbable name. A positively Wodehousian name. This would not do!
One cannot recall the exact circumstances, but suffice it to say that one, at some time or another, stole one peek at A Study In Pink, the first ever episode of Sherlock. And then another. And then one had to admit that the Cumberbatch kid wasn't half bad. And modern day London actually worked. The way Sherlock's thoughts materialized as text and floated across the screen was brilliant, one thought. And while Cumberbatch brings an often manic edge to the character, there's no denying he has topped Downey and succeeded in definitively making Sherlock Holmes his own. The writing is brilliant. The acting even better. Sherlock is funny, fast paced, gripping and addictive. One cannot believe that one will now be made to wait until the summer of 2013 to find out how exactly Sherlock survived a five storey fall. And whether or not Moriarity is alive, as well. Or whether or not John will suffer a complete nervous breakdown before he discovers that Sherlock is alive. . . . . or whether Mrs. Hudson finally gives the flat a good clean. To be perfectly honest, one has been converted by Cumberbatch and thoroughly SHER-locked. Rathbone was then, Cumberbatch is now. Downey is a bit of a lark, but not a serious contender to the crown.
Which brings one to the question of how many truly good versions Sherlock Holmes there can be. In addition, how many versions (good or bad) of Sherlock can one be expected to accept in the course of a single year? Before you even attempt to answer that question, you should know that now there is yet another incarnation of the Baker Street Sleuth on the horizon. And this version seemingly deserves the biggest, loudest and most hysterical Sherlock Holmes rant to date - to be titled Elementary (seeing that both Sherlock and Holmes have already been used), the CBS series will star Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson and it will take place in modern day New York City (lunacy!). But one thinks all might be saved, as Miller has apparently done a lot of preparation for the role. As he so eloquently confided in a recent interview, "I looked at the books a lot." Note that he didn't say that he'd read any of them.
Miller, you may recall, was recently co-star to none other than Benedict Cumberbatch in the stage play Frankenstein at the National Theatre. Yes, that Benedict Cumberbatch. As well, Miller is mates with Jude Law. Yes, that Jude Law. He is also the ex-husband of that Angelina Jolie (nominally of interest, if irrelevant). I don't know about you, but one feels that these connections put a mildly incestuous spin on the whole Sherlock Holmes franchise. The only thing missing from the mix is a guest appearance by Kevin Bacon.
To say that one is bemused by these developments would be to state the obvious. What should also be obvious, or at least as plain as the words that float from Sherlock's mind to your television screen, is the fact that one will not be so much as peeking at the CBS series (Bored!).
The Official End of the Holmes Rant . . . for now.
Labels: Kristine Hughes