William Gillette's 1916 Silent 'Sherlock Holmes' Film Found in France
Some good news for silent film fans. The Cinémathèque Française film archive/museum in Paris, France announced this week that they've "rediscovered" and will be restoring a print of a 1916 silent film directed by Arthur Berthelet, starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes. The newly restored print will premiere at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May 2015 next year, and this news was released jointly between these two organizations (via Variety). Gillette is a classic British actor known for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage, and this is his one and only film role as the detective in one of the first film adaptations.
The report states that a "nitrate dupe negative" was discovered in Cinémathèque Française's vaults just last week and will be digitally restored, with the very first premiere at the Toute la Mémoire du Monde, before going on to play at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The film, titled just Sherlock Holmes (poster below), stars William Gillette as the detective, based on Gillette's 1899 stage play, which is inspired by a selection of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories including "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Final Problem", and "The Copper Beeches" and the novel A Study in Scarlet. The plot does involve Professor Moriarty, of course.
Film restorer and SFSFF Board President Robert Byrne said of the discovery, "It's an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette's 'Sherlock Holmes' has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette's magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time."
Here's one of the original promotional posters for Arthur Berthelet's 1916 film, reposted from Wikipedia:
Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes has appeared in numerous films over the last century, but these original versions are as fascinating to watch as anything contemporary. In this film, Holmes is consulted by a man who is connected with the British royal family, to retrieve letters he wrote to Alice Faulkner's sister. Alice intends to use the letters to blackmail him, and Alice is being held captive by a couple in the power of Professor Moriarty. The poster bills it as a "7 act drama full of thrills and romance". The film was once thought to be lost until this rediscovery. This is always great news for fans of classics like this, and if you're excited to see it on the big screen then you better figure out how to make it out to San Francisco next May.