Sherlock Holmes is timeless. Even though the character first appeared in print over 125 years ago, he is still being reinvented as fiction’s greatest detective in the United States, United Kingdom and even in China.
The iconic British detective first came onto the scene in 1854; the year he was born. The earliest character had a “hawk-like” appearance and penetrating gray eyes. His personality held the trademark pipe, magnifying glass and deerstalker cap that he has become known for. However, even after all this time, he is still considered a mystery as much as the crimes he has had to solve.
The first writing about Sherlock was a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel entitled, A Study in Scarlet in 1887. Holmes’ screen debut was in a short film in the 1900s with the first talking version of the film opening in 1929.
According to IMBD, Sherlock Holmes has appeared in 226 films. One of the earliest accounts is with the British actor and playwright, William Gillette, portrayed Sherlock in over 1,300 stage performances. It was he who introduced Sherlock’s recognizable, curved briar pipe. The curvature of the stem enabled him to recite his lines easier. Gillette also introduced the now familiar phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” In Doyle’s novels, Elementary and My Dear Watson were declared but never strung together prior to Gillette’s performances. More recently, Robert Downey Jr. took on the role and provided action to the quintessential Holmes in 2009, and then in 2011, making them a moneymaker by grossing more than $580.4 million combined.
Currently, there is the BBC crime series, Sherlock that takes place in 21st century London and the American version starring Jonny Lee Miller, a recovering drug addict living in New York City. With the American series, there is a connection to the earlier novels. Sherlock Holmes also indulged in illegal substances like morphine and cocaine, rendering him as one of the first popular personalities to have a substance abuse habit. The real twist, however, of the American account is that Dr. Watson is depicted as a woman, an ex-surgeon who abandoned the field due to an unfortunate accident.
Sherlock Holmes is so popular that there is Sherlock-mania that arose from a “curious case of frustration.” An Atlanta conference like Comic-Con, known as 221B Con is where diehard fans can celebrate everything Conan Doyle. Fans don the characters attire, even items from the stories, and investigate everything from blah, blah to a single page from the original manuscript of Hounds of Baskerville, which sold for $150,000.
The illustrious Sherlock Holmes has recently entered the “public domain.” The judgment states that Holmes, Dr. Watson, the 221 B Baker Street address and all the other elements that make up the works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published in the United States prior to 1922. Others can now freely use these works without penalty. While controversy swirls as to whether or not it should be unrestricted, unless the ruling is overturned, the detective Sherlock Holmes and story elements are both Doyle estate licensed property and public domain making him timeless and without end.
by Dawn Levesque