Very soon, one of the most iconic figures in popular culture will be making his latest global appearance on Christmas Day. And contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not talking about Santa Claus.
When Sherlock Holmes hits theatres on Dec. 25, it’ll mark over a Century’s worth of cinema starring fiction’s most famous detective. But while the fictional British bloodhound tries to upstage St. Nick on Christmas Day, his celluloid appearance is certainly not unfamiliar.
Ever since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s prized investigator made his on-screen debut in 1900 with a one-reeler called Sherlock Holmes Baffled, Hollywood has been smitten with the gumshoe. Since, Holmes has made more than 200 film and TV appearances and been portrayed by such thespians as Basil Rathbone, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston and Canada’s own Christopher Plummer.
So, what’s made Holmes perhaps Hollywood’s most popular private eye? Well, according to a leading member of a Calgary-based appreciation group called The Singular Society of the Baker Street Dozen, it’s elementary, dear Watson.
“First off is the love affair that the screen has with the mystery genre,” said Charles Prepolec. “When you boil it all down, people are a curious lot and enjoy seeing a secret revealed or a mystery unraveled.”
Of course, the mystery yet to be revealed is whether the latest modern twist on Holmes will live up to hardcore fans’ high expectations.
“I’ve been very skeptical about the casting of Robert Downey Jr,” admitted Prepolec. “You might say I’m in the cautiously optimistic camp although some members of (our group) are perhaps somewhat less sanguine about the film. We’ll see soon enough!”
Indeed we will. In the meantime, for fresh enthusiasts who want to investigate Holmes’ Hollywood history, here’s a list of three versions of Sherlock to get your Wats’ on:
1) The Sherlock Holmes Collection – Just released to DVD, this celebrated BBC series from the 1960s starred Peter Cushing as the legendary sleuth.
2) The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) – Basil Rathbone played Holmes in 14 films but many critics say this early classic was the portrayal that shaped the rest.
3) Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) – Ever wonder how Holmes handled puberty? This family flick by director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) explored the pipe-smoking private eye as a pimply-faced teenager.
• Sherlock Holmes opens in theatres Dec. 25