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William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes (audio + video)

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Published on Nov 7, 2015

In 1936, William Gillette made a glass disk recording of two scenes from the play "Sherlock Holmes," in which he had famously played the title role. That audio is here combined with short clips from the recently rediscovered 1916 film version featuring the original cast. The intent is to recreate approximately the experience of seeing and hearing Gillette's performance. However, Gillette was 83 years old and near death when the sound disk was recorded, so his voice performance is no doubt lacking in some of the energy and charisma that mesmerized his audiences when he premiered the play at age 46.

William Gillette (1853-1937), an American actor and the author of the play, inaugurated many of the traditions still associated with Sherlock Homes, including the deerstalker hat, the curved pipe, the expressions "My dear Watson" and "Elementary, my dear fellow," and the upscale dressing gown. The film version of the play was thought to be lost forever until a nitrate dupe negative was found in the archives of the Cinémathèque Française in 2014.

This video is intended for educational and historical purposes only. The film and audio are believed to be in the public domain. Please purchase the DVD and Blu-Ray of the restored film available from Flicker Alley.

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