Sherlock Holmes
Also known asWe Present Alan Wheatley as Mr. Sherlock Holmes in...
Based onSherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Written byC. A. Lejeune
StarringAlan Wheatley
Raymond Francis
Iris Vandeleur
Bill Owen
No. of series1
No. of episodes6 (all missing)
Production
ProducerIan Atkins
Running time35 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC Television Service
Original release20 October (1951-10-20) –
1 December 1951 (1951-12-01)

Sherlock Holmes (also known as We Present Alan Wheatley as Mr. Sherlock Holmes in...) is a British mystery television series that was produced by the BBC featuring Alan Wheatley as Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Francis as Dr. Watson. This was the first series of Sherlock Holmes stories adapted for television.[1][2]

All six episodes were adapted by C. A. Lejeune from the stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The series was broadcast live long before taping was an option. It is very unlikely that telerecordings of the live broadcasts were ever made, given the BBC didn't even attempt this method until 1953.[2]

Production

Some sources state that a BBC filmed adaptation of "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" (which aired on 29 July 1951) starring Andrew Osborn as Holmes and Philip King as Watson was a pilot episode for the series[1][2][3] while others state the "Mazarin Stone" adaptation was a separate project entirely and was filmed for the Festival of Britain.[2]

According to series star Alan Wheatley, the genesis of the series resided with a review of his performance in a television adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's Rope:[2]

C A Lejeune gave me a marvellous notice in the Observer and she finished up by saying, "If the BBC have got any sense they will commission a series of Sherlock Holmes stories and ask Alan Wheatley to play Sherlock Holmes." So the BBC, very unlike them, took this up and wrote to her and said, "All right, if you will do the scripts we will do the series," and that's how they came to be done...[2]

C. A. Lejeune did indeed pen the scripts, writing all six episodes.[4] As quoted in a feature written for Radio Times, Lejeune said of the series, "we picked the stories that seemed likely to give a variety of subject, while rounding out the portrait of the man... We have tried, as loyally as we can, to preserve both the spirit and the high spirits of the original stories". Lejeune also said that "Holmes, and the Victorian world in which he mainly operated, will not be modernised in this series".[2]

Each 35-minute episode was aired live[5] and consequently no tapes exist of the series to date.[2] Live television had its pitfalls of which Wheatley later complained:

I must say I found it the most difficult thing to speak I've ever done in the whole of my career. Unfortunately, Miss Lejeune also did some things that are just not possible—technical things like not allowing enough time for changes. You see, television was live in those days, and in one particular scene she finished up with a sentence from me, and opened the next scene also with a sentence from me, in heavy disguise, with no time at all for a change![1][2]

In multiple episodes, Iris Vandeleur played Mrs. Hudson[6] and Bill Owen played Inspector Lestrade. Eric Maturin appeared as Colonel Moran in one episode, and Olga Edwardes portrayed Irene Adler in another episode.[2]

Each episode was introduced by Nona Liddell's rendition of Offenbach's "Barcarolle". Generally, a few very short and usually silent film sequences would be shot the day before the broadcast, such as shots of Holmes and Watson in a cab. The stage manager Cecil Petty and assistant stage manager Pamela Barnard had minor acting roles in most episodes.[2]

Cast

Episodes

No.TitleBased onOriginal air date
1"The Empty House""The Adventure of the Empty House"20 October 1951 (1951-10-20)
Dr. Watson assists in the investigation of the murder of Ronald Frances Adair and is shocked by the unexpected return of the presumed dead Sherlock Holmes. Together they nab the last remaining henchman of Sherlock's archenemy Moriarty.
2"A Scandal in Bohemia""A Scandal in Bohemia"27 October 1951 (1951-10-27)
Holmes is contacted by the King of Bohemia. The monarch wants Holmes to search for a photo in Irene Adler's possession which she can use to blackmail him. Despite Holmes's best efforts, Irene Adler is always one step ahead of him.
3"The Dying Detective""The Adventure of the Dying Detective"3 November 1951 (1951-11-03)
Adelaide Savage requests Holmes and Watson investigate her husband Victor. Victor Savage is addicted to opium and influenced by his wicked cousin Culverton Smith, who is intent on taking over the Savage family fortune.
4"The Reigate Squires""The Adventure of the Reigate Squire"17 November 1951 (1951-11-17)
Holmes investigates a case involving father and son Mr. Cunningham and Alec Cunningham.
5"The Red-Headed League""The Red-Headed League"24 November 1951 (1951-11-24)
Holmes and Watson investigate an odd vacancy Mr. Wilson applied for and lost two months later. Holmes finds that this was just to get Mr. Wilson out of the way in preparation for a bank robbery.
6"The Second Stain""The Adventure of the Second Stain"1 December 1951 (1951-12-01)
Sherlock Holmes is assigned to search for a top-secret document, without arousing suspicion from the public. After days of investigating, Holmes finds the thief was blackmailed into taking it.

Reception

The 23 October 1951 issue of The Times said "The performance was done in a proper spirit of seriousness. Mr. Alan Wheatley, though rather younger and fuller in the face than the Holmes of his opponents' nightmares, yet catches the essential character."[1][2]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Haining, Peter (1994). The Television Sherlock Holmes. Virgin Books. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-86369-793-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. pp. 296–298. ISBN 9780857687760.
  3. ^ "Sherlock Holmes". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  4. ^ Eyles, Allen (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. pp. 101. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.
  5. ^ "The wide world of Sherlock Holmes". The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  6. ^ Redmond, Christopher (2009). Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Second Edition. Dundurn. p. 243. ISBN 9781770705920.