A grand gift for silence: the search for the lost Sherlock Holmes films

If it takes a thief to catch a thief, it will surely take a team of sleuths to catch the greatest detective of them all. So I bring you news of a new project that is not only bound to be of interest to all Silent Londoners, but also one that requires your valuable assistance.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive and Holmesians par excellence The Baker Street Irregulars (BSI) have joined forces on a new project called Searching for Sherlock: The Game’s Afoot.

Currently, according to Dr Jan-Christopher Horak, more than 100 films about Holmes are lost or in need of restoration or preservation, which sounds to me like more than a three-pipe problem.

A Study in Scarlet (1914)
A Study in Scarlet (1914)

There are several silent films on the wanted list. Among the lost films are: a British production of A Study in Scarlet, produced in 1914; a Danish series, produced by Nordisk films, beginning in 1908; and The Missing Rembrandt, produced in 1932, starring Arthur Wontner.

Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes
RDJ as Sherlock Holmes

So the Searching for Sherlock team has put together a starry committee to lead the hunt, including lots of names you’ll know, from Kevin Brownlow to Bryony Dixon. Robert Downey Jr, who played the detective in two recent big-screen adaptations, is the honorary project chair. And if Iron Man himself, with that kind of support behind him, can’t get the job done, who can?

Well, actually they do need your help. Searching for Sherlock is hoping to get the word out there, to scour the streets for Conan Doyle’s most famous creation. The committee will be getting in touch with film archives, Sherlock Holmes societies, film historians, collectors, and other potential sources around the world to find, restore, and eventually screen, currently lost films featuring the world’s first consulting detective. If you know someone they should talk to, or if you are someone they should talk to, make yourself known.

William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes
William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes in 1916

There have been a few notable Sherlock Holmes film discoveries recently, including a 1916 film, starring William Gillette, reprising his acclaimed stage interpretation of the detective. After its rediscovery, this Sherlock Holmes was restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Cinématheque Française and released on disc by Flicker Alley.








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