Some of the best Sherlock Holmes films aren't about Sherlock Holmes.
The late John Bennett Shaw's favorite was They Might Be Giants, of which I'm also very fond. George C. Scott is wonderful as Judge Justin Playfair, who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes. Joanne Woodward plays his psychiatrist, Dr. Mildred Watson.
That movie is funny, touching, and memorable. Another of my favorites, Without a Clue, is just hilarious. It presents Michael Caine as drunken actor hired by Dr. Watson (Ben Kingsley), the real brains of the outfit, to play Sherlock Holmes.
As the movie was being filmed in London in February 1988, Caine and Kingsley were interviewed by Associated Press for a story that I found recently in my files. Not surprisngly, they both professed to be delighted they were making this flick.
"It's a chance to play a hero who I'm not really right for, and to play two characters, and to do it in an entirely different way as a comedy," Caine said.
"For me it's great because I don't think I'd be obvious for a serious Sherlock Holmes, but the disparity between me and what you think is Holmes actually works for the picture."
Caine called Basil Rathbone "the greatest Holmes, the quintessential Holmes."
Kingsley said he welcomed the chance to play comedy "because it's a different technique altogether. It's good for me."
It was good for the rest of us, too, because Without a Clue is a highly enjoyable movie.
"In the books, it's Holmes who is the brains," Kingsley said, stating the obvious. "Here, there's an antagonism born of a cycle of mistakes on Holmes's part and my gathering frustration that I might have hired the wrong man for the job."
Reading the actors' comments made during the filming of the movie all those years ago was interesting to me. But even more interesting was that the name Without a Clue was never used in the story. Why? Because originally the movie had a different name. It was to be called Sherlock and Me.
Aren't you glad they changed it?
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