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Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The Holmes Film That Could Have Been
Almost two weeks after the hugely successful Gillette to Brett IV conference, I find myself thinking about a man connected with the conference who wasn't there, except in spirit and video.
Producer and screenwriter Michael A. Hoey was a generous and popular participant in two previous Gillette to Brett outings, was the son of Dennis Hoey, the actor best known for playing a bumbling Inspector Lestrade to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce's Dr. Watson.
Hoey, scheduled to attend this one as well, died last month of cancer at the age of 79. But he left a legacy. His last book was published posthumously by the Gasogene Books imprint of Wessex Press, G2B4 sponsor, just in time to be available for sale at the conference. I read it over the weekend.
The Drury Lane Theatre Mystery is an original screen treatment by Dennis Hoey for a Sherlock Holmes film. Not all of the dialogue is fleshed out, but a lot of it is. It's a fascinating look at what might have been if Rathbone hadn't sworn off Holmes by the time he finished it.
The actor clearly intended the film to be a Rathbone-Bruce vehicle, with Watson played for comic relief. But the atmospherics are good, especially the exciting ending based on Hoey's knowledge of the hydraulics in the Drury Lane Theatre stage. I liked the idea that it's set in the gaslight era, although 12 of the later Rathbone-Bruce films were brought up to the 1940s.
Michael Hoey's introduction to his father's screen treatment is worth the price of admission. In three parts it tells the history of (1) Dennis Hoey, (2) the Bruce-Rathbone films, and (3) Drury Lane, the famous London theater that's the setting of the screen treatment.
Hoey makes the telling point that, although Basil Rathbone claimed that Sherlock Holmes ruined his career, the Holmes movies were the only ones in which his name ever appeared above the title!
One of the highlights of the G2B4 banquet was a video Michael Hoey being interviewed at an earlier Gillette to Brett. He spoke with warmth and humor about his father's great friendship with Nigel Bruce. Watching it made me wish that I'd talked with him when we were in the dealers' room together three years ago - and also that he could have signed his book for me this year.
Posted by Doctor Dan at 12:00 AM