The first incarnation in which we meet Holmes affects our view of him thereafter. Every generation has a different image in their head. Whether that Holmes comes from an actor's face or voice, or an illustrator's pen, your first Holmes is always, in some vital way, the one true to you.This quote, which seems so timely in this Downey-Cumberbatch-Miller era, actually comes from "The Editor's Gas-Lamp" in the Summer 2008 issue of The Baker Street Journal. When I read it over the weekend, these words leaped out at me because they are so true in my case.
My first - and favorite - Sherlock Holmes was that of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sidney Paget. I read the Paget-illustrated stories long before I saw Holmes portrayed by an actor in a series of movies on late-night television. I remember the initial disappointment. Basil Rathbone was okay, even good, but that buffoon was not Watson! And where were the gaslights and the hansom cabs?
Only recently have I come to appreciate that Rathbone at times looks very much like the Paget illustrations. And I have to admit that when I have committed pastiches, the voice of Sherlock Holmes that I hear in my head sounds very much like a certain South African actor.
Many fine actors have played Holmes wonderfully, including Rathbone. But, as the BSJ editorial suggested, none of them quite matches up to the Holmes in my head.
Speaking of Basil Rathbone, that same BSJ issue has a truly fascinating article by Paul Singleton, "Hounded from Script to Screen," about the development of the script for Rathbone's Hound of the Baskervilles.
And the last article, by Rhoda Steel Kalt, includes a letter which Rathbone wrote to her in 1955. At the end of it, he asks to "be one of those few to remember me in your prayers as long as you live, & long after I am gone." How touching!