Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sheerhunk Holmos

Sherlock Holmes had to be called in recently, on The Case of the Missing Movie Star. Where was Tallulah Morehead? Why hasn't she made any flog entries here in over a month and a half? As usual, I hadn't a clue. So I consulted the world-famous Baker Street Sleuth to help me track me down. "Where the hell am I?" I begged him to find out.

The trail began at The Huffington Post, of course, where I had been flogging instead of here merely because of the vastly-larger readership. (No kidding. Those people are huge!) What did Holmes find? Dozens of dead bodies! Over 100 corpses, all neatly laid out in my most-recent HuffPo column: Dead folks 2009: The Missed and the Not-Missed, which, if you haven't read it, you can by clicking on its title.
But where was I now? Drinking at Morehead Heights? Substituting at The Polanski Day Care Center in Paris? That Island on Lost, stuck in 1977, like Jermaine Jackson? No, it turned out I was all tied up at Disneyland, where Sherlock's old friend Mickey, aka, The Giant Rat of Sumatra, had tried to get me out of the way using a ploy lifted from The Perils of Pauly Shore. Fortunately Sherlock was able to rescue me in the nick of time. As it happens, those trains never go much over two miles an hour.

I had been jerked around a lot, through time and space, first by The Doctor, as the 10th Doctor came to an end, first by drinking The Waters of Mars, which I could have told him was bad idea. Water is always a lousy drink. I'm much more interested in The Vodka of Mars. Then came their big two-parter, The End of Time. Well any actress who can't bring time to a standstill isn't worth the pay of her plastic surgeon. What the hell was Claire Bloom doing on Doctor Who? I love her and I love the show, but who's next? Peter O'Toole? And who knew James Bond was actually Rassilon of the Time Lords? So that's why James Bond keeps changing his faces. He's regenerating, and his current regeneration as Daniel Craig is one of his best.

Well, Captain Jack Harkness can yank me around any time.

Of course, when it comes to being yanked about through time, little can compare with Lost. I strongly suspect that The Island is just a huge Tardis, and that Jacob is a Time Lord too. Watch. When Season 6 begins, you'll find Jacob recovering from being murdered by Ben Linus by regenerating into someone brand new. Mark my words.

Anyway, I was invited to attend The Lost Supper, held on a lovely wing from Ajira Flight 316. It was in celebration of The Risen Locke, although, as our mutual friend Jeff Swanson has pointed out, he didn't even bother with doing the Big Arms. And besides, is The Risen Locke anyone to celebrate? Anyway, visiting The Island for the supper had some very weird effects on me, as a close examination of this photo reveals.

Frankly, I'd have preferred one of my all-male private pool parties, but there was another mystery still to solve.

There was a big-release movie this Christmas, unfortunately made by Guy Ritchie rather than by someone good, but it was see it or get stuck joining James Cameron in the middle of his over-produced 3-D acid trip, already in progress. Thank you, no.

Ritchie's film was deceptively titled Sherlock Holmes, and sure enough, it was a very deep mystery. The mystery was, where the hell was Sherlock Holmes? How can you title a movie "Sherlock Holmes" and then not even have Sherlock Holmes in it?

Oh, there was a character they called Sherlock Holmes, but he wasn't Sherlock Holmes, not by a long shot. In fact, it was Ironman. I can only surmise that Professor Moriarty was hot on Sherlock's trail, so he got Ironman and Alfie to pretend, quite unconvincingly, to be himself and Dr. Watson. I mean honestly. Ironman is Robert Downey Jr, who couldn't possibly play Sherlock Holmes, as he is too short, too weird, and too American. And as for Jude Law as Dr. Watson: I adore young Law, but a hot, hunky Watson is ridiculous, although at least he is English.
Obviously, there was only one man to solve The Case of the Absent Sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. I consulted with Sherlock at Baker Street, and off he went, hot on his own trail. Here he is, searching a poster advertising the bogus film for a clue as to what became of himself, but there was no trace of Sherlock Holmes to be found there.

Many have been the actors to have played Sherlock Holmes, but Robert Downey Jr is not one of them. Whoever the hell he was playing, some sort of drugged-out cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, he wasn't Sherlock Holmes. Just playing him gay isn't enough.

Who do we see here? Well, there is Downey and Law, playing whoever the hell they were playing, and darling Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock as Holmes and Watson in a charming old BBC Holmes series from 1968, the remains of which were just released on DVD, and which is vastly better than this Guy Ritchie trash.

Then we have Jeremy Brett and David Burke from the famed Granada TV series from the 1980s. That was Sherlock Holmes done to perfection, done so well in fact, that I can't think why anyone would even bother to do him again.

Then we have Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Basil is often considered the definitive Sherlock Holmes, and he was certainly perfect in the role. Nigel Bruce was great fun in his comic interpretation of Watson, although he made Watson into such a notoriously dim bulb that you wondered how he ever got through medical school. The lingering result of Bruce's portrayal is that now every time someone plays Watson as a normal, reasonably intelligent man, it's considered a revolutionary new approach to the part. It's the great cliche of Holmes dramatization criticism, declaring each new Watson to "finally" be being played as intelligent. It's a pretty vapid comment to make, and every review of this Sherlock Holmes film repeats it, as though Jude Law were the first actor to play Watson as not an idiot, rather than about the 30th. It's been over 60 years since Nigel Bruce last played Watson, but this unimaginative comment is still made anew each and every time. Oh and by the way, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is recorded on film in 1930 calling Watson "rather stupid." Just saying.

The first two Rathbone Holmes movies, made at 20th Century Fox, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, are pretty good. The remaining 12 Holmes films with Rathbone & Bruce, made at Universal, are all pretty bad. Not as bad as Guy Ritchie's movie, but pretty bad.

Then we have Sir Christopher Lee as Holmes and Patrick MacNee as Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes: The Golden Years, two TV movies about a geriatric Holmes solving crimes in his retirement. They are fun, but flawed, and no one could accuse Sir Christopher of being too short or too American. Lee has also played Mycroft Holmes and Sir Henry Baskerville. He may have played the Hound of Hell as well.

And then we have - Wait a minute! Little Dougie, is that you? What are you doing up there? And who is that playing your Watson? Your old partner John Fugiel? Oh. I never met John, who died in 1987, but I'm told he was a wonderfully funny man. But Dougie, Sherlock Holmes never had a beard, other than Irene Adler, that is.

Of course, Peter Cushing and Sir Christopher Lee were often partners-in-film, so their both playing Sherlock Holmes must have been quite a conflict. Here we see Lee putting an end to this conflict the direct way.

So what did Guy Ritchie, a man with taste so bad he actually was married to Madonna for a while, decide Sherlock Holmes should be? A drugged-out American muscle hunk and action hero, whose idea of unwinding was a slow-motion boxing bout at Victorian Fight Club. Now Holmes in the stories did box, but Dr. Watson never wrote about Victorian Fight Club. "You see, my dear Watson, the first rule of Victorian Fight Club is you don't write about Victorian Fight Club."

Why oh why did Basil Rathbone never show the abs?

So I was off to foggy London - or is it faggy London? - well, whenever I'm in London, it's always foggy, or I am - to try and track down Sherlock Holmes.

So, eliminating Lee and Downey, what are left of The Stately Holmes of England?

Little Dougie, why are you still there? Again with the beard, and may I remind you that you're every bit as American as Robert Downey Jr? What do you have in common with Sherlock Holmes? Well let's see. You both have inflated opinions of your own intelligence. Check. You've both used cocaine in the long-ago past, albeit you never injected it. Check. And you're both gay. Check. That's pretty much about it. Hmmm. Maybe you would be better in the role than Downey. Hard to be worse.

Understand, I'm not saying Downey is not a good actor. He's a terrific actor. He's just horribly miscast as Sherlock Holmes. After all, Basil Rathbone would have been a lousy Ironman. And I wouldn't have wanted to see Peter Cushing's Chaplin.

What's this photo? Oh good grief. It's Little Dougie out on Dartmoor in Devonshire, the setting for The Hound of the Baskervilles, hunting for the Hound of Hell himself. Dougie, that case was solved over a century ago. Move on.

Jeremy Brett, the best Sherlock Holmes ever, had something else in common with Sir Christopher Lee: they both played Count Dracula. Little Dougie actually saw Brett play Dracula onstage at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles a bit over 30 years ago. He says he was very good.

I avoid dramatic interpretations of Dracula myself. It's simple really. Count Dracula is actually just a mild fictionalization, libelization really, of Vlad Tepes, my third ex-husband, the most-tragic love of my love. The memories are far too painful for me to bear. We were wed but for a single night. I --- I --- Never mind. I can't go on.

The novels, movies, and plays about Dracula always portray my darling as some sort of literally-bloodthirsty monster. What nonsense! He was a caring, loving, bloodthirsty monster. Whenever I think of him, I can only wonder what our unlife would have been like if his fatal sun allergy hadn't burned him up the morning after we wed. He was so much more than just the World's Oldest Mouseketeer.

I tried giving Brett some tips on how to play Vlad more accurately and fairly, but Jeremy could be a tad - well - let's say self-sufficient. But he could flap that big cape so well, he got a severe case of Dracula Elbow.

Basil Rathbone never played Dracula, but like another great Holmes, Peter Cushing, he did play Dr. Frankenstein. In his case, Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein of Universal's Son of Frankenstein, shot at the exact same time (no joke) as his first Holmes movie, so he was playing Sherlock Holmes at 20th Century Fox one day, and stitching together my fifth ex-husband, Boris Karloff, over at Universal the next. With a work schedule like that, the man needed to unwind. Fortunately, for a man who figured out how to bestow Life artificially, inventing television early was a snap.

Sadly for fans of Sherlock Holmes, this wretched new movie has made a pile of money, and Robert Downey Jr. is clearing his schedule to further his bogus characterization of "Sherlock Holmes" in another terrible movie. We can only hope it will end like this last picture, with Downey's fake Holmes killed off, so we can return to the actual Sherlock Holmes that Doyle wrote about, that these other actors played so well (except Little Dougie), and which has worked so very, very well for 130 years. Maybe then, Guy Ritchie will stop fixing what isn't broken. Guy is welcome to jump into the Riechenbach Falls himself. He's done Holmes more harm than Professor Moriarty ever did.

Up what canal should Guy Ritchie stuff his lousy new movie?

Alimentary, my dear Watson.

Cheers darlings. (Look for my review of The Golden Glob Awards in The Huff Po the morning after the show.)


Rob said...

Oh, February's hunk is Mark Twain! At first glance I thought that was Eugene Sandow.

Douglas, you are one of the funniest writers I've read, and The Morehead The Merrier is amazingly entertaining. Do you design it as well? I'm enjoying the archives - one of my faves is Ethel doing Peter Pan. (Believe it or not, I have her "disco album" - and can only wonder what vehicle you'd create for her using that).

Thanks for the countless laughs - and I never miss Tallulah on HuffPo (I leave comments as "Learninglife")

If I may - Cheers

Tallulah Morehead said...

Why do you credit Little Dougie with MY creativity? He just types it up? His head is far too swollen as it is,and the one on his shoulders as well.

A "Friend" gave me the Ethel Merman Disco Album," although how much of a friend could such a Sadist be?

Thanks for commenting. Enjoy the archives. One of these days I must do a fresh entry, although my new SURVIVOR recaps are about to commence over at HuffPoLand.


A. Buck Short said...

PART 1 (of 2)

You’ve certainly done your holmeswork. Your dissection of the latest interpretation was so insightful I nearly got a Rathboner. And last time I check, I was straight. But I think you’ll have to agree that, all abs aside, if Downey was ripped as Sherlock, what could you have done with the assets of the man’s grand nephew – Johnny Wadd?

As to why the Bros. Warner have so quickly opted for a “Sherlock Holmes 2?” Well being precisely as smart as a 5th grader, I can tell you the answer is “elementary.” As you of all people must be aware, it’s all about the Business of Show. And thank God that almost 50% of the minions using that turn of a phrase no longer bother to deliver it as fresh. Have you not been following the economy? The U.S. Census Bureau just reported that New Holmes Sales dropped in January to 1.23-million. When Joel Silver heard he could now possibly get Downey the Younger for only $1,230,000, it was all but a done deal. Ms. M., you’ve got your work cut out for you. The Fed predicts this downturn will result in 20% more new Holmes left on the market than this time last year.

And as you have alluded, there really have been so very very many Holmes on the market. Which is why I am certain you overlooked the one that you might perhaps “relate” to most: John Barry Morehead.

Alas, I can claim to have actually visited only one of the Holmes homes – that of William Hooker Gillette, not the first to play the revered sleuth on stage in the legitimate theatre, but certainly the most famous and successful for more than three decades with something like 13-hundred performances (occasionally taking time out for meals).

As Orson Welles says in this clip --

“It is too little to say that William Gillette resembled Sherlock Holmes…Sherlock Holmes looks exactly like William Gillette.”

Although I hear Mr. Gillette actually did appear in a silent S.H. filmed in 1916, the clip above is said to be the only one existing with photographs of the man, along with his audio recording of one of the scripts.

Well worth listening to, since it shows why, even before the turn of the century, Gillette is also sometimes credited with introducing a more natural dialogue into theatrical performances, replacing the more traditional orations and declarations from the stage.

A. Buck Short said...

PART 2 (of 2)

Not that you hadn't provided enough Holmes cinema moments in your own original review, but to continue....

It is Gillette’s script and performance that also first associated the character with the phrase “Oh this is elementary my dear fellow” first heard on the screen as “my dear Watson” in the Clive Brook performance. He is also said to have introduced both the deerstalker cap and the curved meerschaum pipe to the character – instead of the straight clay variety in the Conan Doyle novels.

The only moving images of the man I believe may be these of photographs and an audio performance similar to the ones previously offered – but also including footage of the actor

messing around with an engine on the 3-mile narrow gage railroad (complete with its own Grand Central Station) he constructed as a personal amusement
around Gillette’s Castle, the actual castle he built as a home on a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River in East Haddam. (Near the Goodspeed Opera House where a mutual acquaintance of mine and Dougie’s premiered a summer musical not too long ago.)

Welles was such a Holmes fan that it’s unfortunate the aforementioned Johnny Wadd Holmes had not yet been born for typecasting in Welles’ 1938 screen adaption of Gillette’s “Too Much Johnson.” (Go ahead, look it up.)

The castle is now a popular tourist attraction -- .

Having last visited in the early 70’s, I can tell you we were then most impressed with the fact that the interior wall covering consisted entirely of hemp. Not exactly your 7% solution, but in those days you took what you could get.

Tallulah Morehead said...

The deerstalker cap was introduced by Sidney Paget in the illustrations he drew for The Strand Magazine. He used it whenever Doyle described Holmes as wearing a "cloth cap" on countryside investigations, because his father used to wear one, and he developed a sentimental fondness for them.

Gillette did introduce the Meersham and Calabash pipes.

I watched John Barrymore's silent SHERLOCK HOLMES recently, but it's a pretty drab piece of work, enlivened only by the presence of William Powell, so you have Nick Charles learning detecting from Sherlock Holmes himself.

A. Buck Short said...

Did I say "deerstalker cap?" I meant yarmulke -- but as you know, that didn't take. Still fits the Doyle description. Actually the scholarship of this whole blog was terrific and appreciated.

Now if you'll excuse, I'm off to East Haddam to give somebody a good piece of my mind.