William Gillette: The Actor Who Saved Sherlock Holmes

William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes

Before Benedict and Basil, there was William Gillette, a US-born actor who suited up on stage as Sherlock Holmes over 1,000 times, including once in a silent film. But until very recently, the 1916 film was believed to be lost, erasing the bridge that took Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian-era detective and catapulted him into the limelight of generations to come. Basil Rathbone might have been the first actor to transplant the sleuth into then current day World War II (a concept used as well by Stephen Moffat's setting of modern London in Sherlock), but it was William Gillette who popularized Sherlock in the US markets. Gillette was responsible for taking Doyle's character off the page and presenting him as he's known today. He implemented the iconic curved pipe and invented the line Elementary, my dear fellow. He took Holmes out from the seedy underbelly of detective work and preseneted him as a suave bachelor. And most importantly, he convinced Doyle to reboot Holmes after the author had killed him off in 1893. 

Head over to BBC News, where you can watch a clip from the 1916 silent film, listen to a recording of Gillette, and learn more!

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