10 June 2010

Sherlock Holmes: Book vs. Movies

I recently watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie with my wife and loved every minute of it. However, I loved it despite the fact that it was "so different" from the books. After all, everyone knows Sherlock Holmes is a prissy and boring Victorian gentleman with a deerstalker and a cape. After seeing the movie I decided to go back and read some of the stories, which I hadn't read since I was a kid, and try to envision them with the Robert Downey, Jr. Holmes. Guess what I found out? It looks like my former conceptions of Sherlock Holmes came, not from the stories, but from the old movies and the countless caricatures. It turns out the new movie seems to nail it much closer than any of the typical depictions I've seen before. Which just makes me love the stories and the new movie even more.


For example, take this scene with Holmes from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle:

“'Oh, yes you do, McMurdo,' cried Sherlock Holmes, genially. 'I don't think you can have forgotten me. Don't you remember the amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison's rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?'

'Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!' roared the prize-fighter. 'God's truth! how could I have mistook you? If instead o' standin' there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I'd ha' known you without a question. Ah, you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy.'”


Now who does this passage seem better to describe?


Or how about these passages describing Holmes's lifestyle and lodgings?

“[he] keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece”

“[Holmes] loathed every form of society with his whole bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition…”


Just from the description, which of these two would you think of?



I rest my case.

3 comments:

Erica said...

LOL. I like to be blunt and tell everyone, "Actually Holmes is kind of a jerk." That tends to confuse them. I've got to see this movie...probably will watch it after moving, though.

Anonymous said...

And yet Sherlock Holmes still had a 'cat like appearance' and was capable of speaking to honourable people even if he detested them. Just because he kept his home dirty (which Brett pulls off) he holds himself with class and air of superiority and grace that Mr Downey Jr doesn't portray.

Rick said...

The cat-like personal cleanliness did bother me a bit. I wish Downey's Holmes had shaved and taken a bath at some point! However the "cat-like" description of Holmes in "Hound of the Baskervilles." The picture from the earlier books, "A Study in Scarlet" and "The Sign of Four", seems to be quite contrary. I assume that Doyle developed his character over the years. (Or, knowing that Doyle didn't care much for his Holmes stories, it's possible that he just never created a totally consistent character to begin with.)

As far as his talking with honorable people, I think he was often pretty much a jerk (as in the "Priory School"). Doyle tended to like his heroes to disregard social niceties. Holmes is always cleverly sardonic, however. He never descends to the abyssmal levels of Doyle's other hero, Professor Challenger.

I do agree that Jeremy Brett understood the character of Sherlock Holmes infinitely better than Downey. I was just tickled by the big-screen treatment of Holmes. The only Holmes I've ever absolutely disliked was Rupert Everett's portrayal. If you've ever seen it, you know what I mean.