Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sherlock Holmes - 1922

American movie. For decades the 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes starring John Barrymore was thought to be lost, surviving only in the form of a few tantalizing production stills, until a battered and incomplete print finally resurfaced in the mid-1970s. Even so, it wasn't until just a couple of years ago that a viewable version was painstakingly completed at the Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., and it is this restoration which has received several public screenings in recent months. Bearing this background in mind, it's especially dismaying to report that the film, seen at long last, is a decided disappointment. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases in which a rediscovered work falls short of the imagined movie projected in our minds. Silent film buffs and viewers with a special interest in the Barrymores will want to see it anyway, but dedicated fans of the original Holmes stories, in particular, will most likely find it unsatisfying.
Seemingly all the elements were in place for something special when the movie went into production. John Barrymore, in the year of his legendary stage Hamlet, was in his prime; the supporting cast was full of first-rate actors, two of whom (Roland Young and William Powell) made their film debuts here; a number of scenes were filmed on location in London-- an unusual practice at the time --and the constructed sets were strikingly designed and well photographed. But the first and perhaps biggest problem was the structure of the screenplay, which feels off-kilter and oddly lopsided from the outset. The early scenes are focused on the activities of the arch-criminal Professor Moriarty (who was played by that magnificently-named character actor, Gustav von Seyffertitz). We're given much information about this villain's apparently unmotivated evil, but very little information about our hero and his eccentricities. After awhile we're forced to conclude either that the screenwriters thought we already knew enough about Sherlock Holmes, or that they found their bad guy more interesting than their hero.
John Barrymore ... Sherlock Holmes
Roland Young ... Dr. Watson
Carol Dempster ... Alice Faulkner
Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Prof. Moriarty
Louis Wolheim ... Craigin
Percy Knight ... Sid Jones
William Powell ... Foreman Wells (as William H. Powell)
Hedda Hopper ... Madge Larrabee
Peggy Bayfield ... Rose Faulkner
Margaret Kemp ... Therese
Anders Randolf ... James Larrabee
Robert Schable ... Alf Bassick
Reginald Denny ... Prince Alexis
David Torrence ... Count von Stalburg
Robert Fischer ... Otto
Lumsden Hare ... Dr. Leighton
Jerry Devine ... Billy
John Willard ... Inspector Gregson
Albert Bruning ... Count Orlonieff
Directed By Albert Parker
Written By Earle Browne, Marion Fairfax
Written By Arthur Conan Doyle (story)
Written By William Gillette (play)
Executive Producer Samuel Goldwyn
Producer F. J. Godsol
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt
Art Direction Charles L. Cadwallader
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: March 7 1922 (USA)
Also Known As: Moriarty
Filming Locations: London, England, UK
Production Co: Goldwyn Pictures Corporation
Did You Know?......
This is one of a few silent Holmes films that have survived, including his first appearance on screen (an Edison short called Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)), the 1912 Danish short "The Copper Beeches" and a number of the series produced in Britain in the 1920s and starring Eille Norwood as Holmes.
The restoration of this film began in 1970, when the George Eastman House discovered several cans of negative of the film, consisting of incomplete, out-of-order clips. Film historian Kevin Brownlow screened a print of these clips for the film's director, Albert Parker, and with the information Parker gave him began a decades-long process of reassembling the film from the bits and pieces that survived.

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