In 1985, when MYSTERY! presented Jeremy Brett as the brilliant but troubled Sherlock Holmes, with David Burke as Dr. Watson, in the first “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” series, no one realized that Brett would become recognized as the definitive Holmes, giving the role a depth and intelligence that none of the previous Holmes avatars — a long list that includes Basil Rathbone, Stewart Granger, Roger Moore, John Cleese, Peter Cushing, Frank Langella and even Larry Hagman — had ever managed. The overwhelming influence of Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, on all the fictional detectives who followed him, is immeasurable. Agatha Christie often acknowledged her debt to Holmes for the creation of her equally brilliant and eccentric detective Hercule Poirot. Every keenly observant modern detective, from Roderick Alleyn to Jane Tennison, works in Holmes’ long shadow. Any loner with a loyal partner, like Inspector Morse with Sergeant Lewis, is treading the turf of Holmes and Watson. When the introspective Adam Dalgliesh publishes a volume of poetry, he’s taking after the even more introspective Holmes, whose many monographs on arcane topics helped build his formidable reputation. In other words, by the time his creator had finished with him in 1927, some four novels, 56 stories and 40 years after readers first met him, Holmes had pretty much done everything a detective could do. In April 2007, WGBH Boston polled viewers to establish which of the MYSTERY! Sherlock Holmes episodes were the most popular with them. “A Scandal in Bohemia” was a resounding winner. Now, that legendary episode — the first “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” broadcast, the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories to be published in The Strand Magazine and the first Holmes story illustrated by Sidney Paget again airs on KUED-Channel 7 Sunday, August 12, at 8:00 p.m.
The plot is beloved for its curious twists and turns, featuring a masked nobleman (Wolf Kahler), an opera singer from New Jersey, a curious wedding, blackmail, false identities, a fake fire and “the woman” — the beguiling Irene Adler (Gayle Hunnicutt) — who outsmarts Holmes himself.
The New Jersey-born Adler, a former opera singer and well-known adventuress, is living in London. Holmes’ involvement with her begins with a visit to Holmes’ celebrated residence, 22 Baker Street, by a mysterious masked gentleman. “Every precaution must be taken to prevent an immense scandal which would seriously compromise one of the royal houses of Europe,” he tells Holmes and Watson. Revealed as the King of Bohemia, the visitor relates his affair with Adler, who’s now threatening to blackmail him on the eve of his wedding to a Scandinavian princess. The king knows his salvation lies with Holmes.
Jeremy Brett, who died in 1995, was taken aback by his fame as the renowned detective. As reviewer Tom Keogh noted, “No deerstalker cap, cape, curved meerschaum pipe, or Basil Rathbone mannerisms for this Holmes: Brett’s portrayal went straight to the heart of the character Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created, with all the manic-depressive, coldly clinical, drug-dependent, and unnervingly focused brilliance intact. Just as on-the-money is David Burke’s Dr. John Watson, who is hardly the loyal puppy of widespread assumption, but rather a dedicated ally and determined chronicler of the publicity-wary Holmes.”
Brett said of the character he so memorably portrayed, “Holmes could be rude, impatient, abrupt, and his intolerance of fools was legendary. I tried to show all this, all of the man’s incredible brilliance. But there are some cracks in Holmes’ marble, as in an almost-perfect Rodin statue. And I tried to show that, too.”
MYSTERY! “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia” airs on KUED-Channel 7 Sunday, August 12, at 8:00 p.m.
The late Jeremy Brett stars as the brilliant but troubled Sherlock Holmes
Gayle Hunnicutt (Irene Adler) and Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett)
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