Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

As the opening credits of Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes roll, the personal effects of John Watson (Colin Blakely) are examined. Among them are letters from Watson to his heirs. One of those letters talks about his days with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens).

Wilder was a Holmesian and had tried unsuccessfully twice before to make an adaptation. (A musical, no less!) Now finally given the opportunity, he and I.A.L. Diamond initially came up with a film that ran over three hours long. It's this heavy editing that makes the final product clunky; you can tell that it's missing something in its flow.

While not as strong as prior Wilder-Diamond collaborations, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes has a certain charm to it. The film serves as both a parody and a deconstruction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famed (and most personally loathed) creation. It's little wonder it served as inspiration for Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss when they made Sherlock.

That said, the film doesn't have Wilder's particular touch to it. Lacking the sharp cynicism and sardonic wit usually found in the director's work, it also has elements that are out of place for both Wilder and Doyle. Still, there's a particular amusement amid the oddity.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes may not be top-tier Wilder but seeing Hollywood was beginning a new movement, he shows that he's not going to retire like his contemporaries just yet. (He'd make four more movies after this.) That being said, it was clear that he was becoming old hat. Oh, well; nobody's perfect.

My Rating: ***1/2

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