Monday, February 8, 2021

Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, a certain overlap

Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and Louise Brooks. Those are two names not often, if ever, associated with one another. Louise Brooks was an American movie star whose heyday was the 1920s, the silent film era. Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character from the Victorian era, a master sleuth, and the creation of the celebrated English author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). They would seem to have nothing in common, and little overlap. Except that they did, on at least a couple of occasions that I have come across (so far). The game is on.

The first bit of overlap took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 1928, when the First National Film Just Another Blonde (1926) was shown at the local Grand Theatre. This "tip-top picture", which starred Dorothy Mackaill, Jack Mulhall, and Paramount loan-out Louise Brooks (not named) in a supporting role, was playing around the same time as the one and only Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was giving a couple of in-person lectures at the local City Hall on the subject of life after death. If I read this ad correctly, Doyle's second lecture, on November 26th, featured 40 slides. 

The other overlap betwixt Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, which I just came across, took place a world away. The occasion was a screening of The Canary Murder Case (1929), the film version of S.S. van Dine's celebrated murder mystery. Louise Brooks starred in the film in the title role, as "The Canary." The film played in Madison, Wisconsin in March 1930. And the advertisement for the screening of the movie at the Majestic ran next to an ad for a stage appearance by William Gillette (1853 – 1937) at the local Garrick theater. Gillette achieved great fame for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stage, and later in a 1916 film. The then elderly Gillette, who would pass away 7 years later, was then on his farewell tour, playing the role of Holmes in a stage play authorized and adapted by Gillette from a draft by Doyle.


To me, it is remarkable that Louise Brooks and Sherlock Holmes, two icons, should overlap in time, if only coincidentally.


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