Lost Sherlock Holmes film found in France after 100 years

Restoration has begun on an almost 100-year-old Sherlock Holmes film discovered by French film archive, Cinémathèque Française.

'Audiences are going to be blown away' says restorer working on the long-lost reels

William Gillette, seen here playing Sherlock Holmes for a 1899 theatre production, originated the detective's trademark deerstalker hat, pipe and magnifying glass. (Gillette/London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images)

French archivists have uncovered a long-lost Sherlock Holmes film nearly 100 years after the silent picture was made with famed Holmes thespian, William Gillette.

The American actor played the Baker Street detective on stage approximately 1300 times following his 1899 debut. He is credited with originating the detective's trademark accoutrements, such as the deerstalker hat—a sartorial choice that's alive and well in Benedict Cumberbatch's current depiction of the character.

The 1916 film, found earlier this month in the vaults of the French film archive Cinémathèque Française, is said to be the only record of Gillette playing the role on camera.

The 'holy grail' of lost film

The archive is currently working on a digital restoration of the reels with the help of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

"William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film," film festival board president Robert Byrne told Variety magazine.

"My first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette’s magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time.”

The restored film will make its European debut at the Cinémathèque Française’s festival of film in January before a screening at the San Francisco Silent Film festival in May.


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