A nearly 100-year-old silent film version of “Sherlock Holmes” starring famous American thespian William Gillette has been discovered at the Cinémathèque Française this week.
The film, which was directed by Arthur Berthelet for Essanay Studios in 1916, is the only one Gillette ever appeared in, and is the actor’s only surviving appearance as the Baker Street detective, a role for which he was world-renowned in later stage portrayals. It was Gillette who first donned the deerstalker hat that has become synonymous with Holmes, and recently got a reluctant but well-receveived cameo in Benedict Cumberbatch‘s BBC adaptation Sherlock.
A delicate negative of the film was discovered in the vaults of the archive and is undergoing digital restoration by a partnership of the Cinémathèque Française and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF).
Film restorer and SFSFF board president Robert Byrne said, “It’s an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film, and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette’s magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes onscreen for the first time.”
The restored ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film will premiere at Toute la Mémoire du Monde, the film restoration festival of the Cinémathèque Française, in January 2015, and will see its U.S. debut at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May 2015.