Monday, February 13, 2017

That's Nazi-fighting hair!

During my college days of the 1980s, I remember going to Double-Barrelled Tiger Cubs film nights at the university of Illinois, wherein great fun would be had at the expense of Nigel Bruce. His wacky Watsonian exploits could be made even funnier if you ran the film backwards during his scenes, which occasionally happened. And while Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes did not compare as a target for mockery, there was one aspect of his character that did: his war years hairstyle.

Until a recent review of Basil Rathbone's three World War II films of Sherlock Holmes, I never quite realized that the 1942-1943 war Sherlocks were the only ones where Holmes wore those fine side-curls that can look like devil horns, some Roman emperors laurel, or boyish curls, depending upon the angle or moment. Pictured below, you can see them exhibited from Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, and Sherlock Holmes in Washington.

Now, I'll admit, as a young and silly college fellow from a less accepting time, I did join my fellows in mocking this Sherlock's choice of coiffure. It seemed a bit "fancy" for a man, especially a keen logician like Sherlock Holmes. But with the wisdom of the passing years, and the changing of the times, I'm now gaining some new insight into Sherlock Holmes's war hair.

First, of course, is the fact that Sherlock Holmes was not just created as a science-detective, he was also modeled after an artist as well. His whims, his experiments in perception, and, of course, his own references to his "art" of detection. But that would be reason for Sherlock Holmes to wear fancy hair throughout his life, not just in that particular period. So why then?

Because, and I am serious in this, it was Nazi-fighting hair.

When Sherlock Holmes set to out-smarting Nazis in the 1940s, he was, like all Englishmen and Englishwomen, intent on battling them on all fronts. And what was one way of striking at the core of Nazi beliefs?

Exactly what Jesse Owens did in the 1936 Olympics. He showed Adolph Hitler that a black man could best Hitler's so-called "master race" with ease. And what class of people did Hitler hate besides those of other races and religions?

Gay men and women.

Whether or not you're a fan of W.W. II Johnlock shipping (and with Nigel Bruce in the picture, I doubt there are many who are), wearing a more effeminate hairstyle as a man living with another man probably cast Sherlock Holmes as less than a macho figure in German eyes. He wasn't even man enough to join the military after all! So to have this fancy-haired fop dealing major damage to such major German operations as the Voice of Terror would just add insult to injury in Hitler's eyes, just as Jesse Owens did in the Olympics.

And who knows? Maybe some more detail-oriented Sherlockian could make a case for Rathbone's Sherlock being in the closet. But that hair, that bold choice of hair artistry in a time when most were wearing Army-grade buzz cuts and other more serious styles, that hair makes a statement.

And the statement that it was making was surely flipping the bird (or in this case, the curls) right at ol' Adolph himself.

Because that's Nazi-fighting hair!


  1. Looks like hair that was facing the East Wind that was coming.

  2. I grew up watching these films, it was only later when reading The Strand I realised they weren't 'The Real Article'; I love and cherish them all. Thanks to a certain Mr. Hefner's generosity, these films have been restored and take pride of place on one of my shelves here. It always made me smile when history teachers tried to tell me Hitler snubbed Owens by refusing his hand; he was never scheduled to shake ANY athlete's hand, I believe there were formal receptions later. Owens' triumph, however, rings through the years-unlike the 1938 British football team's adoption of that most chilling of salutes and our own Royal family, who themselves allowed themselves to be filmed practicing for the day when Great Britain was over-run by the Master Race... I can see why Holmes was used as a propaganda tool, but I had never realised it was his hair that flew in The Fuhrer's face!...