Saturday, March 25, 2023

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends 2023 -- Second Report

 Did you know a Penang lawyer was a walking stick made from a small palm tree?

I don't think I did. But Denny Dobry remedied that quickly as a preface to his talk on that specific walking stick and its appearance in movies. This is one unique talk!

When one considers how many times The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted for television and movies, it's easy to discuss all the actors that played Holmes and Watson across those productions, their Hugos and their hounds. But that key moment of the tale, where Dr. Mortimer leaves his stick behind at 221B Baker Street and Holmes makes deductions based on that stick . . . well, who would have thought to look at a single inanimate object across all those film adaptations? Denny Dobry, that's who!

And while he's given this talk in many a venue, this is my first time enjoying it. It's a lovely display of Sherlockian dedication and a Holmes-worthy observation of detail as Denny displays his special study of the cane's appearances in movie after movie.  (And how very, very few are true Penang lawyers. Two out of nine, in all he's researched so far.)

During this talk I was also enjoying a couple of Mrs. Hudson's Joe Frogger cookies, picked up from the local Agra Treasurers. It's a good, crisp molasses cookie that is helping me make it through to lunch. Since the next talk is "Dining Out with Sherlock Holmes," I'm expecting to get very hungry very soon.

Lynne Stephens has the unenviable task of, as she states from the outset, "standing between you and lunch" to speak on that subject. She immediately heads down a surprising path in her thoughts on food and Holmes -- not what he ate at Baker Street, but the sort of things he would eat when posing as one of the working class in gaining the confidence of those he was gaining information from. Street food vendors, eating houses, and pubs enter the picture and Lynne gets into the food language of the time. And Holmes using his powers of observation and chemical knowledge to pick up healthier choices from all the dangerous food practices of the day, that's a new concept we're getting in this talk. Eventually we get to Simpson's and roast beef, the two classics of Holmes eating . . . and lunch.

A box lunch, a little more wandering the dealers and trying not to spend any more money than I have already, and it's time for Marc Lehmann performing "The Adventure of the Cards in Glass." Three picked a card from a deck, and Ann Lewis at my end of the room picked out a queen of clubs. Each of the cards then appear in a glass, and Ann's levitated itself out of the deck.  I don't remember what the Sherlock Holmes allusion was at this point, but there was one. 

"Why, you are like a magician," Mary Holder would say if she was here, as she did in "Beryl Coronet." I'm surprised the Baker Street Irregulars professions series hasn't hit a collection by magicians yet.

And now, it's door prize time, with some book kits donated by Erica Dowell of the Lily Library. The Illustrious Clients seem to win a lot! 

Jim Hawkins comes up to speak on John Bennett Shaw, which I've been looking forward to, and he immediately coaches us to say "dot com" any time he says "John Bennett Shaw." With a little sound clip of Shaw himself, Jim heads into comparing Hans Sloane (Shaw's BSI investiture name) to John Shaw. He moves along to Shaw's workshops which ran 1977 to 1993, the infamous Shaw quizzes, and the great collector's journey. Shaw's connecting point with Ron DeWaal is explored, and the point of Shaw's transition to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Brothers Three of Moriarty, the Memorial Manure Pile, the Trap Shoot, the Unhappy Birthday celebration -- all are covered.

Eventually, we get to the video tour that a 77 year old Shaw gave of his library to Steve Robinson, John Stephenson, and Greg Ewen back in the nineties, and finally, Shaw's passing. A good talk.

But the late evening is catching up to me, and I'm thinking I need a nap. More to come?

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Eight -- First Report

 Where to start . . . hmmm . . . when reporting upon a Sherlockian weekend event, when does it actually begin? Is in when you walk into the hotel lobby, see your first Sherlockians as you check in, and know you're in the right place? Or is it when you sit down to a pre-conference dinner with a fellow Sherlockian and start chatting all things Holmes? Or simply at the welcome reception, which is where the organizers place the first item on their agenda?

Sitting with the morning's program due to start in fifteen minutes is a good time to reflect on the night before. (Sits and reflects and forgets to type.) 

The thing about a Sherlockian weekend that brings us here might nominally be the program, and maybe the first trip one makes, it does. But after that one comes to see all the distant friends and make a few new ones. My warm-up act was running into Josh Harvey at Skyline Chili next door to the hotel, but the Friday welcome reception up the road was where things kicked into high gear. "Social butterfly" is not a phrase anyone would use to describe me anywhere else in my life, but running into all the Sherlockians I know from their writings, Zoom, or previous events makes it a little impossible not to be such. People I've known for a year or two and people I've known for thirty years, all chatting away, swirling around -- it's not at the scale of a New York cocktail party in January (which can be a bit overwhelming) but as one attends these over time, it can be quite a thing.

After a few hours of catching up with a big room full of Sherlockians and nibbling on snacks, a number of us headed to our hotel bar to continue the socializing, do a little drinking, and . . .  hope upon hope . . . get some karaoke going. Last year, I attempted that and failed, beyond someone drafting an unwilling Monica Schmidt to rap some Eminem. This year, however, a little Facebook chatting had prepared Ira Matetsky to come ready to vocalize, which he did, kicking things off with a lively rendition of "Baker Street." Rudy Altergott boldly stepped in next, I took my turn, and past that, I will not reveal all the names of those who picked up the microphone and sang their hearts out. (But trust me, we had some well known Sherlockians boldly going where they might not have gone before.) It was a great, lively evening, and I am pretty sure I'd have come to Dayton just for Friday evening alone.

This morning because with Lorraine Reibert welcoming us all to the conference proper, and Dan Andriacco introducing our first speaker, Johanna Draper Carlson talking about the history of Sherlock Holmes in comics, starting in "the 1940s, when comics were thought of as something for kids and idiots, basically." That got a good laugh, and Johanna's talk and slideshow was a lively kick-off to the program, as we moved from early depictions of Holmes and Watson as "just guys in suits" to later, more intentional adaptations, often influenced by movies. and onward through Holmes facing monsters, comics for educational markets, and manga. A lot of good questions followed, as ever, with all the knowledgeable and interested folks in the audience.

Writer Terence Faherty was up next, with an appreciation of the Rathbone/Bruce movies titled "The Top Ten Reasons to Love the Universal Sherlock Holmes." Reason ten: It was the most enduring mystery series of the 1940s. Reason nine: Sherlock Holmes took on the Nazis. But Basil Rathbone's hair styles quickly come up, and not as one of the top ten reasons. A clip of one of his stirring, end-of-the-movie speeches brings applause. A few technical details interrupt the talk, as we transition to the post-war group of movies, and how they got better in that middle section of the Rathbone films. Then with The Woman in Green, Terence gets to the last phase of the films -- and we're still only at reason seven!

There's a lot to talk about in the movies of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, and Terence Faherty makes the most of that data. He theorizes that the movie duo brought more people to Sherlock Holmes than any other person besides Conan Doyle, via their movies, their radio shows, and the legion of television reruns of their movies as many local stations used them as Sunday afternoon and other timeslot filler. He points out Rathbone's visual choices that seem to pay tribute to previous Sherlocks, and completely defends Nigel Bruce's contribution to our lore and the general public's acceptance of the character due to Bruce.

Is Rathbone "the big screen's greatest Sherlock Holmes" as Terence Faherty states? Well, twelve theatrical features does make a statement. (And, seriously, Downey may have made some box office, but c'mon. Since "The Abominable Bride" got shown in theaters for one night, can we call Benedict Cumberbatch a big screen Holmes?) The talk closes with a montage of classic Rathbone/Bruce moments that is quite heartwarming. A few good questions about Rathbone, and we're on to the break.

So I will go ahead and post this for now. More to come.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Hot for Mrs. Hudson

 So earlier in this extremely busy work week, I was contemplating Jonathan Majors playing Sherlock Holmes, and since he had recently been in a movie with Michelle Pfeiffer, she popped to mind a fine Mrs. Hudson for his 221B Baker Street. But the wheels spinning in my head didn't stop there, and where they went wasn't filling out a Jonathan Majors 221B Baker Street cast.

No, it was more along the lines of how I, now being a fellow of a certain age, am suddenly finding more and more women with gray hair quite the attraction. Like John C. Reilly's  Watson and Queen Victoria, I'm suddenly realizing that Mrs. Hudson is much more than a grandmotherly figure. And, suddenly, the potential casting for the landlady of Baker Street just went wild.

Can Jamie Lee Curtis do a British accent?

Probably don't have to have her coached on that, as Emma Thompson's also in her sixties, but we don't have to go British automatically. Mary Steenbergen would be a charming Mrs. Hudson, if she could just dump H.G. Wells. (Long story, if you're not old enough to recall that film.) In fact, we could go a lot of ways with Mrs. Hudson.

Like that touch of gangster flavor that BBC Sherlock sprinkled on her? A Katey Sagal version of Mrs. Hudson, anyone? A flirtier Mrs. Hudson played by Jennifer Tilly? Oh, lordy, Geena Davis?

Every movie crush I had in earlier decades is now Mrs. Hudson material!

And Jennifer Coolidge is in everything now, so why not 221 Baker Street?

Catherine O'Hara, Annette Benning, Jennifer Saunders, Julianne Moore, Allison Janney, Tilda Swinton . . . Mrs. Hudson has so little build-up on Watson's printed pages that she can be tweaked all sorts of ways in her casting. And she definitely doesn't have to be matronly.

Of course, I'm not likely to get entirely over Kelly Macdonald's Mrs. Hudson anytime soon. If Watson hadn't blown her up, she could have held on the the role for decades, if the movie going public only had the vision to see the true genius of Holmes and Watson.

Ah, well, we can all dream, can't we? And apparently of Mrs. Hudson!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Hoping for more Sherlock?

 After yet another rumor of the third Robert Downey Jr. movie with his Sherlock Holmes surfaced the other day, which is kind of a "Yeah, yeah, talk to me when actual filming starts!" moment at this point, I started pondering big movie franchises, the Disney IP monster, and how Sherlock Holmes is now public domain. Well, that Sherlock Holmes, anyway.

There's another Sherlock Holmes who is still held by the BCC. And while Sherlock Holmes isn't an intellectual property of a Marvel/Star Wars level, the fact that Disney is working with the BBC on Doctor Who brings up the possibility of more collaborations. And since the entertainment powerhouse has been working with the two key leads from Sherlock, well, hope springs eternal.

Yes, yes, season four, blah, blah, blah. But Sherlock did end with a magical reboot of sorts, Sherlock and John racing off from a rebuild 221B on another case. And that is just the perfect tee-up for a Disney Plus level six or eight episode bit. And that thing Disney is notorious for, that processing (I really can't find the proper word for it) of their IP for the best possible audience digestion . . . well, all the season four sharp edges might get filed off. But here's the kicker . . .

Have you noticed the big thing that Fox News type folks complain about with Disney? The fact that they keep forcing "woke" content on poor souls who just want 1950s level non-diversity in their entertainments? And how Disney Plus has been slipping non-traditional couples into a lot of their stuff?

I don't even want to speak the words for fear of jinxing those slim possibilities that give one hope in life, but it's possible to envision a world in which something a lot of fans wanted comes into being, but at a Disney Plus level, of course. Deals with the devil always have a catch, and dear things tend to have a price tag attached, but it just brings up a fascinating possibility.

Streaming services are probably not looking at putting big money into shows at this point, but Sherlock is not an expensive, CGI-heavy show to make, unless the leads are salty enough about the last go-round to demand extra big money to go back to their old roles. But who knows?

Hope springs eternal, and honestly, I almost see Sherlock getting a new installment before Robert Downey Junior gets his act together with Sherlock Holmes 3. And who knows what else lies on the horizon? (Yes, that weird Watson/Moriarty thing, which does benefit two specific podcasts I know, but talking Sherlock Holmes here.)

We shall see.