The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes


2h 5m 1970
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Brief Synopsis

The legendary sleuth becomes involved with a mysterious French woman while investigating the Loch Ness monster.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Adventure
Mystery
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Oct 1970
Production Company
Mirisch Productions, Inc.; Phalanx Productions; Sir Nigel Films
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Bored by a lack of interesting cases, detective Sherlock Holmes begins using cocaine, despite the disapproval of his biographer and friend, Dr. Watson. One evening the two associates receive complimentary tickets to a Russian ballet, after which the famous ballerina Petrova proposes that she and Holmes produce a child that will combine her beauty and his intellect. Holmes declines, implying that he and Watson are lovers, much to Watson's dismay. Later, as Holmes prepares to investigate the disappearance of a family of midgets, he finds a half-drowned, amnesiac woman at the door of his home. He takes her in and learns that she is Gabrielle Valladon and has come from Belgium in search of her husband. The detective takes the case and travels to Inverness, Scotland, where Holmes's mysterious brother Mycroft warns him not to pursue the case. Holmes nevertheless continues the investigation. When he and Watson take a small boat onto Loch Ness to observe some strange activity in a Scottish castle, their boat is overturned by what appears to be the Loch Ness monster, but Holmes and Watson manage to paddle ashore. Holmes is then summoned to the castle by Mycroft, who shows him a submarine to be manned by the missing midgets. Queen Victoria learns of the bizarre project and orders a halt to it. Mycroft informs his brother that Gabrielle is actually a German spy who duped him into locating the submarine. Dejected, Holmes returns home, and upon learning that Gabrielle has been executed by the Japanese for her espionage activities, he again turns to the use of cocaine.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Adventure
Mystery
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Oct 1970
Production Company
Mirisch Productions, Inc.; Phalanx Productions; Sir Nigel Films
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes


It was Billy Wilder's biggest, most costly movie and for a comedy with so many funny lines, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) gave the great writer-director little but heartbreak.

Wilder had been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries for years before he made his first move towards creating his own piece of Sherlockiana. While in England shooting Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Wilder got permission from the late author's estate for a Broadway musical about the great detective. "I would have preferred doing it as a movie but, at that time, you couldn't show on the screen the things about Holmes I wanted to show."

Finding no backers for a stage production, Wilder changed his mind about a movie version after the success of his racy film Irma la Douce (1963). Originally Peter O'Toole was to star as Holmes with Peter Sellers as Watson. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe of Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964) fame were to supply the songs. However, after Sellers suffered a series of heart attacks on the set of Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), the project fell apart.

Finally in 1968, Wilder managed to get The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes underway. He and his co-scenarist I.A.L. Diamond conceived a 165-minute long Holmes extravaganza featuring four complete adventures plus prologue and epilogue. The production was a troubled one, full of technical snafus like having to reshoot the entire Loch Ness sequence (the real location was too difficult to properly light among other problems). Leading lady Genevieve Page recalled in Charlotte Chandler's biography, Nobody's Perfect: Billy Wilder, "When we lost our Loch Ness monster, he wasn't too concerned, even though he was also the producer. He was more concerned about how the man who made it felt when all his work sank to the bottom of the Loch Ness. He went over and comforted him." She was referring to special effects man Wally Veevers's elaborate "monster," which worked beautifully until they gave it a test run in the Loch Ness. After its failure, Wilder decided to shoot it in miniature in the studio."

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was made during a period when Hollywood was sinking its money into road show movies running three hours or more with engagements only at exclusive theaters. Unfortunately, by the time of this film's release in 1970, the fad was long past and the producers insisted on an average-length film. Called to the shooting of his next film, Avanti! (1972), Wilder had to leave the film in the producers' hands. It was chopped down to a mere two of the four original storylines. In the interview book by Cameron Crowe, Conversations with Wilder, the director recalled, "when I came back [from Paris], it was an absolute disaster, the way it was cut. The whole prologue was cut, a half-sequence was cut. I had tears in my eyes as I looked at the thing...It was the most elegant picture I've ever shot."

The cutting did not help the movie at the box office. Critics thought Wilder was making fun of Sherlock Holmes in his usual sarcastic way. Only years after its failure did fans and critics rediscover The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the history of its creation and the love and insight intended for its central figure. Andrew Sarris, in his overview of the American sound cinema, went so far as to dub it "one of the greatest films of the Seventies." By then, sadly, most of the original elements of the movie's missing material had been destroyed.

Fortunately, enough of Wilder's original approach to Holmes remains to create a fascinating portrait. These two adventures allow Holmes' fellow investigator Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) a special insight into his friend's addiction to a seven-percent solution of cocaine ("Five percent!" Holmes says in the film. "Don't you think I know you've been diluting it behind my back!"), and his estrangement from women ("I don't dislike women, I just mistrust them. The twinkle in the eye and the arsenic in the soup..."). Shakespearean actor Robert Stephens delivers Wilder and Diamond's bon mots with flair while capturing the melancholy in the soul of this "thinking machine."

Other delights of this movie are performances by Genevieve Page (El Cid (1961), Belle de jour, 1967) as a mysterious client and Christopher Lee as Sherlock's smarter brother Mycroft. Miklos Rozsa (Spellbound (1945), Ben-Hur, 1959) adapted the film's beautiful score from his own 1956 Violin Concerto and appears in a cameo as the conductor of Swan Lake.

Producer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: I.A.L. Diamond, Arthur Conan Doyle, Billy Wilder
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Art Direction: Tony Inglis
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: Robert Stephens (Sherlock Holmes), Colin Blakely (Dr. Watson), Genevieve Page (Gabrielle Valladon), Christopher Lee (Mycroft Holmes), Tamara Toumanova (Madame Petrova), Clive Revill (Rogozhin).
C-126m. Letterboxed.

by Brian Cady
The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

It was Billy Wilder's biggest, most costly movie and for a comedy with so many funny lines, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) gave the great writer-director little but heartbreak. Wilder had been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries for years before he made his first move towards creating his own piece of Sherlockiana. While in England shooting Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Wilder got permission from the late author's estate for a Broadway musical about the great detective. "I would have preferred doing it as a movie but, at that time, you couldn't show on the screen the things about Holmes I wanted to show." Finding no backers for a stage production, Wilder changed his mind about a movie version after the success of his racy film Irma la Douce (1963). Originally Peter O'Toole was to star as Holmes with Peter Sellers as Watson. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe of Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964) fame were to supply the songs. However, after Sellers suffered a series of heart attacks on the set of Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), the project fell apart. Finally in 1968, Wilder managed to get The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes underway. He and his co-scenarist I.A.L. Diamond conceived a 165-minute long Holmes extravaganza featuring four complete adventures plus prologue and epilogue. The production was a troubled one, full of technical snafus like having to reshoot the entire Loch Ness sequence (the real location was too difficult to properly light among other problems). Leading lady Genevieve Page recalled in Charlotte Chandler's biography, Nobody's Perfect: Billy Wilder, "When we lost our Loch Ness monster, he wasn't too concerned, even though he was also the producer. He was more concerned about how the man who made it felt when all his work sank to the bottom of the Loch Ness. He went over and comforted him." She was referring to special effects man Wally Veevers's elaborate "monster," which worked beautifully until they gave it a test run in the Loch Ness. After its failure, Wilder decided to shoot it in miniature in the studio." The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was made during a period when Hollywood was sinking its money into road show movies running three hours or more with engagements only at exclusive theaters. Unfortunately, by the time of this film's release in 1970, the fad was long past and the producers insisted on an average-length film. Called to the shooting of his next film, Avanti! (1972), Wilder had to leave the film in the producers' hands. It was chopped down to a mere two of the four original storylines. In the interview book by Cameron Crowe, Conversations with Wilder, the director recalled, "when I came back [from Paris], it was an absolute disaster, the way it was cut. The whole prologue was cut, a half-sequence was cut. I had tears in my eyes as I looked at the thing...It was the most elegant picture I've ever shot." The cutting did not help the movie at the box office. Critics thought Wilder was making fun of Sherlock Holmes in his usual sarcastic way. Only years after its failure did fans and critics rediscover The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the history of its creation and the love and insight intended for its central figure. Andrew Sarris, in his overview of the American sound cinema, went so far as to dub it "one of the greatest films of the Seventies." By then, sadly, most of the original elements of the movie's missing material had been destroyed. Fortunately, enough of Wilder's original approach to Holmes remains to create a fascinating portrait. These two adventures allow Holmes' fellow investigator Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) a special insight into his friend's addiction to a seven-percent solution of cocaine ("Five percent!" Holmes says in the film. "Don't you think I know you've been diluting it behind my back!"), and his estrangement from women ("I don't dislike women, I just mistrust them. The twinkle in the eye and the arsenic in the soup..."). Shakespearean actor Robert Stephens delivers Wilder and Diamond's bon mots with flair while capturing the melancholy in the soul of this "thinking machine." Other delights of this movie are performances by Genevieve Page (El Cid (1961), Belle de jour, 1967) as a mysterious client and Christopher Lee as Sherlock's smarter brother Mycroft. Miklos Rozsa (Spellbound (1945), Ben-Hur, 1959) adapted the film's beautiful score from his own 1956 Violin Concerto and appears in a cameo as the conductor of Swan Lake. Producer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond Director: Billy Wilder Screenplay: I.A.L. Diamond, Arthur Conan Doyle, Billy Wilder Cinematography: Christopher Challis Film Editing: Ernest Walter Art Direction: Tony Inglis Music: Miklos Rozsa Cast: Robert Stephens (Sherlock Holmes), Colin Blakely (Dr. Watson), Genevieve Page (Gabrielle Valladon), Christopher Lee (Mycroft Holmes), Tamara Toumanova (Madame Petrova), Clive Revill (Rogozhin). C-126m. Letterboxed. by Brian Cady

TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder


A FOND FAREWELL TO ONE OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST GIFTED DIRECTORS - BILLY WILDER, 11906-2002


Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers.

Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft).

Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck.

Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory.

As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules.

By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy.

In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide.

Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed.

By Jeremy Geltzer

TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder

A FOND FAREWELL TO ONE OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST GIFTED DIRECTORS - BILLY WILDER, 11906-2002 Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers. Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft). Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck. Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory. As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950). Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules. By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy. In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide. Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed. By Jeremy Geltzer

Quotes

Where's your self-control?
- Watson
Fair question.
- Holmes
Don't you feel ashamed of yourself?
- Watson
Yes. This will cure it.
- Holmes
Holmes, I hope I'm not being presumptuous, but... there *have* been women in your life, haven't there?
- Watson
The answer is yes.
- Holmes
You're being presumptuous. Good night.
- Holmes

Trivia

Originally, the scenes featuring the Loch Ness Monster were intended to be filmed in the actual Loch. A life-size prop was built which had several Nessie-like humps used to disguise floatation devices. The humps were removed, however, at Billy Wilder's request. Unfortunately, during a test run in Loch Ness, the Monster-prop sank and was never recovered. A second prop (just the head and neck) was built, but was only filmed inside a studio tank.

Notes

Location scenes filmed at Inverness, Scotland. Opened in London in December 1970.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1970

Released in United States March 1979

Released in United States 1970

Released in United States March 1979 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The 50-Hour Mighty MovieMarathon: Mystery and Suspense) March 14-30, 1979.)