Stand with me here upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk that we shall ever have.
A friend who knows that I’m a) just a bit of a movie fan(atic), and b) that I’m almost as much of a fan(atic) when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, recently asked for my thoughts on the first clip we’ve seen from Bill Condon’s upcoming film project, Mr. Holmes.
My initial thought? Much as I love Sir Ian, I prefer my Holmes a bit less feeble. Drawing closer to the end of his professional “amateur” life, sure; that could be a very interesting exploration. But a 93-year-old Holmes is harder for me to swallow. He seems too broken, too slight. And far too removed from all the things that made him great. I’m not sure I want to see him that fragile; that’s not the way I want to remember him.
Basically, I want my last memory of Mr. Holmes to be the Sherlock of “His Last Bow.”
Now, the subsequent trailer has left me slight more interested/less cranky, probably because it hints at larger stories than the initial clip did. But the real benefit of my friend’s question was that I’ve got “His Last Bow” on my mind again. It wasn’t the final time Sir Author Conan Doyle put pen to paper on the matter of The World’s Greatest Consulting Detective, but it is the last word chronologically. And it’s great stuff, really, even if a bit of a departure from Doyle’s usual efforts. (And rightfully so, I say, given the subject matter.)
A number of the stories from the “Last Bow” set are atypical, actually. But none are quite as unusual as Bow itself, which is probably one of the reasons why it seems so cinematic to me. (Did we really need to go all the way to 93, guys? Couldn’t we just have made “Bow,” instead? It’s a much more graceful exit, don’t you think? …although I suppose that’s the very thought behind Sir Ian’s version.)
But there’s no need to take my word for it, because here’s a great old-timey, Public Domain radio dramatization, thanks to The Internet Archive. (A couple of YouTube versions can be found HERE and HERE, but I suspect those are a bit grey in terms of ownership. The Archive, though, is usually pretty safe.)
I’ll admit that I usually get a bit…misty towards the story’s finale. A story that ends as any great Holmes story must end, especially the last one: with a word of praise and affection for Dr. John Watson.
Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age.
Oh, and don’t forget to read it, when you have the chance. The dramatization is great, but there’s really no substitute for Doyle’s words. (While you’re at it, might I recommend Dorothy Sayers’ “The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste?” The two stories feel very similar to me, at least in mood. I have no reason to suspect that Sayers’ offering is an homage, but I do it all the same. Cut from the same cloth, I feel.)