The Late Movies: the Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

Ransom Riggs

One of pop culture's most beloved characters -- and some say the most famous fictional character of all time -- Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed on screens both large and small by dozens of men. Since I'm posting excerpts from my Sherlock Holmes book all week, I figured I'd make the leap from book to film and share some of my favorite Holmeses here.

John Barrymore played Sherlock Holmes in this 1922 silent film, Sherlock Holmes. He meets Moriarty for the first time in this scene.

Ten years later, Reginald Owen lent his likeness to the role in this film version of Arthur Conan Doyle's first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet.

Arthur Wontner played Holmes in this 1935 adaptation of The Valley of Fear.

Jumping forward a few hundred years, Brent Spiner as Commander Data channeled Sherlock Holmes in the episode "Lonely Among Us."

Of course, Data wasn't the only primetime television character inspired by Sherlock Holmes. There's also Greg House, M.D., whose sour temperament, coldly rational mind, musical talent and weakness for drugs all echo Holmes' character. Here's an awesomely cheesy fan-made video set to Rihanna's "Rehab" which compares House and Holmes' respective addictions.

As long as we're on the subject of unconventional Holmses, check out John Cleese's Holmes in this bit from Comedy Playhouse:

How about a Russian Holmes? Vasily Livanov played the role to great acclaim in a number of Russian film and television adaptations in the 1970s and 80s.

Then, of course, there's my favorite: the late, great Jeremy Brett, who played Holmes to a tee in Granada's long-running series for British television. Here's a great clip:

Will Robert Downey, Jr. make a good Sherlock Holmes? It's hard to tell from the trailers, but I'll certainly pony up ten bucks to find out. Holmes is due out Christmas day in theaters across the U.S.