Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Season 1 (1954-1955) .The first (and only until 2012’s Elementary) American television series of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes adventures aired in syndication in the fall of 1954. The 39 half-hour mostly original stories were produced by Sheldon Reynolds and filmed in France by Guild Films, starring Ronald Howard(son of Leslie Howard) as Sherlock Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as Watson.

Sheldon Reynolds had been successful with his 1951 European-made series Foreign Intrigue (in 1956 he directed a movie with the same title starring Robert Mitchum) and decided a Sherlock Holmes series made in France for the American syndication market might also be successful.

Reynolds contacted the Doyle family and began his research into producing a Holmesian television series. Reynolds desired to present the Sherlock Holmes of A Study in Scarlet.

I was suddenly struck by the difference between the character in that book and that of the stage and screen. Here, Holmes was a young man in his thirties, human, gifted, and of a philosophic and scholastic bent, but subject to fateful mistakes which stemmed from his over-eagerness and lack of experience.

In early stories like that one, Conan Doyle had not yet grown tired of his character, who later became a literary monster for him. And, as literature, the earlier stories are far better. But practically every stage and screen presentation of the detective is based on the later stories.

Ronald Howard, then 36, was chosen to portray Sherlock Holmes. Howard shared Reynolds’s view of Holmes and his portrayal was much more laid back than the more famous version portrayed by Basil Rathbone.

In my interpretation, Holmes is not an infallible, eagle-eyed, out-of-the-ordinary personality, but an exceptionally sincere young man trying to get ahead in his profession. Where Basil Rathbone’s Holmes was nervous and highly-strung, mine has a more ascetic quality, is deliberate, very definitely unbohemian, and is underplayed for reality.

Howard Marion Crawford, credited as H. Marion Crawford, was cast as Watson and it was a role Crawford had long wanted to play. Crawford desired to play Watson as something other than the buffoon as typified by Nigel Bruce‘s portrayal.

I had never thought of Watson as the perennial brainless bungler who provided burlesque relief in the earlier portrayals. He is a normal man, solid on his feet, a medical student who gives valuable advice…. In other words, he is a perfect foil to Holmes’ youthful buoyancy.

Scottish actor Archie Duncan was cast as Inspector Lestrade. Much akin to Dennis Hoey in the Rathbone/Bruce series of films, Duncan’s Lestrade was used as comic relief.

Besides the three principals (Howard, Crawford and Duncan), a number of actors appeared regularly in the series, including French-born Eugene Deckers, who played no fewer than seven different characters, including both victims and villains. The most famous actor to appear as a guest was Paulette Goddard, but others who would gain fame or near-fame in the future included Delphine SeyrigMichael GoughDawn AddamsMary Sinclair, and Natalie SchaferBarry Mackay, whose career was nearing its end, also appeared in one episode: “The Case of the Laughing Mummy”.

Here we present the first eight episodes of the infamous television series where Sherlock Holmes and Watson define our concept of detective work.  There are some great mysteries here.

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