The British Film Institute is calling on amateur sleuths around the world to see if they can help discover a copy of one of the earliest feature films featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
A Study in Scarlet, a 1914 silent movie directed by George Pearson, has not been seen in generations. It is high on the BFI’s Most Wanted films list, and the BFI has now appealed to the general public for any information on its whereabouts.
“The long filmic history of Sherlock Holmes is unique,” says Alex Werner, curator of the Museum of London’s Sherlock Holmes exhibition, “dominating popular culture in a manner only to be rivalled perhaps by Dracula or Frankenstein. As we prepare for the museum’s major exploration of the most famous fictional Londoner of all time, it would be a remarkable achievement to discover this missing film in its centenary year, and at the very least, remind the public of Sherlock’s endurance on-screen, interpreted literally hundreds of times for over a century.”
Bryony Dixon, curator, Silent Film, BFI National Archive adds: “Every archivist dreams of finding lost films. But this is a film of great importance. Sherlock Holmes is internationally renowned as a great detective. It would be wonderfully appropriate if a super-sleuth could help us celebrate the centenary of this film with a chance to see it.”
The Early Holmes Films
A Study in Scarlet is the first British feature film made featuring Sherlock Holmes. It is preceded by two American films, the first a 30-second short Mutoscope film, Sherlock Holmes Baffled. The American short, filmed in 1900 by Arthur W. Marvin, was also assumed lost for many years, and rediscovered in the Library of Congress in 1968. This was followed by the 1905 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; or, Held for Ransom, directed by J. Stuart Brackton and starring Maurice Costello as Sherlock.
Earlier European films include the German silent film Arsene Lupin Contra Sherlock Holmes (Arsene Lupin Versus Sherlock Holmes) which was shot in 1910. Its survival status is unknown. A version of The Hound of the Baskervilles was shot in 1914. The German Der Hund von Baskerville (released in France as as Le Chien des Baskerville) survives in the Gosfilmofond film archive and Filmmuseum München film archive.
An American version A Study in Scarlet, shot almost simultaneously by Francis Ford, was released in December 1914 but is also missing, along with Pearson’s second Holmes film, The Valley of Fear (1916), starring H.A. Saintsbury, is also missing.
Fans with any information are asked to get in contact at Sherlockholmes@bfi.org.uk or via Twitter using the hashtag #findSherlock.