I was fortunate enough to check out the Pop Sherlock exhibit at the Toronto Reference Library on Friday. And when I say “check out,” I really mean that I pored over every item obsessively. I’m pretty sure the Sherlock Holmes: Classic Themes from 221B Baker Street soundtrack was on its third loop by the time I finally left the exhibit. You’ll understand when you see all the pictures. Those of you who remember my post on the Adventures with Sherlock Holmes: Life and Times of the Master Sleuth exhibit will know what I’m talking about.
Pop Sherlock celebrates Sherlock Holmes’s status as a pop icon and the lasting influence he has had on popular culture for more than a hundred years. Thanks to the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, visitors to this exhibit can see books, comic books, movie scripts, movie posters, TV stills, and so much more. The collection is divided into the following sections: Holmes on Stage, Holmes on Film, Holmes on the Small Screen, Sherlock Holmes Around the World, Sherlock Holmes in Advertising, Sherlock Holmes and Superheroes, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Animated Sherlock Holmes, and A Warmer, Fuzzier Sherlock Holmes.
The first part of the exhibit provides some background information on Sherlock Holmes, such as the setting of the stories, a list of Holmes's allies and adversaries, and famous Sherlockian accoutrements.
how much Sherlock Holmes has become a part of popular culture.
Watson’s list of Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses in A Study in Scarlet.
This case contains playbills and programmes for some very memorable productions.
Theatre. A very young Charlie Chaplin (listed in the programme as “Charles Chaplin”) played Billy.
the cover of that programme. He appeared in a 1976 Royal Shakespeare Company
production of William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes at the Auditorium Theatre in Denver.
Theatre in London. This is obviously a parody of William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes.
and Baker Street: a Musical Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (Broadway
Theatre, New York, 1965). Fritz Weaver played Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street.
Various tracks from both musicals can be found on YouTube.
Theatre in Los Angeles. This production is probably most notable for its cast,
which included Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes and Jeremy Brett as his Watson!
feature Sherlock Holmes was a one-minute short film from 1900 called Sherlock Holmes Baffled:
it’s a lot of fun, and I’m a sucker for movies set on trains.
the cast. A better film involving Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper is Murder by Decree.
it. As I think it’s brilliantly hilarious, I’m in the love camp.
as Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear in the Europe. As I
think the pyramid/Egyptian temple is one of the best things about the
film, I can understand why it was marketed this way.
in which Raymond Massey played Sherlock Holmes
The original title for the film was Sherlock Holmes in Canada, but Universal obviously
believed that wouldn’t sell (though, apparently, Sherlock Holmes in Washington wasn’t a
problem). The film contains cringeworthy stereotypes of Canada (such as men dressed as
lumberjacks) and some confusion about Quebec geography, but many consider this to be
the best of the twelve Universal films.
Sherlock Holmes has also made a huge impact on the small screen. Even when the original stories themselves aren’t being adapted, there have been numerous references made to the Great Detective. You only have to watch a show like House to see that. Sherlock Holmes first appeared on the small screen in The Three Garridebs, a 1937 National Broadcasting Company adaptation of “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs.” It starred Louis Hector as Holmes.
Forge acting as his Watson) in the holodeck. In one very memorable episode (“Ship
in a Bottle”), Professor Moriarty escapes the holodeck and seizes control of the ship.
(Edward Hardwicke) from the Granada Sherlock Holmes series.
This is a promotional still from the Granada adaptation of “The Final Problem.”
adaptation of “The Adventure of the Priory School.”
translated in several languages – and the influence has gone even further than
that. Various countries have put their own spin on Sherlock Holmes, releasing
books, films and merchandise that reflect their cultures.
[One Millimeter from an Almost Perfect Crime]
out of Nairobi that contains very Sherlockian elements, even though it is set in rural Tanzania.
[Detective opera Milky Holmes on stage], a 2012 comic by Koko Natsuki.
features the dancing men code from “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.”
by Jô Soares from 1998. In this story, Sherlock Holmes is working in Rio de Janeiro.
A traditional Japanese maneki neko with a Sherlockian twist
to sell everything from cigarettes to airlines. Some of these ads have to be seen to be believed:
Canadian ad from 1971 for Labatt 50
Television still from a 1971 commercial for Imperial Oil
Sherlock Holmes is the original caped crusader. Not only does he fight for justice, but he is a prototype for many of the superheroes that were to follow. Over the years, both DC and Marvel have recognized Sherlock Holmes’s popularity and what the character can contribute to the comic book universe:
introduced in this issue of The Man Called Nova from 1978
Sigerson believes he’s Sherlock Holmes and the Joker is Professor Moriarty
part of a comic series that was closely based on the original Sherlock Holmes stories.
Even Arthur Conan Doyle has earned a place in popular culture in his own right. Arthur Conan Doyle has appeared as a character in TV shows like Murdoch Mysteries and as the main character in two series of Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes. He also appeared in Howard Engel’s novel Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell.
Sherlock Holmes has appeared in many, many forms in animated cartoons and films. The exhibit curator, Peggy Perdue, has argued that all a Sherlock Holmes avatar needs is a deerstalker cap, Inverness cloak and magnifying glass – and she’s absolutely right. Any animal or inanimate object becomes instantly recognizable with any of these Sherlockian accoutrements:
DC comic from 1992. Daffy Duck makes his first appearance
as Doorluck Homes in the 1956 animated feature “Deduce, You Say!”
was the original writer/director of this Italian-Japanese TV series.
from 1947 with Bugs Bunny dressed in a Sherlock Holmes costume
Sherlock Holmes (from Mark Thurman’s City Scrapes, 1983)
know. I own some of them. And now I covet some of the items that are on display in this exhibit!
Radioactive Sherlock Holmes (a.k.a. Philosophers Guild Sherlock Holmes Little Thinker doll)
I thought I had managed to escape the exhibit entirely when I came across a display case outside the TD Gallery full of facsimile covers for pulp magazines featuring Sherlock Holmes. In the early twentieth century, various European pulp magazines tried to cash in on the popularity of Sherlock Holmes by creating lurid stories of their own. Some of these magazines used Sherlock Holmes’s name for the main character and even claimed that the stories were penned by Arthur Conan Doyle. The facsimile covers below are from Portuguese and German magazines dating from 1907 to 1910:
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