Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Sherlock Holmes -- May 28, 2013

This post is part of  the Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon, hosted by Pierre Fournier at his excellent blog Frankensteinia (http://frankensteinia.blogspot.com/).

In my first post for the blogathon, I looked at the ways Peter Cushing was connected to other famous horror movie actors, using the concept of Six Degrees of Separation.  In this post, I will explore his relation to other actors who played Sherlock Holmes.  In my third post, I will compare him to other actors who have portrayed Doctor Who.  In my last post, I will dig a little deeper into Degrees of Separation.

Sherlock Holmes

I enjoyed Peter Cushing's interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I first saw on Creature Features, a late night horror show on KTVU, an Oakland station. I should mention that he was the first actor to play Holmes in a color movie.  I thought it might be interesting to see how Peter Cushing is connected with other actors who have played Holmes.

The first actor to become famous for playing Sherlock Holmes was American William Gillette. Arthur Conan Doyle had killed Sherlock Holmes in 1893, but, needing money, was happy to let Gillette write a four act play, Sherlock Holmes, or The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner. In fact, Gillette had to write the play twice, because the first manuscript burned in the fire at Lucky Baldwin's Hotel and Theater at Powell and Market in San Francisco on 23-November-1898.  Gillette played Holmes more than 1300 times, and his play was the basis for later films with John Barrymore and Basil Rathbone.  The play also introduced a love interest for Holmes, Alice Faulkner.  Gillette played Holmes in a 1916 feature film, which is believed to be lost.  I was surprised to learn that William Gillette has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1916, William Gillette starred in Sherlock Holmes with Edward Fielding, who played Doctor Watson.
1.  In 1940, Edward Fielding played a small part in Vigil in the Night with Peter Cushing. 

In 1922, John Barrymore starred in an adaption of Gillette's play.  Roland Young, who later played Cosmo Topper, was Doctor Watson.  John Barrymore has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1936, Barrymore played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.   Ronald Howard, son of actor Leslie Howard, played a small part.  We will return to Ronald Howard a little later.
1.  In 1961, Ronald Howard appeared with Peter Cushing in The Naked Edge.

In the 1920s, Eille Norwood starred in a series of British short- and feature-length films as Sherlock Holmes.  Eille Norwood has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.   In 1922, Eille Norwood played Sherlock Holmes in the short "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk."  Olaf Hytten played the clerk, Hall Pycroft.
1.  In 1940, Olaf Hytten and Peter Cushing played small parts in The Howards of Virginia.

In 1929, Clive Brook became the first actor to play Holmes in a talkie, The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  Brook played Holmes again in 1930 in a sketch in the revue Paramount on Parade and in 1932, in Sherlock Holmes, adapted from Gillette's play.  The photo, from the March, 1930 New Movie, shows William Powell as Philo Vance and Clive Brook as Holmes in Paramount on Parade.  Clive Brook has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Clive Brook and Frederick March were two of many Paramount stars making a cameo appearance in Make Me a Star in 1932.
1.  Frederick March played in Alexander the Great with Peter Cushing in 1956.

Arthur Wontner played Holmes in a series of movies made in Britain during the 1930s.  Even though the movies were quota quickies made with minuscule budgets, many people regard Wontner's Holmes as one of the best.  Others feel that he was too old for the part.  I enjoyed the one movie that I have seen.  Arthur Wontner has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1943, Arthur Wonter appeared in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp with Marjorie Gresley.
1.  In 1958, Marjorie Gresley was billed as Marjorie Cresley in The Revenge of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing.

In 1939, Basil Rathbone played Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles at 20th Century-Fox with Nigel Brice as Doctor Watson.  For much of my life, they were nearly everyone's favorite Holmes and Watson.  Also in 1939, they appeared in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, another adaption of Gillette's play.  They made 12 more movies with lower budgets at Universal.  Rathbone felt that becoming so identified as Holmes hurt his career.  Basil Rathbone has a Peter Cushing number of two. In 1963, Rathbone played with Vincent Price in Comedy of Terrors.  We saw in the first post that Vincent Price has a Peter Cushing number of one.

We encountered Ronald Howard when talking about John Barrymore.  In 1954, Howard appeared as Sherlock Holmes with H Marion Crawford as Doctor Watson in a filmed television series, produced by American Sheldon Leonard and shot in Paris with a British cast.  I have seen many of the shows and they are ok, although I think Howard overdid it with the deerstalker and the curved pipe.  Ronald Howard has a Peter Cushing number of one, having appeared with him in in The Naked Edge.

Over the next 30 years, Holmes turned up in a variety of movie and television productions, played by Roger Moore (Peter Cushing number two), Robert Stephens (also two), Nicol Williamson (two again), Christopher Plummer (two), Douglas Wilmer (Peter Cushing number one) and Vasily Livanov  (I was surprised -- another two) in a Soviet television series. 

In 1984, Jeremy Brett began playing Sherlock Holmes in a series of adaption of the original stories and novels.  In the photo, we see Brett with David Burke, who played Watson in the earlier stories (thank you, Yvette).  Today many people feel that Brett was the best Holmes.  I like his interpretation, although he got quirkier and quirkier as the series went along.  I liked the way that Watson was presented as a brave and intelligent man.  Jeremy Brett has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1956, Jeremy Brett was in War and Peace with John Mills.
1.  In 1955, John Mills was in The End of the Affair with Peter Cushing.

In the 2000s, Ian Hart played Doctor Watson with two different Sherlocks in a pair of television movies.  In 2002, Richard Roxburgh (Peter Cushing number two) played Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles.  In 2004, Rupert Everett (also two) played Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking.

I almost forgot to mention these movies.  In 2009, Robert Downey, Jr played in Sherlock Holmes with Jude Law as Doctor Watson.  In 2011, they repeated the roles in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I thought I was going to hate the first movie, but I tried not to think of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and I made it all the way through.  I may have slept through part of the second one.  There were too many CGI effects in both movies.  Robert Downey, Jr has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1995, Robert Downey, Jr was in Restoration with Jenny Runacre.
1.  In 1973, Jenny Runacre was in The Creeping Flesh with Peter Cushing. 
Benedict Cumberbatch is currently playing Holmes in Sherlock, a British television series set in modern-day London with Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson. I'm enjoying it. Benedict Cumberbatch has a Peter Cushing number of two. Cumberbatch was in The Hobbit with Christopher Lee.  As we saw in my first post, Christopher Lee has a  Peter Cushing number of one, having appeared in many movies with his best friend, Peter Cushing. 

Jonny Lee Miller is currently playing Holmes in Elementary, an American television series set in modern-day New York City with Lucy Liu as Doctor Watson.  I have enjoyed watching it.  Jonny Lee Miller has a Peter Cushing number of two.  He was in the recent Dark Shadows movie with Christopher Lee.  As we have seen, Christopher Lee has a  Peter Cushing number of one.

I have never seen any of the movies where Christoper Lee played Sherlock Holmes.  I've mentioned it before, but Christopher Lee has a  Peter Cushing number of one.

Peter Cushing is well connected to most of the people who have played Sherlock Holmes.  Being a frequent co-star with Christopher Lee has helped.

After seeing so many people with a Peter Cushing number of two in my first post, I decided to compare Peter Cushing with another actor who was born in 1913 and died in 1994, Burt Lancaster.  The photo shows Lancaster with Ava Gardner in the excellent 1946 film  The Killers, which was loosely based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway.  I calculated Burt Lancaster numbers for the people mentioned in this article. Burt Lancaster's Peter Cushing number is ... 2.

actorBurt LancasterPeter Cushing
William Gillette32
John Barrymore22
Eille Norwood32
Clive Brook12
Arthur Wontner22
Basil Rathbone22
Ronald Howard21
Roger Moore22
Robert Stephens22
Nicol Williamson22
Christopher Plummer22
Douglas Wilmer22
Vasily Livanov22
Jeremy Brett22
Richard Roxburgh32
Rupert Everett22
Robert Downey, Jr22
Benedict Cumberbatch22
Jonny Lee Miller21
Christopher Lee11

Burt Lancaster's results are similar to Peter Cushing's.  I still haven't seen a number higher than 3. 

Most of the images in this post come from the excellent site LucyWho (http://www.lucywho.com/).  The calculations of Peter Cushing numbers come from The Oracle of Bacon (http://oracleofbacon.org/).

Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Horror Films
Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Sherlock Holmes
Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Doctor Who
Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- And Now the Screaming Stops  


Yvette said...

Wonderful post, Joe. Learned a few things. Amazing how you connected everything. :) I'm thinking of doing a comparison post myself, but just one comparing the Hound of the Baskervilles films.

I did one comparing filmed Jane Eyre movies and it was a lot of fun.

I too didn't like the Robert Downey Holmes films and didn't even bother watching the second one after only being able to stand about fifteen minutes of the first.

I do remember the Ronald Howard Holmes series since I watched it on tv once upon a long time ago.

I would be very interested in seeing the John Barrymore version of Holmes, maybe I can hunt it down somewhere.

Slight correction: The photo of Holmes and Watson included in your post shows Jeremy Brett and David Burke who played Holmes in the first series.

Yvette said...

Oh, Joe, meant to add that Michael Caine hilariously played Holmes as a fictional character created by Watson (Ben Kingsley)who, in this version, was the real brains behind the duo. Watson hires an out of work actor (Michael Caine) to play Holmes and off they go. The film: WITHOUT A CLUE. If you haven't seen it, you must.

Also George C. Scott splendidly plays a version of Holmes (he calls himself Holmes) in the wonderful film, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. This one also stars Joanne Woodward as Watson.

Just thought I'd mention these two in case you weren't familiar with them. :)

Caftan Woman said...

Oh my gosh! That was such fun. I love that kind of coincidental matching up of actors/roles. I'll be sharing this post with all and sundry and I'm surely to be thanked for doing so.

Joe Thompson said...

Yvette: Thanks for the kind words the correction about Brett's Watson. I will fix it. As you see, I have trouble telling them apart. I very much liked They Might be Giants. I haven't seen Without a Clue yet. I'll keep my eyes open. I like your idea of comparing different versions of The Hound.

Caftan Woman: I'm very glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

Craig Edwards said...

Excellent post - these connections are always entertaining and informative! Cheers!

Joe Thompson said...

Craig - Thank you visiting. This one was my favorite while I was writing it. It also gave me some ideas for future posts.