The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Infobox Film
name = The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

caption = 1970 movie poster by Robert McGinnis
director = Billy Wilder
producer = I.A.L. Diamond
Billy Wilder
writer = I.A.L. Diamond
Billy Wilder
using characters created by
Arthur Conan Doyle
starring = Robert Stephens
Genevieve Page
Colin Blakely
Christopher Lee
music = Miklós Rózsa
cinematography = Christopher Challis
editing =
distributor = United Artists
released = flagicon|USAOctober 29, 1970
flagicon|UKDecember 3, 1970
runtime = 125 Min
country = UK
language = English
awards =
budget = $10,000,000 (est.)
preceded_by =
followed_by =
amg_id = 1:39314
imdb_id = 0066249

"The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" is a 1970 film directed and produced by Billy Wilder; he also shared writing credit with his longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. It starred Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes and Colin Blakely as Dr Watson. The film offers an affectionate, slightly parodic look at the man behind the public facade, and draws a distinction between the "real" Holmes and the character portrayed by Watson in his stories for "The Strand" magazine.

The film was originally intended as a roadshow attraction, touring major cities only on its initial run. However, it was heavily edited on its original release, and significant sections of the film are now missing.


The film is divided into two separate, unequal stories. In the shorter of the two, Holmes is approached by a famous Russian ballerina (Tamara Toumanova), who proposes that they conceive a child together, one who will hopefully inherit her physique and his intellect. Holmes manages to extricate himself by claiming that Watson is his homosexual lover.

In the main plot, Belgian Gabrielle Valadon (Genevieve Page) is fished out of the River Thames and brought to Baker Street. She begs Holmes to find her missing engineer husband. The resulting investigation leads to a castle in Scotland. Along the way, they encounter a group of monks and some midgets, and Watson apparently sights the Loch Ness monster.

It turns out that Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee) is involved in building a pre-World War I submarine for the British Navy, with the assistance of Mr Valadon. When taken out for testing, it was disguised as a sea monster. The midgets were recruited as crewmen because they took up less space and needed less air. When they meet, Mycroft informs Sherlock that his client is actually a top German spy, Ilse von Hoffmanstal, sent to steal the submersible. The "monks" are German sailors.

Queen Victoria (Mollie Maureen) arrives for an inspection of the new weapon, but is "not amused" by its unsportsmanlike nature. She orders the exasperated Mycroft to destroy it, so he conveniently leaves it unguarded for the monks to take (rigging it to sink when it is submerged). Frau von Hoffmanstal is arrested, to be exchanged for her British counterpart.

In the final scene some months later, Sherlock receives a message from his brother, telling him that von Hoffmanstal had been arrested as a spy in Japan and shot. Saddened, the detective retreats to his room to seek solace from drugs and his violin.

Missing scenes

The film originally contained another two separate stories, and a further flashback sequence showing Holmes in his university days. These were all filmed, but later cut from the final release print. One sequence, in which Holmes investigates the seemingly impossible case of a corpse found in an upside down room, has been recovered and restored to the film's laser disc release. The Region 1 DVD release restored portions of these segments and several others. They are made up of soundtrack and a series of stills. Another scene features Colin Blakely as a descendant of Watson receiving the tin dispatch box from solicitors.


*Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes
*Colin Blakely as Dr John H Watson
*Genevieve Page as Gabrielle Valladon
*Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes
*Irene Handl as Mrs Hudson
*Clive Revill as Rogozhin
*Tamara Toumanova as Petrova
*Stanley Holloway as 1st Gravedigger
*Mollie Maureen as Queen Victoria
*Catherine Lacey as Old Woman

Critical reception

While not a major box office success, the film was well-received by most critics. It has a rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. [ [ The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes ] ] . A review in Empire Magazine described it as the "best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made" and said it was "sorely underrated in the Wilder canon". [ [ Empire Reviews Central - Review of The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes ] ]

Cultural references and inaccuracies

*Stanley Holloway appears in a cameo as a gravedigger, in a reference to his role in Laurence Olivier's 1948 version of "Hamlet".

*Wiggins, the messenger at the Diogenes Club to whom Mycroft gives instructions regarding various items, shares the name of the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars who often assist Sherlock in his investigations.

*The British secret service are seen abandoning the new submarine because of an order from Queen Victoria. In fact she was a constitutional monarch who had no real power over such matters. The decision would have, in real life, been taken by the Prime Minister.

*After they disembark from the train at Inverness railway station, it is seen heading on down the line. In fact Inverness was the terminus of the railway when the film was set.

*Mycroft Holmes informs the Queen that her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, is developing a Zeppelin which will enable the Germans to bomb London. He did not become Kaiser until 1888, and Germany did not start producing Zeppelins until nearly a decade after the film is set.

ee also

*List of films recut by studio

External links

*imdb title |id=66249|title=The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
*tcmdb title|id=87212|title=The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
*amg title | id=1:39314 | title=The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

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