A play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Premiere: November 6, 1899, New York City.
Dr. Conan Doyle's adaptation of Sherlock Holmes will present an entirely new story of this most discerning and admirable detective. Dr. Doyle very wisely saw that he could not knit the old stories together and form a dramatic play. He has therefore made Sherlock Holmes the centre of a new story, and has developed the character of that silent but exceedingly far-seeing person. No doubt Mr. Gillette was born to play Sherlock Holmes, at least that is his opinion, and it is principally for him, we understand, that the play has been written. It is a most interesting theatrical event to anticipate, and Mr. Gillette's numerous admirers in England as well as in America will await the arrival of the production with pleasurable expectation. — "Chronicle and Comment," THE BOOKMAN (April 1899; scroll to page 107, top left)
The play itself drew material from Conan Doyle's published stories "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Final Problem," and A Study in Scarlet, while adding much that was new as well. As the plot was largely taken from Doyle's canon, with some dialogue directly lifted from his original stories, Doyle was credited as a co-author, even though Gillette wrote the play.
Gillette took great liberties with the character, such as giving Holmes a love interest. While Conan Doyle was initially uncomfortable with these additions, the success of the play softened his views; he said, "I was charmed both with the play, the acting, and the pecuniary result." Doyle later recounted how he had received a cable from Gillette inquiring, "May I marry Holmes?"; to which Conan Doyle replied, "You may marry him, murder him, or do anything you like to him." The love interest was modelled on Irene Adler's role in "A Scandal in Bohemia," with Gillette reinventing the character and renaming her "Alice Faulkner."
Conan Doyle had mentioned an unnamed pageboy in "A Case of Identity," and Gillette utilized the character and christened him "Billy." Conan Doyle himself would later reintroduce the character into some Holmes stories and continue using the name Billy.
Gillette's play features Professor Moriarty as the villain, but Gillette names him "Robert Moriarty"; at this point no forename had been given for the Professor in Conan Doyle's stories. — Wikipedia, "Sherlock Holmes (play)"Resources:
- Gillette would go on to make a film version in 1916; see Wikipedia and the IMDb for details.
- Wikipedia has articles on William Gillette HERE, Gillette as Holmes HERE, and the play HERE.
Category: Detective fiction