For anyone reading this blog, there has never been a time when the world as you know it has been without Sherlock Holmes. As a matter of fact, it's been exactly 120 years since Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in the Beeton's Christmas Annual. For a short summary of Holmes's humble beginnings, you can listen to a segment on All Things Considered that NPR ran on December 23.
And in our own humble way, we honor his memory over at the Baker Street Journal. Each year for the last 10 years, we've been offering an additional companion piece to our quarterly journal - something we call the Baker Street Journal Christmas Annual.
The Christmas Annual for 2007 is about to hit the streets, and we've already got a record number of subscribers signed up to receive it. If you are renewing your BSJ subscription or if you're taking a subscription out for the first time, you can automatically include the Annual as part of your package, and receive a discount in the process. So, sign up now for the 2008 Journal & Annual.
In the meantime, let's focus on what we've got in 2007. The title of this year's entry is:
Rathbone Returns: A Misadventure Called Sherlock Holmes by S.E. Dahlinger, ASH and Glen Miranker, BSI ("The Origin of Tree Worship")Basil Rathbone is still a perennial favorite of many Holmes enthusiasts. As a matter of fact, I recently met a 9 year-old who came to a dinner of the Friends of Irene Adler in Cambridge, MA dressed as the great detective - and he himself told me that Basil Rathbone was the best Sherlock Holmes ever. We could argue that here or in a variety of forums forever, but let's say that by the end of his 14 film stretch and radio play, Rathbone was inexorably typecast.
Indeed, he was just as eager to push Sherlock Holmes over the precipice at Reichenbach Falls as Arthur Conan Doyle had been. As he wrote in his autobiography, In and Out of Character:
I was . . . deeply concerned with the problem of being "typed," more completely "typed" than any other classic actor has ever been or ever will be again. . . . There was nothing I could do about it, except to stop playing Mr. Holmes. . . .That June, Rathbone and his wife Ouida left Hollywood for the New York stage in search of better things. At least, that was the plan. They quickly found that Broadway wouldn't touch Basil as anything other than Holmes, either. Rathbone began casting about for the play in which to rekindle his rapidly fading star—and fell back on his wife to write it.
Thereby hangs our tale of Sherlock Holmes by Ouida Rathbone. It may have been a comedy, or it may have been a tragedy. It cost one man his dream of conquering Broadway in his most notable role. It cost another man his career as a Broadway producer. It gave yet a third man a heart attack at the dress rehearsal. It even caused the Conan Doyle Estate to forget that the script had ever been produced in the first place. Yet there was certainly an element of comedy.
The play opened here in Boston (as did many plays of the day before hitting the Great White Way). Peter Blau even mentioned planning on seeing it in New York after its Boston run. If you pick up a copy of the Annual, you'll see what happened in the process.
So, as a birthday present to Holmes and as a happy Blue Carbuncle Day ("the second morning after Christmas"), order your copy - and sign up for a subscription and next year's Annual while you're at it, over at bakerstreetjournal.com.