Los Angeles: A 1916 silent movie about fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, long thought to be lost, has been found by Cinematheque Francaise.
The film, starring William Gillette, is a vital missing link in the history of Holmes on screen. The newly found film is not only Gillette's sole surviving appearance as Holmes, it is also the only film Gillette ever made.
Directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in 1916, a nitrate dupe negative of Sherlock Holmes was found in the vaults of the Cinematheque Francaise a few weeks ago.
Gillette was the world's foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage at the time the film was made. He gave his face and manner to the detective and inspired the classic illustrations of Frederic Dorr Steele.
He played Holmes in the colorful attire?bent-stemmed briar, ornate dressing gown, and deerstalker cap that has been identified ever since with the character.
Gillette's performance was liked by Arthur Conan Doyle himself, who had killed Holmes off and thought he was through with the character.
After reading Gillette's adaptation for the stage, he had said, "It's good to see the old chap back."
Gillette wove bits from Conan Doyle's stories ranging from 'A Scandal in Bohemia' to 'The Final Problem' into an original, innovative mystery play.
The film is now being digitally restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Francaise, a release by SFSFF said.
Film restorer and SFSFF Board President Robert Byrne said, "It's an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette's magnetism.
"Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time."
The European premiere of the film will take place at the Francaise's festival of film restoration, Toute la Memoire du Monde, in January 2015. The American premiere will take place at the San Francisco Silent Film festival in May 2015.