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The Ten Best Sherlocks (That You’ve Probably Never Seen)

Basil Rathbone, in the 40s; Peter Cushing, in the 50s and 60s, plus a last gasp in the 80s; Jeremy Brett, in the 80s and 90s; and now Benedict Cumberbatch, edging out Robert Downey Jr in the 21st century. Everyone’s favourite Sherlock Holmes is surely one of the above – at the expense of so many other of their deer-stalking, pipe-puffing, violin-scraping kin, who almost always get overlooked. To attempt to fix that terrible problem, Alan Barnes, author of Sherlock Holmes On Screen, which comes out this week, presents, in chronological order, ten criminally under-rated Great Detectives for your reconsideration. Click through to check out his picks, and let us know your own favorite incarnation of the famous sleuth in the comments!

William Gillette

The man who first gave Holmes the line, “Oh, this is elementary, my dear Watson!”, not to mention the now-obligatory Meerschaum pipe, Connecticut-born actor-managor Gillette wrote his four-act stage script Sherlock Holmes (1899) after Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle confirmed that he might “marry the detective, or murder him, or do anything he pleased with him.” Gillette’s play ran in the USA and in Europe throughout the first decade of the 20th century — but it wasn’t until 1916 that Essanay hired Gillette to feature in a silent film adaptation of his work, leading one British reviewer to complain that much of it seemed “a little old-fashioned at the present time.” True, the 63-year-old Gillette was probably past his (widow’s) peak when the film version came around, but the fact that the Essanay film has long been lost has robbed us of a proper glimpse of the great-great-grandfather of every on-screen Sherlock since.

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