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Conan Doyle's list of 12 best Holmes stories

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Update: According to multiple responses to a Google search, yes, trees do stop getting taller when it becomes too difficult to suck water all the way up to the top. They don't die and they don't stop getting bigger, but they do stop getting taller. An individual tree's ultimate height apparently depends on both its species and its growing conditions.

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Every single story is a work of imperishable genius! I’m not biased at all

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Every single story is a work of imperishable genius! I’m not biased at all

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Any story with Holmes in is better than one without him for me but of course I have to admit that some are weaker than others (although I hate to say it☹️)

 

I’d add The Norwood Builder to a list of favourites. I like the way that Holmes is on the brink of defeat, Watson steps in to encourage him, then he sees the bloody fingerprint which unlocks the case. A fingerprint of course that Lestrade thinks is the final nail in MacFarlane’s coffin.

 

I haven’t read the whole thread but The Greek Interpreter is always worth a mention for introducing Mycroft.

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Any story with Holmes in is better than one without him for me but of course I have to admit that some are weaker than others (although I hate to say it☹️)

 

I’d add The Norwood Builder to a list of favourites. I like the way that Holmes is on the brink of defeat, Watson steps in to encourage him, then he sees the bloody fingerprint which unlocks the case. A fingerprint of course that Lestrade thinks is the final nail in MacFarlane’s coffin.

 

I haven’t read the whole thread but The Greek Interpreter is always worth a mention for introducing Mycroft.

 

Agreed.  'The Greek Interpreter' rates high here, too. 

 

Even though I denigrated the plotting of "The Lion's Mane" earlier, I like aspects of it quite a bit.  Sir Arthur had to lapse a bit into Idiot Plot to stretch the story out.  The final solution turns out to be one of the simpler ones of Holmes's caseload; in the interests of filling out copy, Sherlock has to act stumped and confounded for longer than is flattering.  Dr. Watson didn't rate him particularly high on marine biology but as a resident of the area and an avid swimmer, surely Sherlock would be aware of any poisonous fauna of the region?  I have not researched the 'lion's mane' to know if such a creature 1. exists or 2. is indigenous to that particularly chilly stretch of water along the English coast.  For all I know, the lion's mane is as genuine as the milk-drinking, anaerobic swamp adder.  As in 'Silver Blaze', it's hard to get horribly upset at this particular perpetrator who is just acting according to his (?) nature.

 

I enjoy having Sherlock tell his own story.  It's a much more relaxed and sociable Holmes which we find in retirement on the Downs.  Retirement seems to agree with him--and then he starts turning rhapsodic about local belle Maud Bellamy I start wondering if some early-onset dementia is bringing about a personality change (lol).

 

Of the two Holmes-narrated stories, I have to give the edge to "The Blanched Soldier" for superiority.

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The Lion’s Mane did exist and it’s common in the English Channel. I’d love to pretend to be clever but I just googled it

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The Lion’s Mane did exist and it’s common in the English Channel. I’d love to pretend to be clever but I just googled it

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I suppose that we could put Holmes belated solution down to it being unlikely that he would have spent much time nature watching. Far too busy with his bees and his magnum opus.

 

I have James Lovegrove’s God’s Of War but it’s been a long time since I read it. I also have The Thinking Engine. He’s also written a book called Sherlock Holmes And The Shadwrll Shadows which mixes Doyle and HP Lovecraft. I don’t have this one but it sounds interesting. It’s listed as one of the Cthulhu Casebook which seems to suggest that he may be considering writing more.

 

I quite like McKellen as an older Holmes but I agree with you about the nose!

 

I didn’t notice Nicholas Rowe at the time I must admit. A friend told me about it just after I’d told him about Douglas Wilmer’s cameo in Sherlock. I’ve just googled a picture of Alan Cox. Quite a change.

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I suppose that we could put Holmes belated solution down to it being unlikely that he would have spent much time nature watching. Far too busy with his bees and his magnum opus.

 

I have James Lovegrove’s God’s Of War but it’s been a long time since I read it. I also have The Thinking Engine. He’s also written a book called Sherlock Holmes And The Shadwrll Shadows which mixes Doyle and HP Lovecraft. I don’t have this one but it sounds interesting. It’s listed as one of the Cthulhu Casebook which seems to suggest that he may be considering writing more.

 

I quite like McKellen as an older Holmes but I agree with you about the nose!

 

I didn’t notice Nicholas Rowe at the time I must admit. A friend told me about it just after I’d told him about Douglas Wilmer’s cameo in Sherlock. I’ve just googled a picture of Alan Cox. Quite a change.

 

As I said to David Marcum, it was such a pity that the proposed YSH franchise never took off as planned.  It was a Christmas release in 1985, but apparently it did not catch fire at the box office sufficiently to justify the cost of making more.  Our young Sherlock was a very self-assured presence despite it being his first big role, and maybe his first role, period.  He was, I believe, 19 years old at the time, with his Watson a few years younger.  So you can thank YSH for my misapprehension for many years that our Dr. Watson was younger than his singular friend.

 

I saw YSH a few months after its theatrical run, on VHS in my college lounge.  It was my roommate's pick.  I submitted to watching it, whilst complaining internally that this was symptomatic of her immaturity--here we were, 20-year-old college sophomores, having scored the lounge TV for the night, and she wanted me to watch . . .a kiddie Sherlock Holmes movie!  I was not the Sherlockian then that I am now, but even then I was dubious about the premise, as it seemed well beneath Sherlock Holmes's dignity.  As far as I was concerned, SH had never been a child at all but had sprung full-blown into his adult powers as from the head of Zeus.  It would be many a year before I encountered "Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street".

 

It was cute, better than expected, and I liked it.  I was glad I stayed, even if I was technically too old for the target audience by 8 or 10 years.  David M. is our age; his birthday is a month before mine . . but by the age of 20, he'd already been a dedicated Sherlockian for a decade, and he and his deerstalker went to the cinema for this movie.  He's got a lengthy post about his analysis of the film on his blog, called 'That's Not Watson!'  Despite liking the movie a lot, and presumably finding the Sherlock more than acceptable, David had to do something in his own mind to repair the rift in the time-space continuum created by this suggestion that Holmes and Watson met at school in the early 1870s, when according to the Holy Scriptures, the pair did not meet up until 10 years later in St. Barts lab. Me, I guess I'm ecumenical enough to be able to say, "Well . . of course it didn't happen *this* way in Conan Doyle; this is just a charming alternate scenario.  *If they had* met up as adolescents, it might have gone something like this."  But for David, it's not so easy, because he has designated, as his life's work, the task of weaving all the Holmes material ever created, by Sir Arthur and Others, into the gigantic and limitless mural he calls 'the Great Holmes Tapestry'.  This thread mars the tapestry if taken at face value, because for David, all the apocryphal material still has to jive with Conan Doyle's original . . just fill in gaps, not rewrite Holmes's history insofar as we had it set down by Sir Arthur, and his accepted locum, Mr. William S. Baring-Gould.

 

(Yes, this could be interpreted as a form of monomania, but these hardcore Sherlockians are all just a bit off-kilter, innit bruv?)

 

David's solution to the problem of this schoolboy meeting between our pair is to say that the lad called 'Watson' in the film, essayed by Alan Cox, was in fact Holmes's younger cousin, named 'Verner'.  'Verner' has his sights on becoming a doctor as well, and in fact, many years later, a 'Dr. Verner' would buy Watson's Kensington medical practice.  So in DM's mind at least, the integrity of ACD's timeline is preserved.  For me that is a strenuous trip 'round the houses, but in this way, he was able to enjoy "Young Sherlock Holmes".  One wonders how many sleepless nights in the dormitory were spent pacing until he hit upon this theory.  :)

 

I revisited YSH for the first time in 30 years earlier this year, before my elderly TV gave up the ghost.  Of course, what is immediately apparent to a viewer in the post-Harry Potterverse is how very much this film plays like a precursor to Harry.  The dark-haired, Chosen One of a schoolboy protagonist, with two best friends (one of them a girl), all living in an eccentric, magical, Hogwartsy pile of a school, stuffed with Mean Boys and inter-clique rivalries and some extremely eccentric faculty members.  All set to a score by John Williams, and it sounds very like a first draft for "Harry Potter".  "Hook" 6 years later would be Draft II.  There's a strong magical/mystical/witchcraft element as well, with rudimentary special F/X, which were decent for the time but ended up being the weakest part of the whole.  A tender adolescent romance seems very out of character for SH, but this 'origin story' endeavors to show how all the more tender, impulsive teenage parts of Sherlock were systematically winnowed out of him by bitter experiences in his youth.  Hence by the end of the movie, he is well on his way to becoming the superficially cold, calculating ratiocination Machine Dr. Watson meets 10 years hence. 

 

Dr. Rache, Holmes's fencing instructor will appear again in years to come, under another name--his real name, of course.  If 'Moriarty' is in fact, his real name.  Baring-Gould proposes that James Moriarty was in fact the young Holmes's mathematics tutor at home prior to SH coming to up to university, so that was a nice touch.  A prior acquaintance between the two would explain why Holmes is so single-mindedly aware of the activities of his adversary for years before he ever brings the man's name up to Watson. 

 

In our proto-Harry Potter, the character who is in the 'Ron' role but who looks more like Harry is Watson/Verner.  When Alan was 16, 17, whatever he was here, wasn't he just a chip off the old block, though (bruv)?  I didn't know who his father was in 1985, but now that I do know, I can't unsee it.  I wouldn't say the family resemblance is so strong any more.  Alan is so thin now--wonder if he's a vegetarian?

 

That was way more than your comment warranted, but I warmed up to my theme.  I feel bad for Nic Rowe that he never became as famous as Daniel Radcliffe, because he deserved to.  He was a better actor, even in his first time at bat.  I'd be pilloried in certain circles for saying this, but the actual talent of our two more famous Gryffindors is up for debate, then and now.  Rupert Grint, the unsung third of the triad, gave a stunningly mature performance in 2012's "Into the White".  The other two are undertalented for the amount of their exposure (and in DR's case, that exposure was *total*), in my humble opinion bound to enrage Pottermaniacs everywhere.  But they are gigantic movie stars, while Nic Rowe has to content himself with a bit part.  And not just any bit part, but *that* one.  That had to have stung a bit, with the 'What Might Have Been . .?'

 

David is not a Potter movie fan as such; he loves the books, and has been stalking J.K. Rowling for several years, trying to persuade her to write a story or an introduction for his collection.  He's been rebuffed three times so far.  This quixotic quest puzzles me a bit because, though Joanne's latest effort was, apparently, a mystery . .and despite the fact that the hails from Edinburgh, I do not get any particular 'Sherlock connection' vibe from her or her stuff.  She mucks about with fairies and witches and ghosts, for heaven's sake.  Sherlock would consider her a flim-flam artist, with her trick of weaving huge piles of mediocre prose into huge piles of money.  I'm a children's librarian, and thus Harry Potter is something of a vocational requirement.  I am conversant with the characters and many of the plot details, mostly from the films.  I made the most concerted effort to do so, but I could not force myself to get through more than half of the second book.  To me, J.K. is commercial rather than artistic.  I commend her on her imagination where creating the characters and setting were concerned, but I've never been able to find her prose effortless and absorbing.  Kids love it, though, and she earns gold stars for singlehandedly making reading thick books cool.  Many otherwise reluctant readers got over their reluctance to get at the latest Harry Potter, and they continue to be popular with a new generation of kids.  So for that I thank her.  Though Ursula K. LeGuin devised a schoolboy wizard series long before Rowling, and she can write circles around her.  But what does Joanne care, she's laughing all the way to the bank. 

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Hi Hikari,

 

I don’t know if you are aware of this one? I haven’t seen it and ive been trying to track it down to add to the collection...with no success so far

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Hi Hikari,

 

I don’t know if you are aware of this one? I haven’t seen it and ive been trying to track it down to add to the collection...with no success so far

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I enjoyed Bill Condon's 'Mr. Holmes', though I thought Sir Ian was miscast, to be frank.  He's got the name and the reputation to open an arthouse film such as this and make it a success, so totally understand Condon's choice of leading man.  McKellen is very much the wrong physical package for Holmes and I found the prosthetic nose most distracting, but as a superannuated Holmes, he brought his bit to the part.

 

In what way do you find him the wrong physical type? Maybe I wasn't really paying attention, but I found him believably tall and slender, though perhaps not as gaunt as an elderly Holmes might have been.

 

As for Holmes's nose, if it was larger than McKellen's own (I wasnt paying attention again, apparently), I find it easy enough to chalk that up to the aging process. One's nose and ears continue to grow, so that a 93-year-old Holmes would naturally be expected to have a somewhat larger nose than a 75-year-old actor.

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I enjoyed Bill Condon's 'Mr. Holmes', though I thought Sir Ian was miscast, to be frank.  He's got the name and the reputation to open an arthouse film such as this and make it a success, so totally understand Condon's choice of leading man.  McKellen is very much the wrong physical package for Holmes and I found the prosthetic nose most distracting, but as a superannuated Holmes, he brought his bit to the part.

In what way do you find him the wrong physical type? Maybe I wasn't really paying attention, but I found him believably tall and slender, though perhaps not as gaunt as an elderly Holmes might have been.

 

As for Holmes's nose, if it was larger than McKellen's own (I wasnt paying attention again, apparently), I find it easy enough to chalk that up to the aging process. One's nose and ears continue to grow, so that a 93-year-old Holmes would naturally be expected to have a somewhat larger nose than a 75-year-old actor.

 

 

He was slender enough.  Sir Ian is 5'7" though, and seemed a bit overshadowed by his Nose to me.  He may have seemed taller since so many of his scenes were with a 9-year-old boy.

 

Just a matter of taste, I suppose.  Sir Ian is a fine actor, don't misunderstand me.  He's a great Magneto.  To me he lacked the presence of a Holmes.  SH in my mind palace possessed more charisma and vigor to the end of his very long life.  (Which Mr. Baring Gould puts at 103.)

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Really -- 5'7"?  Of course I can't prove otherwise, but I am curious to know where that figure came from.

 

I've typically seen McKellen described (e.g., in IMDb) as 5'11", which seems plausible to me, after seeing him in scenes with various other actors.  This site* pegs him at half an inch taller than that a while back, but half an inch shorter recently (due to age).  After a fairly cursory search, I'm not seeing 5'7" (or any less than 5'10") anywhere.

 

 

 

* which lists Martin Freeman at a little over 5'6"

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Really -- 5'7"?  Of course I can't prove otherwise, but I am curious to know where that figure came from.

 

I've typically seen McKellen described (e.g., in IMDb) as 5'11", which seems plausible to me, after seeing him in scenes with various other actors.  This site* pegs him at half an inch taller than that a while back, but half an inch shorter recently (due to age).  After a fairly cursory search, I'm not seeing 5'7" (or any less than 5'10") anywhere.

 

 

 

* which lists Martin Freeman at a little over 5'6"

 

I can't recall exactly at the moment the source for that stat.  But I'm predisposed to think that when there is a variance in reported stats, the shorter one is probably the more truthful.  (see "Gentleman's Agreement Re. Padding out of CV stats for actors'.)  Acting is a heightist industry after all, especially if one has aspirations to leading man status.  Many of the most well-regarded stage thespians in Britain tend to be quite short by Hollywood standards.  Of course on stage, height is less important than it is onscreen, just as it's possible for a stage actor or actress to get away with playing some decades younger than their actual age for quite a while.  The camera is just a lot more brutal and that kind of trickery is hard to pull off, what with close ups and tightly framed dialogue shots and all.

 

My own father was a shade off of 6'0 at 5'11 1/2 . . . I really doubt that Sir Ian is tall enough to have looked him square in the eye.  For years I'd read that Robert Redford was claiming 5'10" or even an inch taller, though anecdotal evidence by persons who have met him surprise some surprise that he's  5'9" or possibly less.  The late Paul Newman was 5'8" and it seemed that the Sundance Kid had a couple of inches on him, so Redford may well have been 5'10" in his prime.  I really have serious doubts though that Sir Ian is taller than Paul Newman was.  Just my gut speaking.  I think a trick often used to make a leading actor appear as tall as he claims to be is to surround him with shorter actors in supporting roles.  If Sir Ian is acting opposite Judi Dench, he is going to appear to be quite tall next to her.  But she's all of 5'11".  Watching her side-by-side with rangy Bill Nighy in 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is a droll experience.

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Really -- 5'7"? Of course I can't prove otherwise, but I am curious to know where that figure came from.

 

I've typically seen McKellen described (e.g., in IMDb) as 5'11", which seems plausible to me, after seeing him in scenes with various other actors. This site* pegs him at half an inch taller than that a while back, but half an inch shorter recently (due to age). After a fairly cursory search, I'm not seeing 5'7" (or any less than 5'10") anywhere.

 

I can't recall exactly at the moment the source for that stat. But I'm predisposed to think that when there is a variance in reported stats, the shorter one is probably the more truthful. (see "Gentleman's Agreement Re. Padding out of CV stats for actors'.) Acting is a heightist industry after all, especially if one has aspirations to leading man status. Many of the most well-regarded stage thespians in Britain tend to be quite short by Hollywood standards. Of course on stage, height is less important than it is onscreen, just as it's possible for a stage actor or actress to get away with playing some decades younger than their actual age for quite a while. The camera is just a lot more brutal and that kind of trickery is hard to pull off, what with close ups and tightly framed dialogue shots and all.

 

My own father was a shade off of 6'0 at 5'11 1/2 . . . I really doubt that Sir Ian is tall enough to have looked him square in the eye. For years I'd read that Robert Redford was claiming 5'10" or even an inch taller, though anecdotal evidence by persons who have met him surprise some surprise that he's 5'9" or possibly less. The late Paul Newman was 5'8" and it seemed that the Sundance Kid had a couple of inches on him, so Redford may well have been 5'10" in his prime. I really have serious doubts though that Sir Ian is taller than Paul Newman was. Just my gut speaking. I think a trick often used to make a leading actor appear as tall as he claims to be is to surround him with shorter actors in supporting roles. If Sir Ian is acting opposite Judi Dench, he is going to appear to be quite tall next to her. But she's all of 5'11". Watching her side-by-side with rangy Bill Nighy in 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is a droll experience.

I think your keyboard bounced while you were typing Dame Judi's height! ;)

 

While I agree that age is less important for stage actors than for screen actors, I think a good case could be made for the opposite being true for height. In screen close-ups, nobody can see the orange crate that the leading man is standing on!

 

Whenever you find the source of that 5'7" quote, I'd love to see it.

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I’ve just checked on a site called www.celebheights and it lists Sir Ian McKellen as 5ft 10 and a half inches (how do you type a fraction?) but lists his peak height as 5ft 11 and a quarter inches.

 

I checked out a few Holmes actors and was surprised that Peter Cushing was 5ft 11 and a half! I thought that he was shorter than that, 5ft 8 or 9 say.

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As Hikari says, there's no way to be certain what height anyone is without measuring them yourself.  But judging by behind-the-scenes photos, I think we can safely say that Sir Ian is well taller than either Peter Jackson or Martin Freeman, both of whom seem to be roughly five and a half feet tall.  So that puts him closer to six feet.  He himself says that he tends to slouch (and I think he's right about that), which would shave off a few inches at times without actually making him shorter.

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As Hikari says, there's no way to be certain what height anyone is without measuring them yourself. But judging by behind-the-scenes photos, I think we can safely say that Sir Ian is well taller than either Peter Jackson or Martin Freeman, both of whom seem to be roughly five and a half feet tall. So that puts him closer to six feet. He himself says that he tends to slouch (and I think he's right about that), which would shave off a few inches at times without actually making him shorter.

It can be difficult to judge height unless the person is excessively tall or excessively short. The reason that I checked Peter Cushing is because I’ve always thought that he made an excellent Holmes and if I had to nit-pick i would have said that he was possibly a little too short. I’ve that site is correct though his height was fine. Perhaps it was because he was quite slightly built it gave the impression that he was smaller than he actually was. Plus most people would appear short standing next to Christopher Lee.

 

I also thought that Edward Woodward, for example, was shorter than he actually was. He was far too stocky to be a realistic Holmes though. Likewise Reginald Owen.

 

I shouldn’t be too critical when mentioning stockyness though as, later on in his portrayal, Jeremy Brett was actually too heavy to be Holmes. I make an exception for him though

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I’ve just checked on a site called www.celebheights and it lists Sir Ian McKellen as 5ft 10 and a half inches (how do you type a fraction?) but lists his peak height as 5ft 11 and a quarter inches.

I type fractions like so: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, etc. So I'd probably write his height thusly: 5'10 1/2", or 5 ft. 10 1/2 in.

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I've also seen people put a hyphen between the whole number and the fraction, like 10-1/2, just so it's clear where the space is.
 
If you want to get really fancy, you could use superscripts and subscripts in the fractions, like 10 1/2.  You can either use the the toolbar functions (highlight the top number and click the x2 button, then highlight the bottom number and click the x2 button), or you can type in the BBCode yourself:

10 [sup]1[/sup]/[sub]2[/sub]
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I’ve just checked on a site called www.celebheights and it lists Sir Ian McKellen as 5ft 10 and a half inches (how do you type a fraction?) but lists his peak height as 5ft 11 and a quarter inches.

I type fractions like so: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, etc. So I'd probably write his height thusly: 5'10 1/2", or 5 ft. 10 1/2 in.

Of course! Thanks Artemis, I was focusing on seeing the fraction as one number over another. Perhaps I qualify for dumbest question of 2017?

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Herlock, we cross-posted.  If you'd like to do one number more or less over another, see my post just before yours.

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Herlock, we cross-posted. If you'd like to do one number more or less over another, see my post just before yours.

Thanks for that Carol, I’ll give it a go but I have an iPad so I’m unsure if it works the same. I was ‘persuaded’ to get an iPad when I’ve always been used to a PC (I’m even unused to the terminology!) I like it but I don’t know how to use it properly yet (come on, I’ve only had it a year

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I would guess that you'd at least be able to type in the BBCode.  I do that sort of thing all the time on my phone.

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