but to rip the characters out of their historical context and “re-use” them strikes me as… ah, I don’t know… how about, “artistically incestuous?”
[Dave Wilton replied:]
I disagree. There’s a long history of adapting characters and stories into other media and contexts in literature, stage, and film. (Not to mention rearranging, remixing, and covering musical compositions.) Should all James Bond films be set in the 1950s starring a character who is a sociopathic thug? Should Superman forever dwell in the 1930s? Recasting the context can be an extremely effective way to breathe new life into a character when a particular actor has defined the character in the “canonical” style (which for me and Holmes is Jeremy Brett, a far superior performance to Rathbone). Of course it has to be well done....
Good point. I noted that mine was a snarky comment, but I did think the thought as I imagined sitting at a blank paper, poised to write a screenplay. In my imagination, I rejected the idea of using the Sherlock Holmes character in favor of a new character, and thus the snarky comment was born. (I didn’t actually write much on that imaginary paper, by the way.)
Also, shortly thereafter, I was listening to Lenard Bernstein’s Norton series lecture #6, The Unanswered Question: The Poetry of Earth, where some of Stravinsky’s work is considered. Stravinsky quite freely conscripted aspects of the music of others, including traditional folk musics in much of his work. It is difficult to see the connection unless one is familiar with the other music and musical forms. This process of allusion enriches his work, and indeed the world of music and culture.
Case in point: The Hobbit has many allusions to Beowulf, and is much the richer for it.
Rathbone may have been unforgettable mainly due to the calabash pipe he used for it’s visual appeal. (I understand that the calabash pipe was traditionally used in theater because its distinct shape and large size allow it to be easily recognized from the far audience as a pipe.) In the written stories, Holmes smoked a cherry-wood pipe with a long stem, and sometimes a long stemmed clay-bowled pipe, possibly a churchwarden-style of pipe.
[Edit: It was most often mentioned to be a clay pipe, but also (less frequently) cherry-wood, and briar. See Dr. Techie’s post, immediately below]