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Trivia / The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

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  • Big Name Fan: Mark Gatiss considers the film a masterpiece and cited it as a big influence on Sherlock.
  • Creator Backlash: Billy Wilder said of this film in the book Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe,
    "... when I came back [from Paris], it was an absolute disaster, the way it was cut. The whole prologue was cut, a half-sequence was cut. I had tears in my eyes as I looked at the thing...It was the most elegant picture I've ever shot."
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  • Deleted Role: Stills and soundtrack show John Williams in a substantial role as a bank official and Edward Fox as Inspector Lestrade. All their scenes were ultimately cut.
  • Deleted Scene:
    • A modern-day prologue in which Dr. Watson's grandson, also Dr. Watson (a Canadian veterinarian), also played by Colin Blakely, visits a London bank to claim his grandfather's belongings. The head of the bank, Havelock-Smith, (John Williams) brings Dr. Watson his grandfather's strongbox, which contains items of Holmes and Watson's, along with a number of unpublished stories. (This scene is entirely lost, only production stills and the script survive)
    • The prologue then transitioned into the 1887 portion of the film. We meet Holmes and Watson as they journey back to London by train, having just solved a case in Yorkshire. A disheveled man rushes into their compartment, and promptly falls asleep. Based on numerous clues, Homes deduces that the man is an Italian music teacher who was having an affair with the wife of a nobleman, got caught, jumped out the window, and ran onto the train. This scene transitioned into their arrival at 221B Baker Street, as seen in the finished film. (Only the audio for this scene survives, along with production stills)
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    • "The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room" - Inspector Lestrade visits Holmes and Watson and asks for help solving the seemingly impossible case of a corpse found in a room that was discovered entirely upside-down, with furniture on the ceiling. The three of them visit the scene of the crime, where Holmes inspects the clues. Back at home, Holmes deduces that Watson staged the whole thing in an attempt to pique Holmes' interest, drag his friend out of a deep depression and wean him away from cocaine.[5] Watson is furious that his ruse has been discovered and that his friend intends to continue using drugs. He threatens to move out, but Holmes destroys his vials of cocaine. Watson agrees to stay, and we realize that the vials Holmes destroyed were empty, he has hidden the full vials in his violin case. (Only the audio for this sequence survives, along with production stills)
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    • "The Adventure of the Dumbfounded Detective" - During the scene in the film where Holmes is traveling by train to Scotland with Gabrielle, there was originally a segue into a flashback, where he told her about his student days at Oxford. Holmes had fallen in love with a beautiful girl from afar. After Holmes's crew team won a race against Cambridge, to celebrate, they pooled their money and held a lottery, with the winner getting time with a prostitute (Jenny Hanley). Holmes won, but was nervous, because he did not want to sully his love for the girl he had seen. Then the prostitute turned around, and he realized that she was that same girl. Holmes tells Gabrielle that this episode taught him emotional involvement was not worth the risk for someone in his position. (This scene is entirely lost, only production stills and the script survive)
    • "The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners" - As Holmes and Watson travel back to England on an ocean liner, having solved a case for the Sultan in Constantinople, Holmes complains that anyone could have solved the case, even Watson. When a murder is discovered onboard, Holmes tells Watson to attempt to solve the case himself. Holmes watches, without saying anything, as Watson proceeds to go to the wrong cabin, where he finds a honeymooning couple passed out drunk, naked, in bed. Mistaking them for the murder victims, Watson begins to deduce an elaborate solution based on the "evidence" he sees around him, while Holmes listens, amused. When the lovers wake up, Holmes tells Watson he has gone to the wrong cabin, and Watson decides not to try to solve a case again. (Only the film footage for this sequence survives, the audio is lost)
    • An epilogue scene, immediately after Holmes retreats into his room to use cocaine on learning of the death of Gabrielle/Ilse, in which Inspector Lestrade arrives at 221B Baker Street and asks Watson for Holmes's help in solving the ongoing Jack the Ripper murders. Watson regretfully says that Holmes is busy and must decline. Lestrade assures Watson that Scotland Yard can solve the case without Holmes. (Only the audio for this scene survives)
    • Another deleted scene involved Rogozhin arriving at 221B Baker Street to give Holmes the Stradivarius promised to him by Madame Petrova. Still believing Holmes's story that he and Watson are both gay, Rogozhin offers roses to Watson. Editor Ernest Walter unsuccessfully argued for this to be the final scene of the film, as a nod to the finale of Some Like It Hot, but Billy Wilder refused, preferring to end the film on a more mournful note. (This scene does not survive)
  • Executive Meddling: The film was severely cut down by the studio.
  • Missing Episode: The film was envisioned as a collection of several short stories, with two more segments filmed but ultimately left out of the film to keep the running time down. One of them is included in some home video releases.
  • Playing Against Type: Christopher Lee playing a good guy for once as the duplicitous Mycroft Holmes.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Billy Wilder was an avid Sherlock Holmes fan.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The original idea had four stories involved, two of which (one in which Watson solves a mystery on a cruise and one in which Holmes solves a murder in an upside-down room) were edited out. The latter featured Inspector Lestrade.
    • Billy Wilder originally planned on casting Peter O'Toole as Holmes and Peter Sellers as Watson.
    • George Sanders was supposed to play Mycroft, but dropped out at the last minute and was replaced by Christopher Lee. Laurence Olivier was also considered.
    • Rex Harrison wanted to play Sherlock Holmes, but Wilder turned him down. Charlton Heston was also considered for Holmes, but Wilder would hear none of it. (Chuck did play Holmes in the stage play and the 1991 film version of The Crucible of Blood). Richard Attenborough was considered for Watson.
    • When Wilder was having trouble casting Holmes, Jack Lemmon expressed interest.
  • Word of Dante: The movie takes Holmes' older, smarter brother Mycroft and suggests that he was the head of the Secret Service, and that his frequent haunt, the Diogenes Club, was a front. In canon, neither are other than what they appear to be (a Brilliant, but Lazy civil servant and a club of reclusive eccentrics specifically), but this interpretation has become a popular one.
  • Word of Gay: Billy Wilder originally intended to portray Holmes explicitly as a repressed homosexual, stating, "I should have been more daring. I have this theory. I wanted to have Holmes homosexual and not admitting it to anyone, including maybe even himself. The burden of keeping it secret was the reason he took dope." Holmes' personal interests and particularly his feelings for Watson remain ambiguous in the film, including but not limited to Holmes' admission that he is "not a whole-hearted admirer of womankind", the enjoyment he derives from implying to outsiders that he and Watson are lovers, and his statement that Watson is "being presumptuous" by assuming there have been women in his life, among others. Mark Gatiss called this "the film that changed his life" for this reason:
    It's a fantastically melancholy film. The relationship between Sherlock and Watson is treated beautifully; Sherlock effectively falls in love with him in the film, but it's so desperately unspoken.


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