Bittersweet Holmes

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is the main subject of a new article by myself up at Electric Sheep Magazine. PLOSH, as it cries out to be called, is my favourite late Wilder and one of my favourite films altogether.

A word about movie acronyms — Powell & Pressburger had two of the best, with IKWIG (I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING!) and AMOLAD (A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH), and there’s something nice about the way NIGHT OF THE HUNTER becomes NOTH.

Later abbreviations like CE3K (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) and T2 (TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY) tend to seem too much like marketing devices to me, but I like OHMSS (ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) because it sounds like a unit of electricity or something. THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, which really cries out for shortening, becomes the more organic-sounding TULOB, but nobody ever uses that one. Similarly, I wish O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? was called OBWAT, and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY ought to be called BOTFOJ just because it sounds so delightfully filthy. Like a horrible ailment Tom Cruise picked up from sitting in his wheelchair too long.

But PLOSH and BOMP (BUREAU OF MISSING PERSONS) are the most amusingly onomatopoeic acronyms I know.

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16 Responses to “Bittersweet Holmes”

  1. Back to the Future tends to be shortened, but also looks rather like a vulgar internet abbreviation: BTTF.

  2. I quite like the Anglicised Godard, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, which yields the vaguely fnar-fnar TOTTIKAH, while Good Night, and Good Luck suddenly becomes a creature from the dark – the dreaded GNAGL. And, of course, Manhattan Murder Mystery has a tasty acronym.

    Terrific piece on the Wilder: I’m more or less a sucker for anything Holmes, and this is one of my favourite renderings of the mythology.

  3. It’s a lovely film, with a very moving ending. But even had Wilder been able to release his ideal “roadshow” version it wouldn’t have been a popular success. Wilder and the studio were apparently counting on Sherlock Holmes to be the star — no matter who played him. This isn’t the way it works.

    Needless to say had Sellers agreed to do the film it would have become a Peter Sellers movie — overflowing with his peculari comic quirks. Quite Impossible for Sellers to play serious romance — at least at that stage of his career.

    New Sherlock Holmes by the former Mr. Madonna is trul egregious. It has nothing to do with anything Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and is little more than “The Robert Downey Jr. Show, with his special guest Jude Law.” I like both Downey and Law, but not in this travesty.

  4. I like movies whose acronyms write the film’s review, whether accurate or not. Like “In the Realm of the Senses” = It rots.

    Or one whose acronym describes its fans, like “Ghost in the Shell”.

  5. Brandon, does this mean Triumph of the Spirit is for TOTS?

    Peter O’Toole, who Wilder envisaged as Watson, would have been an exquisite Holmes, giving the film star power and also the quality of a romantic leading man who is nevertheless aloof from all that. Add Albert Finney as Watson and it could’ve been a different story.

    Of course Stephens and Blakeley embody the parts wonderfully.

    The new BBC update of Sherlock is pretty enjoyable! Full of flaws, none of which seem to matter too much: Benedict Cumberbatch is a super Holmes, exaggerating the character’s quirks into a near-pathology.

  6. Arthur S. Says:

    Well for me the lack of recognizable stars adds greater depth to the film and Robert Stephens as Holmes is incredibly enigmatic, capturing the true void at the center of his character. And I am delighted that Peter Sellers didn’t get cast in the role because as fine an actor as he is, he wouldn’t have been a right fit for it.

    One thing that makes this film so unusual is it’s rich sense of history and society and also how it gives an example of Holmes essentially failing to solve a case. It’s really bold and striking how it’s done. The main reason why this film would have failed is that it is firmly a film for adults. The cutting is really sad but it doesn’t stop it from joining ACE IN THE HOLE as Wilder’s best film.

  7. Have you seen the deleted scenes (one without sound, the other without picture)? Really interesting. They would restore the structural balance if they were intact and could be added, but the film is still terrific as it stands, I agree. The cut scene that might have been problematic is the flashback to Holmes at Oxford: Stephens as a 20-year-old would be grotesquely implausible.

  8. intro

    Witty intro to PLOSH. Dusting off an old chestnut, as it were.
    Can see here that the co-writer was IAL Diamond. They did take a break from they’re collaborations for a while…

  9. Sorry, I was confusing Diamond and Brackett

  10. Yes, Diamond came in on Some Like it Hot and stayed to the end.

    Titles by Maurice Binder, of James Bond fame.

  11. Christopher Says:

    If I had to pick 3 Billy Wilder films to show,”Private Life” would be among ‘em.

  12. david wingrove Says:

    Has anybody mentioned Miklos Rozsa’s score for this film? One of the most beautiful he ever wrote.

  13. Absolutely. It began life as a violin concerto, and Wilder had it playing as he worked on the script.

  14. Private Life of Sherlock Homes I just can’t get into. It’s just neither careful nor careless enough an interpretation for me. I watched the first episode of the new TV Holmes and – fun as it was – couldn’t help thinking it would have been hugely improved by having Holmes actually solve a crime. I heard he didn’t solve the crime in the second episode either.

  15. Aldo Lado’s SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS will always be SNOGD.

  16. Aldo Lado is also good because his first name is an anagram of his second name.

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