To celebrate Sherlock Holmes's recent return to the big screen, it's time for John Barrymore to return to the INCspotlight with his Silent Era depiction of the most famous fictional detective in pop culture history.
Doyle introduced Holmes and his faithful chronicler, Dr. John Watson, to readers in the story A Study in Scarlet (1887), which (after many rejections) was published in the literary magazine Beeton's Christmas Annual. (Fun fact: Doyle was 27 when he wrote it, and it took him three weeks.) Publishing house Ward Lock & Co., which also published Beeton's, released A Study in Scarlet in book format the following year, and the book was illustrated by none other than Doyle's father. (Other editions had different illustrators.) A second Holmes novel, The Sign of the Four (aka The Sign of Four) followed in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890. However, these two stories were met with indifferent reception, and it wasn't until the short stories started appearing in the famed Strand Magazine in 1891 that Holmes earned his literary immortality. Doyle's original Holmes canon consists of four novels and 56 short stories, written over a period of 40 years.
We open with some exposition about Professor Moriarty (Gustav von Seyffertitz) and his empire of crime, which operates out of Limehouse and has permeated nearly every part of London. Even Cambridge University isn't safe, as its athletic fund has been robbed, and Prince Alexis of Harlstein (Reginald Denny) is prime suspect number one. John Watson (Roland Young) suggests Prince Alexis ask for help from a fellow student of theirs, Sherlock Holmes (John Barrymore), who has a gift of observation and deduction. We're then introduced to Holmes jotting down random thoughts in his notebook and having a chance encounter with the lovely Alice Faulkner (Carol Dempster), sister of Alexis's fiancée Rose (Peggy Bayfield). Holmes agrees to help out, and he naturally catches the real thief, Forman Wells (William Powell), an agent of Moriarty's. Intrigued, Holmes pays Mortiarty a visit, much to Mariarty's displeasure. Fascinated by the scope of the crime lord's organization and capacity for evil, Holmes decides to use his talents to fight crime and bring down Moriarty as...BATMAN! Um, I mean, a detective. As for the prince, while he's cleared of the crime, he's devastated by the news that his two elder brothers have died in a car crash, and he must return to Harlstein and break off his engagement with Rose.