“My version of Mycroft is entirely extrapolated from Christopher Lee’s version [in ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ by Billy Wilder]…”

Mark Gatiss on the character of Mycroft Holmes in Timeshift - How to be Sherlock Holmes [x]


The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

This is the film Mark Gatiss says he and Stephen Moffat used as “a template” when they created the BBC adaptation.

“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. There’s an amazing scene where, to get out of a situation where a Russian ballerina wants Sherlock to father her child, he claims Watson and he are gay.”

Read the full script here

"Dr. Watson is the handsome one"

Martin Freeman admitted in the London Apple store interview that he was really surprised to see the scene in the final cut because he only did the whistling (and pointing?) to make Benedict Cumberbatch laugh.

And that’s why I’ve got this nebulous feeling that they acutally erased a line. The original script might have looked something like this:

TESSA: Which one of you is Sherlock Holmes?

SHERLOCK: Dr. Watson is the handsome one… so I’m Sherlock Homes.

This would have been a perfect reference to a line in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes:

GABRIELLE: Which of you is Mr. Holmes and which is Dr. Watson?

HOLMES: Dr. Watson is the handsome one.

Rethink this. In the Rizla game Sherlock is unable to deduce that he has written his own name at his forehead. And when Tessa asks “Which one of you is Sherlock Holmes?” Sherlock concludes “John (Dr. Watson) is the handsome one” (or “John is the pretty lady”…) “so I must be Sherlock Holmes”. He would have answered Tessas (and John’s!) question and finished the game at the same time.

That this is only a head canon makes me kind of sad.

I should have been more daring [with The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes] but, unfortunately, the son of Conan Doyle was there.

I wanted to make Holmes a homosexual. That’s why he is on dope.

Look, we have been freed now from the Breen Office or the Johnston Office or that stupid thing.

In many respects, it’s terrifying because now any idiot and any pornographer can do anything.

But for the ones who are a little bit discriminating, who do it delicately, a grand new thing has opened.

But that was after [I made] Private Life.

The saddest thing about the film is that it was a waste of a year and a half of my life.

When you get to be my age, you say, ‘Shit, if I just had the time back that I wasted on pictures that were failures.’

But I’m not ashamed of it. There are many pictures I wish I could scratch out, but this one I’m not ashamed of.

Billy Wilder, on his original intent for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Reference Notes:

  • Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have stated TPLoSH was used as their main inspiration and “template” for Sherlock, and Gatiss considers Wilder to be one of “the best screenwriters in the world”. [x]
  • On Holmes’ drug use in TPLoSH, Wilder has said: “I should have been more daring. I have this theory. I wanted Holmes homosexual and not admitting it to anyone, including maybe even himself. The burden of keeping it a secret was the reason he took dope.”  [x]
  • “The Breen Office” is in reference to Joseph Breen, one of the primary film censors who applied the Hays Code of “moral censorship guidelines” to Hollywood productions from the 1930s onwards: [x]
  • “The Johnston Office” is in reference to Eric Johnston, the president of the MPAA who took part in creating the Hollywood Blacklist, which denied employment based on alleged membership in or sympathy with the American Communist Party, involvement in progressive political causes, or refusal to assist in government investigations from the 1940s onwards. [x]

(Quote from ‘Brief Encounters: Lesbians and Gays in British Cinema 1930-1971’ [x])

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“Our favourite [influence] is the Billy Wilder film, The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes. It’s absolutely wonderful. It plays fast and loose with some of the most revered concepts but, in the end, it is an incredibly nuanced, moving piece of cinema.”

Mark Gatiss, 2010. [x]

As we all know, Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is considered to be Mark Gatiss’ and Steven Moffat’s template for their version of Sherlock Holmes, as well as their favorite adaptation. Gatiss considers Wilder and Diamond to be “among the best screenwriters in the world”.

What they don’t mention is that the commonly-available version of the film is, in fact, heavily edited, largely due to censorship laws and Wilder’s conflicts with the Doyle estate at the time of filming

The original screenplay was what Wilder consider a symphony with four movements, including multiple cases and an expansion on Holmes’ relationship with drugs, an extended prologue, as well as more personal conversations with Dr. Watson.

The final release only included two of those four movements.

Some of those deleted scenes are included in the special features of the TPLoSH DVD.

However, there is no way to fully grasp the arc of Wilder’s original, uncensored vision of the film without viewing the full screenplay.

Luckily for us, there’s an elderly Sherlockian out there with an impressive screenplay archive, a love of Wilder films, and a generous spirit. All credit to him for this find. 

I’ve included a free download link for the full roadshow version of the TPLoSH script below. I hope to see some good meta come out of it, and that it sparks some interesting fandom discussions. 



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