Sherlock Holmes is a 1916 American silent film starring William Gillette as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The film, which was directed by Arthur Berthelet, was produced by Essanay Studios in Chicago. It was adapted from the 1899 stage play of the same name, which was based on the stories, "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Final Problem," and "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle.
All surviving prints of the 1916 film Sherlock Holmes were once thought to be lost. However, on October 1, 2014, it was announced that a copy had been discovered in a film archive in France.
A prince, the heir apparent to a large empire, was once the lover of Alice Faulkner's sister. During their love affair, he had written some incriminating letters to her. Alice was given these letters for safe keeping on the deathbed of her sister. Count von Stalburg, the prince's assistant, and Sir Edward Palmer, a high British official, have been given the task of negotiating the restitution of the letters to the prince prior to his upcoming marriage.
However, Alice Faulkner is being held captive by the Larrabees, a husband and wife team of crooks who realize the value of the letters and are trying to get them from Alice in order to blackmail the prince. Failing to secure the letters for themselves, they decide to involve Professor Moriarty in the affair. The film unfolds as a battle of wits ensues between Moriarty and Holmes.
Dr. Watson is only marginally involved until the final third. Holmes receives more assistance from an associate named Forman and a young bellboy named Billy.
The film was released in the US as a seven-reel feature. In 1920, after World War I was over and US films were returning to Western European screens, it was released in France in an expanded nine reels format. This was so it could be shown as a four-part serial, a popular format at the time. The first episode had three reels while the other three had two reels each.
The film is based on the 1899 stage play Sherlock Holmes. Gillette had played the role of Holmes 1,300 times on stage before it was made into a "moving picture". It was he who was responsible for much of the costume still associated with the character, notably the deerstalker hat and the calabash pipe (a pipe Holmes never smoked in any of Conan Doyle's novellas). Sherlock Holmes is believed to be the only filmed record of his iconic portrayal. A young Charlie Chaplin played Billy during one of the play's runs in London in the late 1900s.
The 1916 print of Sherlock Holmes had long been considered a lost film. However, on October 1, 2014, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) and the Cinémathèque Française announced that a print of the film had been found in the Cinémathèque's collection in Paris. The restoration of the film was overseen by SFSFF board president Robert Byrne in collaboration with the Cinémathèque Française. The French premiere of the restored film took place in January 2015; the U.S. premiere followed in May 2015.
The print that was found is a nitrate negative of the nine-reel serial with French-language intertitles which were translated back into English by Daniel Gallagher in consultation with William Gillette's original manuscripts, which are preserved at the Chicago History Museum. The film had been mixed up with other Holmes-related media at the Cinémathèque and had been incorrectly labeled.