Which Actor Portrayed Sherlock Holmes The Most Times In Films? The Answer May Surprise You!

He has that rare quality, which can only be described as glamour, which compels you to watch an actor eagerly even when he is doing nothing. He has the brooding eye which excites expectation and he has also a quite unrivaled power of disguise. My only criticism of the films is that they introduce telephones, motorcars and other luxuries of which the Victorian Holmes never dreamed.

Those were the words used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself to describe the actor whose name is the answer to the question in the headline above.

sh_ellie-norwood_ACDFrom 1921 to 1923, Stoll films actually produced a total of 45 silent short (approximately 30 minute) films and two feature-length films starring Eille Norwood as the famous detective. These silents were actually produced as three series of 15 films each year (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Further Adventures…, and The Final Adventures…), and the two features (The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Sign of Four) were released in 1921 and 1923, respectively.

The films proved to be incredibly popular not only with movie goers, but also with critics, especially since they (with perhaps the unfortunate exception of The Hound) tended to stay very close to the source material. Again, though, even Doyle enjoyed the Baskerville adaptation, stating that

On seeing him [Eille Norwood] in The Hound of the Baskervilles I thought I had never seen anything more masterly.

Unfortunately, it appears that only four of these short films are still extant today, and they only seem to have been released as part of a couple of low quality public-domain-Holmes devoted discs, meaning that they haven’t been given anything like the kind of loving restoration they deserve. Nonetheless, I’m embedding three of them below in order to give you at least a taste of one of the few adaptations of the canon that even the character’s creator lavished such praise upon:

The Dying Detective

The Devil’s Foot

The Man With the Twisted Lip

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2 comments on “Which Actor Portrayed Sherlock Holmes The Most Times In Films? The Answer May Surprise You!

  1. A nice little bit of film history that I wasn’t aware of. Nice to know. For me it’s always Rathbone. Cushing and Plummer both were great as well. I need to check out the Jeremy Brett stuff someday.

    • Michael Laws says:

      Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Yeah, like I said in the article, this was a series of films that I was unaware of until recently, but was thrilled to find. Just wish that more of them were still available. I’d especially have liked to be able to see their take on Baskerville. And while I definitely second the Rathbone love, I definitely suggest checking out Brett’s take. I’ve always been a bit sad that he got too ill to finish the canon, as it would be great to have a full set of the stories with one actor in the lead.

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