Considering the perennial popularity of the character, I was rather surprised to find out that up until the recent CBS series Elementary, there has been only one American television series based on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Produced for syndication in 1954 the series, simply titled Sherlock Holmes, starred Ronald Howard as Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as Dr. Watson. The series was produced by Sheldon Reynolds and filmed in France by Guild Films.
A total of 39 episodes were produced. Most of them were original stories written specifically for the series, though a few were based, at least loosely, upon Conan-Doyle’s stories. Less irascible, but still with the unpredictable flair that is requisite in any portrayal of Holmes, Howard presents a relatively youthful and blithe portrayal of Holmes who retains a certain charm of character that is more relatable the infinitely obsessed and at times quite distancing modern interpretations. As Watson, Crawford, though clearly outmatched by Holmes’ keen powers of observation and deduction, is nowhere near the bumbling blitherer he was often relegated to in earlier Homes interpretations. As in the novels and short stories, this Watson is keen of intellect (and thus an appropriate companion for Holmes), who is simply outpaced by the detective.
All-in-all, this series is quite entertaining, and a worthwhile watch for any Holmes fan. Here’s the first episode, from October, 1954, “The Case of the Cunningham Heritage”. The first part of the episode, you’ll note, is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the first meeting of Watson and Holmes from A Study in Scarlet, though it does eventually veer from that plot into a completely original story.
The good news is that since this series has actually become part of the Public Domain, all of the episodes are pretty readily available for viewing, and have actually had a number of different DVD releases, as well as being pretty easy to locate on YouTube and are also available for download at the Internet Archives.