A fine old hack who helped me learn how to bang out copy always said: “Never open a piece with a question.”
I asked, why not?
And he said: “Cuz it’s sh*t.”
So, because he used a naughty word I will ignore his warning and say what do Saint Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Cushing, Tom Baker, Michael Caine, Robert Downey Jr and Ian McKellen all have in common?
I’ll add one more name and the answer is a cinch: Basil Rathbone.
Yeah, you get the golden kewpie doll. They all played Sherlock Holmes and starting this Monday, the old movie channel TCM (that’s a channel dedicated to old movies and not a channel that’s getting long in the tooth), begins a Sherlock mini-festival.
It kicks off with the classic Hound of the Baskervilles(Monday, 15.00, TCM). Baz scarpers off to Devon – sorry, Devonshire – to find out if Sir Charles Baskerville will be hounded to death by a wild baying mutt of the moors. Don’t worry about the rest of the plot from this 1939 pot boiler. If you last five minutes, you are a Sherlock/Rathbone fan anyway and you’ll stay the course. I will.
To me, Rathbone is the authentic pipe-smoking detective of Baker Street. There is none better. This film began a 14 movie run until 1946, with the help of Nigel Green as Doctor Watson. The time shift was alarming. The early films were set in the Victorian era and by the next decade, it shifted to modern times – all fast autos and telephones – as the detective took on the menace of the Nazis for the war effort.
Holmes is great in Hound of the Baskerville, Green does his bumbling bit to perfection and there is also a small part for actor Richard Greene, later to stretch his Lincoln green tights in the 1950’s tv series Robin Hood.
Other movies that TCM happily offers up through the week include Sherlock Holmes in Washington, The Scarlet Claw and The Voice of Terror.
Rathbone, who won the Military Cross for bravery during the Great War, ended his career earning a crust in complete junk such as The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini and also Autopsy of a Ghost. God, it’s tough on the way down in movieville.
By the way, not to be outdone, the kids channel CBBC is stripping Scooby Doo films right across the week if you or your child is so inclined. Get ready for Aloha, Scooby Doo, Scooby Doo in Where’s My Mummy and Scooby Doo and the Legend of the Vampire.
Take your pick: a big cartoon dog slobbering around in spooky houses or Sherlock, pipe in hand, violin on the shoulder and taking hits of opium as he unravels another quandary.