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Essanay's Sherlock Holmes to receive Chicago re-premiere

Written by
Michael Smith

Last October, silent film fans were stunned to learn that a complete print of Essanay Studios’ long-lost Sherlock Holmes, made in Chicago in 1916, was discovered in a vault in France. The film had been notable for the lead performance of acclaimed stage actor William Gillette who had originated the iconic look of Holmes sporting a deerstalker cap and calabash pipe. Sherlock Holmes has now been meticulously restored and, thanks to the Atlas Obscura Society, will receive a Chicago “re-premiere” on June 19 at St. Augustine College, the former home of Essanay where the film was shot 100 years ago. Specially modified projectors will be brought in to show the film at the correct speed of 16 frames-per-second.

Having seen a screener of this restoration, I can tell you it is everything one hopes it would be—an enormously entertaining mystery laced with action, humor and romance, which I would compare to the great mystery serials of Louis Feuillade. As for Gillette as Holmes, his performance deserves to be called “definitive.” In addition to the sly and welcome humor he brings to the part, one can also sense the proverbial "gears turning" behind his eyes as he applies Holmes' famous "deductive reasoning," and yet the actor's expressions are always subtle and naturalistic (perhaps surprising given Gillette's theatrical training and the period in which the film was made).

Tickets for the event, which includes a screening of the film on 35mm, cocktails and original music, can be purchased here.

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