Book review - Sherlock Holmes On Screen (Updated Edition)

Some time ago I bought the book Starring Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies which itself was, effectively, the latest update to a book he had first written during the 1970s.

When I read about Alan Barnes’ book, my first inclination was not to bother. As far as I was concerned I already had an excellent book on Holmes on screen why did I need another?

I’m glad I caved into curiosity and bought it.

In my opinion there is a strong parallel between the books of Barnes and Davies and the Conan Doyle biographies of Russell Miller and Andrew Lycett. In the case of Lycett and Miller both authors were, on paper, covering exactly the same thing and both produced books with positive and negative aspects. I found that owning both ensured that all bases were covered. Each one compensated for the other’s deficiencies (such as they were).

The same can be said of the film books of Barnes and Davies. Both have their up and down-sides and both complement each other. I would advise that any Sherlockian film buff buys both rather than relying on one or the other. Davies’ book is not as current as Barnes’ but I personally find Davies’ more readable and less like the reference book that both undoubtedly are. Davies’ book also has the major advantage that he lists his entries chronologically rather than alphabetically which is the approach Barnes takes. In my opinion this is Barnes’ biggest mistake and this shows up most when you endeavour to look up a non-English adaptation. I have even found myself using Davies’ book as a means to locating an entry in that of Barnes’.

Barnes’ book presents the information in a uniform and accessible way but I also found it a little clinical (but perhaps that’s just me). It could be said that where Davies’ book is full of opinion Barnes’ tends to be more “just the facts ma’am”.

All-in-all, an excellent book but it should not be your sole resource. 4 orange pips.


  1. Have you seen or read the biography of William Gillette? I just purchased it myself. He was an American actor who wrote the play "Sherlock Holmes" in cooperation with Conan Doyle, (who became a close life-long friend) and played the role over 1300 times over a 30 year period in both the United States and in Europe. He was also the first actor to play Holmes on film, in a now (tragically) lost 1916 silent film based on the play. I'm from Connecticut, and have been to Gillette's home here many times since I was a small child. (The grounds are a state park, and the house is a tourist attraction.) I'm just about to start reading the biography, (by Henry Zecher) and I was curious as to whether you had read it, and if so, what you thought of it.

  2. Dipped in and out of it. The parts concerning the Holmes play are good although there are errors to be corrected. I told Henry about these and I believe he is making sure they are sorted for future editions. They were relatively minor. We all make small errors. I've done the same. I cover the Gillette/Doyle connection in my latest book but obviously I only concern myself with the play.