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Dr Watson - Why buffoon?

Throughout the course of Sherlock Holmes adaptations Watson has been depicted in a few different ways.

Some have gone along with the books and presented him as an intelligent man of action who, like most people, does not have the mental powers of his friend. Others have gone for the buffoon and, at least on one occasion, Watson has been the brains.

The most notable duffer has to be Nigel Bruce and I find his performance a source of joy even though it is miles from a fair portrayal of the character Doyle created. If I'm ever feeling low and need something to cheer me up it is a Rathbone/Bruce adventure that I will turn to (or 84 Charing Cross Road but that's another story).

I expect the answer to my next question may lie in Dr Amanda Field's book but I do wonder why the decision was made to make Bruce's Watson a buffoon. Was it despite Bruce being cast or because of Bruce being cast? Did they look at him and the roles he had played and think he suited that kind of portrayal or was it always going to be so regardless of who picked up the medical bag? I will, at some point, check Dr Field's book to see if it contains the answer.

If anyone out there knows please add a comment.


Written by Alistair Duncan
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