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The View from the East End (76)

By Inspector Hopkins

October 21, 2007

The Granada Film Series (part 7)

by Inspector Hopkins

Supporting characters in these Films that deserve special mention include Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, and Inspector Lestrade. Let’s take a brief look at each of them and how they helped shape this spectacular series.

Inspector Lestrade

Lestrade appeared in thirteen original Canonical stories beginning with the very first one in STUD.  Watson described him as wiry, dapper, and “ferret-like” in that story as well as in BOSC and CARD. On the other hand, he also described him as having “bulldog” features in SECO and HOUN, and that he was “as tenacious as a bulldog” in CARD. Now, when I first read those descriptions as a newcomer to Sherlockiana, they seemed to be somewhat contradictory to me; it was hard for me to visualize how two animals seemingly so different in size, appearance, and behaviour, could have anything in common.

Granada Films has him accurately portrayed by actor Colin Jeavons in only five of their renditions: EMPT, NORW, CHAS, SIXN, and SECO. He also appeared in CREE, although there was no police Inspector at all in the original story. However, Lestrade was missing in their renditions of BOSC, NOBL, HOUN, CARD, BRUC and LADY. Those particular Films had either no Inspector at all in them, or they substituted some other non-Canonical one. After watching them a number of times, I must applaud Jeavons for his portrayals. He certainly managed to capture Watson’s written descriptions of Lestrade, and thanks to his efforts I suppose I can now see how a ferret and a bulldog might indeed be compatible!  In particular, the expressions on his face as he interacted with Holmes spoke volumes about this, and I especially enjoyed his performances in NORW and SECO.

Mrs. Hudson

As we have seen before, Mrs. Hudson, admirably portrayed by Rosalie Williams, appeared in a much greater number of the Film renditions as compared to the original Canon, but this did not negatively affect any of the stories. In fact, her busy bustling manner (“Mrs. Hudson, you’re dreadfully underfoot”) helped very much to provide continuity and a sense of the order that she was desperately trying to provide for our two bachelor heroes.

As a supporting actress, I find it notable that although she appeared in so many of the Films, and helped so much, none of her performances stood out above any others. She was always there in a very consistent way, and she deserves recognition for that. This is important  because in so many cases, throughout so many other television series, supporting actors/actresses are often given an episode or two in which they get a chance to take center stage.

Recall my earlier article on the remarkable Mrs. Hudson.

She was very much the glue that held Baker Street together . . . both in the Canon as well as on Film.

Mycroft Holmes

Finally, we have Holmes’s older brother Mycroft portrayed by Charles Gray.

Mycroft Holmes appeared in the original GREE and BRUC and was mentioned as being the surreptitious cab driver who took Watson to the train station in FINA. Granada Films had him accurately cast in their own renditions of GREE and BRUC.  Gray also filled in for the missing Dr. Watson in the Film presentation of GOLD due to a conflict in Edward Hardwicke’s schedule. And as I had mentioned previously, as Jeremy Brett’s illness got worse, both he and Hardwicke took the lead in Granada’s version of MAZA.  

Thus, Charles Gray was indeed a “supporting actor” in more ways than one.

Although I thought Gray did a superb job in these Films, his appearance did not quite match the Canonical description.  In particular, he appeared to be considerably older than the seven year age difference between the brothers. However, upon watching the Films several times, I have noticed somewhat of a family resemblance, especially in MAZA. The age difference though, is something that Granada could have been easily fixed by darkening Gray’s hair a bit. It puzzles me why they didn’t do that, because in just about all other respects, their casting of these characters was excellent . . .

And until next time, when we will take a closer look at some of that remarkable casting, I am as always,

Yours Faithfully,