Le trésor des Musgraves
R: Georges Tréville. B: Arthur Conan Doyle. D: Georges Tréville, Mr. Moyse. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1912
“The first Holmes film was made in 1903, and was called Sherlock Holmes Baffled. It was made in America by the Mutoscope and Biograph company. It seems that the film bore no recognisable plot, and an unknown in the part of Holmes. The next Holmes film, made in America in 1905, was called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this time it had something of a story line, with Holmes played by Maurice Costello. Three years later, in 1908, two Holmes films appeared and the first series. One was from America, Sherlock Holmes and the Great Murder Mystery. This film was inspired by Poe‘s story ‘Murder in the Rue Morgue’. The other film was made in Italy, The Rival of Sherlock Holmes. In Denmark, the first true Holmes series was made by the Nordisk Film Company, which starred Viggo Larsen as Holmes. The film company made five films from 1908-1911, none of which were based on the Canon.
In 1912, a series of two reelers was made by an Anglo-French company, Éclair, with the cooperation of Conan Doyle himself. For the first time a Holmes film was made in Britain. A Frenchman, George Tréville, played Holmes and also directed the films. They were for the first time based on the Canon, and it has been said that the films were closely related to the original stories. There were eight films produced from 1912-1913. In the book ‘Holmes of the Movies’ by David Davies, the film The Copper Beeches has the distinction of being the earliest known extant Holmes film, although now it is too battered and delicate to risk projection. The French continued to film Holmes stories in 1914-15, with A Study in Scarlet and the first version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
In 1913, in America, the first version of the The Sign of Four appeared. In 1914 the Samuelson Film Company produced their version of A Study in Scarlet, with James Bragington. Looking at a photo of Bragington, he was very gaunt and suitable as Holmes. Bragington was the first English actor to play the role. The same company made the The Valley of Fear in 1916 with a different actor playing Holmes, H. A. Saintsbury.”
Damian Magee (1997)
Holmes on Screen
The Copper Beeches
R: Adrien Caillard. B: Arthur Conan Doyle. D: Georges Tréville. P: Société Francaise des Filmes et Cinématographes Éclair and Franco-British Film Company coproduction. Fr / UK 1912
“Doyles answer to the challenge posed by the Nordisk films was to sell the film rights to some of the Holmes stories to a film company on a one-off basis, not long after the Copyright Act came into force. For reasons that are unclear, he did a deal with the French company Éclair (though a producers of the Nick Carter series the company may have asserted particular expertise in detective dramas). After an initial foray with Les aventures de Sherlock Holmes (1911), the first official Sherlock Holmes film (Holmes was played by Henri Gouget), Éclair filmed eight two-reelers in Bexhill-on-Sea in Britain in 1912 through a subsidiary, Franco-British Film. With titles such as Le ruban moucheté aka The Speckled Band and Flamme dargent aka The Silver Blaze these were the first film adaptations of Holmes stories, though indications from reviews are that the results bore scant relation to Doyles plots. The films producer Georges Tréville is understood to have played Holmes himself. Two episodes of the eight survive (The Copper Beeches and The Musgrave Ritual).
Doyle had more luck with producers adapting his other novels (at least accuracy-wise), with the British company London Film Productions producing prestigious feature film versions of ‘The House of Temperley’ (1913) and ‘The Firm of Girdlestone’ (1915). Films borrowing the Sherlock Holmes character continued, with Viggo Larsen, star of the Danish series, moving to Germany for five titles in the Arsène Lupin contra Sherlock Holmes series (1910-11), while the American company Thanhouser made Sherlock Holmes Solves The Sign of Four (1913) without any certain acknowledgment of Doyles ownership. But it was in Germany where copyright infringement was most flagrant, with Jules Greenbaum (producer of the Arsène Lupin series) making a massively popular six-part series (strictly speaking he wasn’t involved in part four) very loosely based on ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, which ran 1914-1920, with Alwin Neuss and others playing Holmes.”