During the four-plus years it took Adam Selzer and I to research and write our book Flickering Empire, we spent a lot of time reading about films that were made in Chicago during the silent era that have since been tragically lost. For most of that time, our holy grail of “lost Chicago movies” was the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company’s 1916 production of Sherlock Holmes. The seven-reel feature was, after all, the first feature-length movie centered on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective-protagonist. More importantly, it was the only record of veteran theatrical actor William Gillette’s acclaimed performance as Holmes, a performance he had perfected on stage after playing it for more than fifteen years with the blessing of Doyle himself; it was Gillette who originated the iconic look of Holmes with deerstalker cap and calabash pipe, props that have become synonymous with the character in the public imagination over the past century. Finally, we knew that the film had been acclaimed by contemporary critics, including the Chicago Tribune‘s Kitty Kelly who wrote, “It is a production to which Essanay may point with pride and may file away in the strong box for future and again future revival.” Unfortunately, it seemed that the Essanay “strong box” hadn’t been strong enough.
Then, last fall, just as Flickering Empire was going to press, it was announced that a print of Sherlock Holmes had been miraculously discovered at the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris. Adam and I were able to hastily include a footnote in our book that the film was being digitally restored and would receive a re-release in 2015. Now, after successful screenings in Paris and San Francisco, I am pleased to announce that Adam and I have teamed up with the Atlas Obscura Society to host the Chicago “re-premiere” of Sherlock Holmes. The event will take place on the evening of Friday, June 19. We will be screening a newly restored 35mm print in the Charlie Chaplin Auditorium of St. Augustine College — the very location where the movie was actually shot 100 years ago. Tickets are $75 for the screening, which is part of an evening-long affair that will include live music and open bar. Black-and-white or “period” attire is encourage. Tickets may be purchased directly from Atlas Obscura’s website here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/events/investigate-the-lost-sherlock-holmes-film-on-location
This should be the local film event of the year. I hope to see you there!
UPDATE: This event has been cancelled.