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Sherlock Holmes ★★★★

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, 1943

When my search for newer fiction fails to come up with anything that I want to read, I start looking for classics. I vaguely remember reading Arthur Conan Doyle many years ago, but if I’ve ever read The Hound of the Baskervilles, I don’t recall it.

What fun! It’s light reading, which is just what we want for escape fiction. The gothic, old English atmosphere is infectious and comforting and makes you want to go make a cup of tea. Doyle’s command of English is relaxed and confident, strangely formal and informal at the same time, musical enough to be read aloud.

It was interesting to note that Doyle had been dead for only nine years when Hollywood, in 1939, started producing a series of 14 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. According to the Wikipedia article, 20th Century Fox made the first two films, then Universal took it over in 1942. Amazon Prime Video has 12 of the films.

I started with “Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.” I will certainly watch more of them.

Movies of that vintage seem more like plays to me, but that is not a criticism, because I love plays. The exterior sets may be a little flimsy, but the interior sets are rich and beautiful. And the costumes! The men are almost always wearing tweed. The tailoring is classic and superb.

I have to admit that I pay particular attention to the tailoring, having developed a fetish for Harris tweed while on the Isle of Harris last summer. (I now have five Harris tweed jackets in my wardrobe.) The classic tweed jackets of the 1970s and 1980s were cut just the same as the 1942 jackets in “Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.” Some things never change. Some are what we today call “slim fit,” for men who have the figure for it. The jackets of more portly men are cut to flatter their portliness. Rathbone often wears tweed Norfolk jackets. Norfolk jackets, whether vintage or new, are much more difficult to find. (I’m still looking.)

As you can see, I’m in escape mode. The Trump impeachment trial went as well as it could have gone. The Democratic candidates for president are slouching toward Super Tuesday, the first event that really matters. I immerse myself in reading the news every day, as always, but my impulse has been escape rather than writing about what has been happening of late.

It’s pouring rain here. So now back to The Hound of the Baskervilles, and a cup of tea.

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