Sherlock Holmes Releases Today on DVD!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous super-sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, gets an update with this adaptation of  Lionel Wigram’s comic book series by writer/director Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla) starring Robert Downey Jr., with Jude Law as a much younger, slimmer and much more appealing Dr. Watson. The supporting cast includes  RocknRolla’s Mark Strong as the film’s villain, Blackwood, and Rachel McAdams as  love interest, Irene Adler.
Though many have critisized the film for veering widely from Conan Doyle’s idea of the taciturn detective, Robert Downey, Jr. won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
Rumour also has it that the costumes are incredible. Jenny Beavan, the Oscar-winning costume designer of “A Room With a View,” spoke to Vanity Fair about how she shied away from relying upon Holmes’s iconic props – the deerstalker, the pipe – when dreaming up costumes for Sherlock Holmes. In part Beavan said, “The whole thing about the perception of Sherlock Holmes as played by Basil Rathbone and many other great actors, it comes from a Sidney Paget illustration in the The Strand magazine. Conan Doyle published his stories weekly in a magazine, they were illustrated, and then Basil Rathbone adopted the deerstalker and the pipe and all that. It’s never in the Conan Doyle [books]. So, in fact, we weren’t taking any liberates at all–we were simply doing our version. The other was never Conan Doyle’s version; he never described any of that clothing. From [a sartorial] point of view, if you actually read the stories, it’s very all over the place.”

As to the sets, Visit Britian’s website includes a Sherlock Holmes itinerary that offers details about the movie’s key locations throughout the UK, as well as a slideshow of those spots with both day and night views. I can only hope the scenery is as spot on and atmospheric as it was in the Johnny Depp version of Sweeney Todd. Cor, but whennat ship drawed up ta them docks in the beginnin’, Oy didn’t half fink I were in Lunnon!

To learn more about the making of the film, click here.

To watch a movie trailer or play the Sherlock Holmes game on Facebook, click here.

And finally, here’s the new Sherlock Holmes/Robert Downey, Jr. figure unveiled at Madame Tussaud’s this past December.

Have you seen the film? Please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of Downey, Law, the costumes, the sets and the 21st century version of Sherlock Holmes. Gad, I love that suit. There’s just something about a standing collar and a cravat I can’t resist.


The London and Waterloo Tour: The Lansdowne Club

One of the spots in London that Kristine and I plan to visit is the Lansdowne Club. It occupies the remaining part of Lansdowne House, built in the 1760’s and partially torn down in the 1930’s to put through a street to Berkeley Square. In its former glory, the house had a garden which met the south side of the Square. This former garden property is now office buildings (one called Lansdowne House).
On the 1830 map of London, you can see that the original Lansdowne garden (lower left) was positioned to allow a clear view of Berkeley Square from Devonshire House on Piccadilly (fully demolished in the 1920’s). Lansdowne House itself actually faced east.
Only in our imaginations can we picture the way Lansdowne House looked before the wreckers arrived. But in the Club, some of the original rooms designed by Robert Adam (Scottish, 1728-1792) have been preserved and recently restored to their full beauty.
One of these rooms, The Round Bar, displays pictures of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Adams, for it was here that these gentlemen signed the preliminary agreements that led to the Treaty of Paris of 1783 that ended the American Revolution and established the independent United States of America. In the picture from the Club’s website, Lord Lansdowne’s picture is on the wall.
At the time, Lord Shelburne (who was named Marquis of Lansdowne in 1784), prime minister for part of the war, led the British negotiators. On my first visit to the Club, one of the barmen overheard our American accents and showed us around. If you are a member of a private club in the U.S., check to see if you have reciprocity with the Lansdowne Club, and if you do, when in London you can enjoy a visit for a meal or tea or even stay in one of the lovely bedrooms on the premises.
After parts of Lansdowne House were demolished, the Club added facilities including a swimming pool, workout areas, and the dining room on an upper floor. In keeping with the styles of the day, these areas were designed and decorated in the Art Moderne style. The juxtaposition of the Adam and Deco styles works amazingly well. The entrance foyer, the Adam Room, the Round Bar, and the ballroom are the originals, beautifully restored.
Two of the rooms removed in the partial demolition are in U.S. museums. The brightly-colored saloon, a main reception room in the house, is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Adam designs, many based on motifs from classical sites uncovered in his lifetime in Pompeii, are brilliant. The dining room is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Another amusing American connection is the fact that H. Gordon Selfridge, who founded the great department store on Oxford Street, leased Lansdowne House in the 1920’s before it suffered its partial demise. Selfridge was born in Wisconsin and was an executive with Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago before he moved to England. During Selfridge’s tenure, the house was the scene of many famous parties, most attended by his intimate friends, the celebrated dancing Dolly Sisters.

The Dolly Sisters, above; left, Selfridge’s on Oxford Street

More on Lansdowne House, the family, and their country home at Bowood will be posted soon.  

Below, The Adam Room in the Lansdowne Club                                                
Above, the dining room in the Metropolitan Museumn of Art, New York
Above, the Drawing Room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

On The Shelf: The Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries

Like the Curiosity Corner (new puzzle coming soon!) and Do You Know About, On the Shelf will be a regular department on this blog, bringing you news of great reads old and new.

A note from Victoria…

For the last six years, we have been privileged to read the delightful series of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries by Carrie Bebris, Victoria’s good friend and occasional roommate at JASNA events.

Carrie is not only deft at continuing the characterization of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam as they enjoy their married life together, she is a clever plotter who weaves many of the characters from Austen’s other books into her stories.

Her latest work, Intrigue at Highbury (or, Emma’s Match) is out now and awaiting your perusal. See her website here.

Carrie is one of those members of the Wisconsin chapter of JASNA I have been bragging about. Even though she now lives in Ohio (and claims she likes it!), she returns to her roots now and then, always reserving a little bit of time for her old pals in JASNA-WI and our writers group.

Congratulations, Carrie, and here’s to many more excellent adventures with the Darcys!

Above, Carrie’s first Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery, Pride and Prescience, Or A Truth Universally Acknowledged, on the left; Carrie, herself.

“Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty ”

Now that the Academy Awards are over and one of my favorite movies was shut out (and only nominated in one category), I want to alert everyone to see Bright Star, a lovely film directed by Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993). I know it’s not research, but we all love to watch movies. And there have been some very good ones lately – meaning in the last couple of years, such as The Duchess, and The Young Victoria (which did win one Oscar). Bright Star is the name of a poem John Keats (1795-1821) wrote to his true love, Fanny Brawne. Any lover of England, poetry, fashion, or film should adore it, though the ending is sad. And it has not a single explosion (except of emotion), not a vampire nor avatar, not a chase scene, no shooting, and no noisy soundtrack. It is beautiful and true.
The stars, Ben Whishaw as Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny, are excellent, as is Paul Schneider as Keats’ friend and mentor Charles Brown. The whole cast measures up admirably.

Although I am far from an expert on Keats, I found the film quite moving. And historically accurate, with beautiful settings and costumes. Except for one thing. As a good friend remarked, why didn’t they film it at the actual house where it all happened in Hampstead, just north of London? I visited the Keats House years ago and it is a treat! Here is the real house that Keats and Fanny’s family lived in.
But, there must have been a good reason the producers used a different house, far from the congestion of Greater London. In Keats’ time, Hampstead would have been quite rural.
Perhaps we research nuts are too picky!! The Hyde, Bedfordshire, right, is where Bright Star
was filmed instead.
Bright Star was nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival; its only Oscar nomination was for costume design. It has won several other awards and was nominated for many more, but it is a quiet and intelligent film, not the kind of flashy star-studded production that pushes Hollywood’s buttons and pulls in millions at the box office. But don’t miss it.            Victoria