Movie Review: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

By Monica Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson? It sounded great to director Billy Wilder in the early sixties, too. Unfortunately, the working relationship between the three never made it to the starting gate. Wilder apparently felt that O'Toole's demands were in the prima donna league and he made the mistake of calling Sellers an "unprofessional rat fink". Harsh words far a man who'd already had one heart attack during a Wilder movie. (Sellers was replaced by Ray Walston on 1964's “Kiss Me Stupid”.) So “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” was released in 1970 starring stage actors Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely in the leads (who come very close to playing Holmes and Watson as a well-adjusted gay couple, especially Holmes, who looks like he's wearing mascara, rouge and lipstick). Although both were extremely good actors, the resulting film was still far from the masterpiece Wilder hoped it would become. The main problem, according to Wilder, is that United Artists insisted that nearly an hour be trimmed from its three hour running time. Edited to 125 minutes, all the flashbacks to Holmes' earlier life (actually Wilder's own past) are eliminated, including crucial sequences which contain Wilder's main reasons for making the picture. Even though we learn more about Wilder's sexual humour than we do about the great detective,”The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” is a lavish contribution to the canon with an intriguing script and genuine affection for the late Victorian era (circa 1887).
More Information:
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
UK - 1970