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Benedict Cumberbatch is not the only Sherlock Holmes



Benedict Cumberbatch may currently be the world’s most loved Sherlock Holmes (honourable mention to Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary although he’s not quite in the same league) but of course he’s by far from being the only man to have played the legendary detective. Here we take a look at 7 other actors who took on the role of the Victorian sleuth. Some with greater success than others.

Sherlock Holmes Eilie Norwood

Eille Norwood
The most prolific big-screen Holmes, Norwood donned the deerstalker in 1920 for a silent film rendition of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and subsequently shot 46 half-hour film adventures over the next three years. He also met Conan Doyle as evidence by our picture above. John Barrymore, more famous for his drinking and bad behaviour than his acting, made a more farcical stab at the role in 1922.

Sherlock Holmes Arthur Wontner

Arthur Wontner
In the 1930s, Arthur Wontner made his name portraying the great detective. He was the first audible Sherlock Holmes, so was free to own the role. He played Holmes as a studious, intellectual man. Many Holmes aficionados prefer Wontner’s rendition to all that came after.

Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone
Arguably the best known Holmes outside of Cumberbatch, Rathbone resided at 221b Baker Street between 1939 and 1946, making 15 films and recording 242 radio broadcasts. He was the definitive Holmes of the day, and probably still inhabits the character more than any other actor.

Sherlock Holmes Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing
Having shot 16 TV episodes of Sherlock Holmes stories during 1968 and 1969, Cushing is also recognizable as the great sleuth. But was never happy with his performances, citing the arduous shooting schedule as the cause. In 1959 he had starred in the first colour film of The Hound of the Baskervilles and much later he appeared as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1976 TV production of The Great Houdini.

Sherlock Holmes Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee
Before he became Holmes, Christopher Lee played Sir Henry Baskerville opposite Peter Cushing in the 1959 film of The Hound of the Baskervilles. In 1962, he took on the lead role in the rather disastrous Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace). He played Holmes’s brother in a 1970 film and reprised the role of Sherlock in two early 1990s TV movies.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett
A well-regarded modern Holmes, Jeremy Brett portrayed the detective between 1984 and 1994 for Granada TV. Brett’s untimely death in 1995 prevented any further episodes but many devotees rate him as the best modern Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner (as Data)
Possibly the only actor to play a non-human Holmes, Brent Spiner, who was the android Data, became the great detective on the holodeck in a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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