Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Art Imitates Art Imitates Art: Sherlock Holmes, Gillette Castle, and Mr. Holmes

My husband and I just finished watching the rather sweet movie Mr. Holmes on Amazon's version of Netflix.  There was a factual error in it, but probably more than one since it's about fictional character commenting on how he is written about by another fictional character who was the unreliable narrator for the real writer, and of course the first fictional character comments on how unreliable the fictional narrator was.  Very meta.

In the movie Mr. Holmes (Ian McKellan ) says that John Watson invented the deerstalker cap, but I beg to differ.

In 2013 my friend and I took a road trip tour of New England. One place we ended up was Gillette Castle in Connecticut, atop a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River.  We took a ferry to get to that side of the river (everything in Connecticut is smaller and closer together than what we are used to in Georgia, but it's a pretty place).  I found the construction a tad odd, but interesting.  We found out that Gillette Castle was built by the actor William Gillette, who invented the dramatic portrayal on stage of Holmes.  Although he did not "invent" the idea of the deerstalker hat (which Holmes would only have worn in the countryside, not in London, heaven forbid) and the plaid "cape," he did popularize it to the extent that it became synonymous with the character.  John Watson had nothing to do with it.

Of course, the rather clever script plays along with the meaning of fiction in our lives in other ways.  Fiction is the storytelling magic of our lives, something we need, but a good story should never confuse the facts.  Fiction only works when we know factual reality and fiction gives us a retreat or an alternative for counterbalancing the negatives of that reality or, better, a way for understanding that reality in a different way, perhaps less directly sometimes or more directly sometimes.

Evidence:  photos of Gillette castle below. Rather odd, but not like Neuschwanstein.  

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