Prince Alexis (Reginald Denny) is a student at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He has been accused of stealing the college’s athletic fund. The school says that if he doesn’t pay it back he will be given over to the authorities for arrest. Dr. Watson (Roland Young) is also a student at the school. He recommends that the Prince see his friend and fellow classmate Sherlock Holmes (John Barrymore). Holmes has an uncanny way of solving difficult problems such as this.
Holmes is out working on his observational skills and ends up falling in front of a carriage being driven by a beautiful young woman. Alice Faulkner (Carol Dempster), the driver of the carriage stops and offers aid. Holmes is affected by the lovely young woman to the point of being distracted from his observations. Alice makes sure that Holmes is alright and then goes on her way.
Later Holmes, having regained his senses, agrees to take the case. He quickly determines that a young man named Forman Wells (William H. Powell) stole the money. Wells confesses and says he took it to try to get away from an evil man named Professor Moriarty (Gustav von Seyffertitz) who is the biggest crook in London. Intrigued by the mastermind behind all the corruption in the city Holmes decides to meet the architect of all this criminal activity. After meeting the man, Holmes is convinced that his mission in life is to stop Moriarty.
When Prince Alexis gets a letter from his uncle telling him his two older brothers have died in an accident he realizes that he is now the Crown Prince. Alexis had been engaged to Alice’s sister Rose Faulkner (Peggy Bayfield). Now that he is the next in line to the crown he can no longer marry a commoner and breaks off his engagement. Rose is distraught to the point of suicide.
Years later Holmes finds out that Alice is in possession of letters the Crown Prince wrote to Rose. Moriarty is after the letters to blackmail the Prince. Alice wants to use the letters to give to the newspapers to have them published and shame the Prince. The Prince asks Holmes to get involved and get the letters from Alice. At first Holmes is not interested in helping the Prince since he feels he acted like a cad and is responsible for Rose killing herself. When he finds out that both Alice and Moriarty are involved Holmes knows that Alice could be in serious danger. He agrees to take the case. His involvement brings him face to face with the young woman who, years ago, made him forget everything when he looked into her eyes.
“Sherlock Holmes” was released in 1922 and was directed by Albert Parker. It is a silent mystery film based on the 1899 play by William Gillette and characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is also a remake of the 1916 film that starred William Gillette but with some serious changes in the plot. There are dozens of Sherlock Holmes films out there, a few of them silent. This one features John Barrymore as the famous detective. It also includes Roland Young, William Powell, Reginald Denny and Hedda Hopper. Not a bad lineup.
There are some differences between the original 1916 film with William Gillette and the remake. The basic plot is the same but some of the plot devises were changed. In the original film the Prince is alluded to but never actually a role in the film. Watson and Holmes are not students at Saint John’s College but are older. Plus Moriarty and Holmes are already arch enemies.
The film was considered lost for years until several cans containing negatives of the film were discovered. Unfortunately they were in bits and pieces and out of sequence and multiple takes. Beginning in 1970 the George Eastman House spent decades piecing together the film during its restoration. Reportedly the film was around 136 minutes long. I’m not sure how accurate that report is. Anyway, about an hour and 25 minutes were found and put back together. It is one of a few silent Sherlock Holmes films that survived.
Once the film was found and restored the critics came out in droves. I make it a point to try not to totally trash a lost film that has been found. Especially when the critics are looking through the long lens of over a hundred years ago. We are lucky to have it. And the fact that it took decades to restore the film makes it even more precious.