Stage actor William Gillette stars in the original silent film adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916), to be shown with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Thursday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Stage actor William Gillette stars in the original silent film adaptation of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ (1916), to be shown with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Thursday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit. SUBMITTED PHOTO

OGUNQUIT — Listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most portrayed movie character in history,” the very first appearance on film of legendary fictional British detective Sherlock Holmes is about to be screened for the public in Ogunquit.

“Sherlock Holmes,” a silent film released in 1916 and starring William Gillette, will be shown with live music at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit. 

Thought to be lost to the ages like many other silent films of the era, “Sherlock Holmes” was rediscovered in 2014 at the Cinemathique Francaise in Paris.  It has since been fully restored and marked the only appearance on film for actor-playwright William Gillette, whose portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s endures to this day.

In the film, Gillette helped to introduce audiences to a more modern image of what a detective should appear to be. And several symbols that have consistently been passed down through subsequent movies associated with the character of Sherlock Holmes, including the iconic deerstalker cap and the curved pipe, originated with Gillette.    

He played the role of Sherlock Holmes on the stage more than 1,300 times and also in a number of radio productions. 

This silent version is set in Victorian-era London and combines the plots of a couple of Doyle’s books. In this film Holmes is accompanied by his companion Dr. Watson while squaring off in a war of wits against his nemesis and criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty.

Authentic musical film accompaniment will be performed live by Jeff Rapsis of New Hampshire, who is regarded as one of the nation’s leading silent film musicians.

Rapsis improvises live scores using a digital synthesizer and in the process recreates the texture of the full orchestra as accompaniment for silent films.

“It’s kind of a high wire act,” Rapsis said. “But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience.”

The Leavitt Theatre is at 259 Main St. U.S. Route 1 in Ogunquit, Maine.

Admission for “Sherlock Holmes” is $10 per person with general seating.

For more information, visit www.leavittheatre.com.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected] 


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