For the next several days, I'm going to share my top five favorite actors who have played Sherlock Holmes over the past decades of film and TV adaptations. These are merely my personal opinions, and they have evolved over time. I imagine they may continue to evolve as time goes on...
#5. Basil Rathbone
For my late grandfather, who helped introduce me to the Canon many years ago, Rathbone quite simply was the Sherlock Holmes. When I discovered Jeremy Brett in the early 80s, I thought that claim was ridiculous. To my way of thinking, Rathbone was too dashing, too handsome, too much of a "leading man." Looking back, I realize that I had formed this opinion not from watching any of the Rathbone/Bruce films, but from seeing still pictures. Now that I have seen several of those films, my opinion has changed a bit.
While I still find Rathbone too handsome, there is something impressive about how comfortable he obviously felt in the role. His sense of humor is evident, his physicality is effortless, and the role seems to fit him like a comfortable pair of shoes. As a side note, Nigel Bruce isn't nearly as silly as I once thought. Together, I believe the pair caught the easy camaraderie that comes across in the stories. Sure, the stories in which these two actors found themselves began to be repetitive over the course of 14 films, and much of the dialogue is extremely corny. But I can see how they became the standard film versions of Holmes and Watson for an entire generation.
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN. And a longtime fan of Sherlock Holmes.