Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (movie 1928)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

William Fox (Fox Movietone News) recorded a 10 minutes talking speech of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the garden of his house at Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, on october 1928 (Fox story 1-362).

As written by Fox in the video, « This is the only talking picture ever made by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the outstanding literary men of our time. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, he took up spirit communication and became chief investigator of life after death mystery. »

Conan Doyle speaks about discontinuing the Sherlock Holmes series, stating he will devote the remainder of his life to spiritual revelation. The original 1928 interview was first screened to audiences in may 1929 (Fox story 2-616).

The movie was reconstructed in 1930 (Fox Story 6-962) as an obituary, but with more sequences which were cut in the previous ones, and one more caption.

Note: the movie is not from 1927 as stated in various source.

Movie: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Fox story 2-616) 1929

Movie: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Fox story 6-962) 1930 obituary version


The following transcript is the combining of the Fox movies resulting in the full speech as he naturally was conducted.


William Fox has the honor to present THE WORLD FAMOUS AUTHOR and SCIENTIST

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is famous the world over for his Sherlock Holmes stories. He has devoted the past 40 years to spiritualistic study and is one of the leading advocates of the existence of spirit life and communication with the beyond.


Dead British author, leading exponent of spiritism, leaves important Movietone record.

Editor's Note:

This is the only talking picture ever made by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the outstanding literary men of our time. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, he took up spirit communication and became chief investigator of life after death mystery.


Paddy, good old boy then. (talking to his dog) [1]

Let's see now, I've got to speak one or two words. And just to try my voice I understand.

There are two things that people always want to ask me. One of them is: how I ever came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories? And the other is about: How I came to have psychic experiences and to take so much interest in that question?

Well, first of all, about the Sherlock Holmes stories. They came about in this way: I was quite a young doctor at the time and I had a course of scientific training, and I used to occasionally to read detective stories, it often annoyed me how in the old-fashioned detective story the detective always seemed to get at his results either by some sort of lucky chance or fluke, or else it was quite unexplained how he got there. He got there but he never gave an explanation to how. Now that didn't seem to me quite playing the game. It seemed to me that he's bound to give his reasons why he came to his conclusions.

But when I began thinking about this, I began to think of turning scientific methods, as it were, onto the work of detection. And I used, as a student to have an old professor his name was Bell, who was extraordinarily quick at deductive work. He would look at the patient, he would hardly allow the patient to open his mouth but he would make his diagnosis of the disease, and also very often of the patient's nationality and occupation and other points, entirely by his power of observation. So naturally I thought to myself, "well if a scientific man like Bell was to come into the detective business, he wouldn't do these things by chance, he'd get the thing by building it up, scientifically."

So, having once conceived that line of thought, you can well imagine that I had as it were, a new idea of the detective and one which it interested me to work out. I thought of a hundred little dodges, as you may say, a hundred little touches by which he could build up his conclusions and then I began to write stories on those lines. At first I think they attracted very little attention, but after a time when I began the short adventures one after the other coming out month after month in The Strand Magazine, people began to recognize that it was different from the old detective, that there was something there which was new, they began to buy the magazine and uh, it uh prospered and so I may say did I, we both came along together. And from that time Sherlock Holmes fairly took root. I've written a good deal more about him than I ever intended to do but my hand has been forced by kind friends who continually wanted to know more, and so it is that this monstrous growth has come out of what was really a comparatively small seed.

But the curious thing is how many people around the world are perfectly convinced that he is a living human being. I get letters addressed to him, I get letters asking for his autograph, I get letters addressed to his rather stupid friend, Watson, I've even had ladies writing to say that they'd be very glad to act as his housekeeper. One of them when she'd heard that he'd turned to the occupation of keeping bees wrote saying that she was an expert at segregating the queen, whatever that may mean, and that she was evidently predestined to be the housekeeper of Sherlock Holmes.

I don't know that there's anything more that I can say with advantage, about him, but on the other point which is to me of course a very much more serious one, on the question of my taking up this psychic matter. Curiously enough my first experiences in that direction were just about the time when Sherlock Holmes was being built up in my mind. That would be about the year 1886 and 1887. So nobody can say that I've formed my opinions on psychic matters very hastily, it was just 41 years now since I wrote a signed article upon the subject which appeared in a magazine called Light so that I put myself on record. During these 41 years I never lost any opportunity of reading and studying and of experimenting on this matter.

People ask me will I write any more Sherlock Holmes stories, I certainly don't think it's at all probable. As I grow older the psychic subject always grows in intensity and one becomes more earnest upon it. And I should think that my few remaining years will probably be devoted much more in that direction than in the direction of literature. None the less of course I haven't abandoned writing, one has to earn one's living, but my principle thoughts are that I should extend if I can that knowledge which I have on psychic matters and spread it as far as I can to those who have been less fortunate.

I suppose I've sat with more mediums good, and bad, and indifferent than perhaps any living being. Anyhow, a larger variety because I've traveled so much all over the world and wherever I've gone, either in Australia, America, or South Africa, the best and the worst that can be had in that direction was put at my disposal. Therefore when people come along and contradict me, who've had no experience at all, read little and perhaps never been to a seance you can imagine that I don't take their opposition very seriously. When I talk on this subject I'm not talking about what I believe, I'm not talking about what I think, I'm talking about what I know. There's an enormous difference, believe me, between believing a thing and knowing a thing, and talking about things that I've handled, that I've seen, that I've heard with my own ears. And always mind you in the presence of witnesses, I never risk hallucinations. I usually in most of my experiments have had six, eight or ten witnesses, all of whom have seen and heard the same things that I have done.

Gradually I became more and more convinced on the matter as I studied year in, year out, but it was only in the time of the War, when all these splendid young fellows were disappearing from our view, when the whole world was saying, "what's become of them, where are they, what are they doing now? Have they dissipated into nothing, or are they still the grand fellas that we used to know?" It was only at that time that I realized the overpowering importance to the human race of knowing more about this matter.

Then it was that I flung myself more earnestly into it and that I felt the highest purpose that I could possibly devote the remainder of my life to, was trying to bring across to other people, something of that knowledge and assurance which I had acquired myself. Certainly the results have justified me. I am quite sure I could fill a room of my house with the letters that I have received from people, telling me of the consolation which my writings on this subject, and my lectures on this subject, have given to them. How they have once more heard the sound of a vanished voice and felt the touch of the vanished hand.

And that is the grandest work, I think, that a man could do. I've only been a humble instrument of the hands of Providence in spreading this truth but it has taken such root that now I know that its only a question of time before the all world shares the same knowledge which I have myself. But don't for one moment suppose that I am taking it upon myself to say that I am the inventor of spiritualism, or that I am even the principle exponent of it. There are many great mediums, many great psychical researchers, investigators of all sorts, all that I can do is to be a gramophone on the subject. To go about, to meet people face to face, to try and make them understand that this thing is not the foolish thing which is so often represented but that it really is a great philosophy, and as I think the basis of all religious improvement in the future of the human race.

Well, good-bye.

  1. Paddy was the dog of his daughter Lena Jean, as testified by herself in the Journal of a Quest for the Elusive Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle by Alvin E. Rodin & Jack D. Key, page 6, Davies Printing, 1982).