The Eligible Bachelor

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Eligible Bachelor

The Eligible Bachelor (episode No. 35) is the 5th TV movie of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 3 february 1993. 104 min.

The episode is based from Arthur Conan Doyle's short story: The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor (1892).

Sherlock Holmes adventure or sensationalist story?

Lord Robert, in Arthur Conan Doyle story was a ridiculously rigid and arrogant aristocrat, but in the episode he becomes a calculating and sadistic monster. The outlines of the plot are preserved, but the screenwriter has introduced new characters and grafted spectacular anecdotes, such as the atrocious aggression of Agnes by Floutier. The atmosphere of the original story, with romance and satire, was rather good-natured. The episode recalls Ann Radcliffe's gothic romances or Jane Eyre's darkest passages.

Unlikelihoods and outbidings

Conan Doyle's narratives could certainly contain improbabilities. But in the episode there is plenty. Why, for example, would Lord Robert detain his second wife in conditions unworthy of an animal? By what miracle did she survive for seven years? Why did Agnes and then Hetty, knowing the formidable perversity of the aristocrat, go alone to his lair and why Moulton does not accompany his wife? With an excessive concern for the effect, the episode multiplies the violent scenes punctuated by female yells and populates the park of the manor with a baboon and a panther, where a mastiff would suffice.

Necessary conditions to see the episode good points

Forget Michael Cox's habit to stick to the original story. Forget previous episodes where Holmes deployed his great observation and deduction abilities. Forget that Holmes is a rationalist and rejected supernatural. This oblivion is indispensable while hearing Holmes declare that, perhaps, dreams are a message and a form of prescience of the future. Forget Brett thin and dashing, walking with supreme elegance. Otherwise, it will be unbearable to see that the actor became physically and mentally very ill, and is performing in a nightgown for fifty-five minutes. A degradation of his image and of Holmes', which he would probably have refused had he been in full possession of his mind.

Good points

Sometimes there are beautiful images, such as the rearing of the horses, maddened by Helena cries, or the fantastic one of the cascade falling from the upper gallery of Glavon Manor. Some scenes of horror are rather successful: Agnes slow and fearful advance towards the gardening basket where the fatal claw awaits her, or Flora's Machiavellian murder, crushed by a nacelle falling from the top of the hangers. The suspense is intense when death watches Hetty and the fight between Holmes, Watson and Floutier, vigorous and uncommon. Anna Calder Marshall remarkably plays the arduous role of the sisters Northcote and Jeremy Brett impressively performs Holmes' deep distress. As for Rosalie Williams, she plays a maternal Mrs. Hudson, an excellent antidote to the horrors proliferating in this dark episode.

This episode won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for best episode in a television series for 1996.




Plot summary (spoiler)

While horrible nightmares torment Sherlock Holmes, the wealthy American Hetty Doran and Lord Robert Saint-Simon, a heavily indebted aristocrat are going to marry. Leaving the church, Hetty notices a man whose sight upsets her. Then comes Flora Miller, the abandoned mistress of Lord Robert, who reveals to the young woman the secret crimes of the aristocrat. Hetty disappears suddenly and the frustrated groom asks Holmes to find her. When asked by a veiled lady to question Lord Robert about his previous wives, Holmes gets no answers, but his mysterious visitor, Agnes Northcote, tells him that he murdered his first wife to inherit and locked up the second, his sister Helena. Coming to try to see her, Agnes was disfigured by Floutier, Robert's accomplice. Holmes will find the man of the church, Francis Moulton, whom Hetty had secretly married but believed dead. Determined to thwart Sir Robert, she goes to Glavon Manor. He tries to reconquer her, but learning that their marriage is invalid, he delivers her to Floutier. Holmes and Watson will save her in extremis. Robert attempts to eliminate Helena, detained in accordance with Holmes' nightmare in the ruined chapel. But the blocks of the entrance, of which she has deliberately compromised the balance, collapse on her jailer.

  • Credits : Monique Claisse (texts), Sarah Fava (photos), Granada.