The Norwood Builder (TV episode 1985)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Norwood Builder

The Norwood Builder (episode No. 10) is the 3rd episode of season 2 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 8 september 1985. 52 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Norwood Builder (1903).

The Norwood Builder plot is most interesting. It keeps the viewer in suspense: will young McFarlane escape the gallows? When and how will Holmes get the upper hand, though Lestrade seems to hold all the aces? In Oldacre's warehouse ashes, Holmes finds a clue which put him on a promising trail. But soon Lestrade's telegram comes and seems to seal the detective's defeat. Yet the situation doesn't take a long time to reverse. Lestrade's so-called unquestionable proof of McFarlane culpability turns out to prove that, on the contrary, he is the victim of Oldacre's vile frame-up! A spectacular conjurer trick proclaims Holmes' victory: in front of a stunned Lestrade's eyes, he prompts Oldacre's hurried reappearance…But though it contains hate, lie and awful cruelty, the story is very funny. Its most delightful comical moments ensue from the battle of egos between Holmes and Lestrade. Sure he holds the indisputable proof of his victory, the Inspector, remarkably embodied by Colin Jeavons, gloats, swaggers along and consoles ironically Holmes, while the detective, seemingly crestfallen, prepares a resounding revenge. This beautifully filmed episode also presents us with stunning images such as roaring flames consuming Oldacre's warehouse, or Brett moving about with feline grace, perched on a fallen beam. But the most endearing aspect of the story is the deep bond between Holmes and Watson. Holmes smiles, pleased with Watson, when the Doctor deduces from the illegible passages of Oldacre's draft, that he wrote them while his train went over points. And later on Watson, seeing Holmes completely overcome by Lestrade's telegram, mothers him gently but firmly, drags him to Norwood, encourages him to investigate while he goes through Oldacre's accounts books and shows how much he trusts him by adopting his maxim: An accounts book tells more than a private diary. What can be more gratifying than the sight of such a friendship?




Plot summary (spoiler)

John Hector McFarlane comes to implore Holmes for help. The young clerk is accused of having stricken dead Oldacre with his walking stick before burning his body. Earlier the same day, Oldacre had informed McFarlane that he intended to bequeath his fortune to him, and summoned him to his Norwood home to draw up his will. McFarlane blood-soaked walking stick has been found at Oldacre's house, therefore Lestrade hurries to arrest him. But Holmes and Watson carry on with the investigations. They learn that McFarlane's mother, once engaged to Oldacre, broke her engagement because she realized he was a fundamentally nasty fellow. Later on, they meet Lestrade. The Inspector is delighted for he found in the victim's burnt warehouse one of his buttons. Soon Watson discovers that the late Norwood builder has transferred the better part of his money to a Mr Cornelius. Meanwhile, Holmes spots on the ground a coded message drawn by a tramp to inform other poor fellows that Oldacre is helpful, but after his second visit to the Norwood builder, the unfortunate vagrant vanished without trace. The day after, Lestrade triumphs: MacFarlane blood-soaked thumb print has been found on the crime scene. But Holmes, knowing that it was not there the day before, searches the house, spots Oldacre's hiding-place and asks the constable to bring straw and to wet it before setting it on fire. Then he orders everybody to shout "fire!" Smocked out, Oldacre appears! To elude his creditors' grasp and to take his revenge for Mrs Farlane's rejection, he had opened a bank account under the fictitious name of Cornelius and carefully staged his own murder by young McFarlane. To delude the police into believing that the clerk had burnt his corpse, Oldacre had lured, killed and thrown into the flames the unfortunate tramp who wore the clothes he had given him. Eventually, he had used McFarlane's thumb print imprinted on the will cachet to be sure he would be proved guilty of murder.

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