In view of all the hoopla that the PR types are trying to raise over the selection of Lucy Liu as the next Dr. Watson I thought it time that I reviewed a third female who has played the role of the world’s best known sidekick. Earlier, I have reviewed both Debrah Farentino and Margaret Collin each of whom played a Watson. (My father the English Lit professor always subscribed to the belief that there were only 36 plots in all of literature and everything else was a variation on the theme.) These two ladies both did very good jobs as Watsons in very similar made for TV movies that were obviously pilots for a possible weekly series. You can find those reviews by scanning down through this blog.
This review is about Joanne Woodward as Dr. Mildred Watson in the movie They Might Be Giants. The film is an adaptation of the stage play of the same name which was produced in London but never on Broadway. The author, James Goldman, it is said was never completely happy with the play. The movie was released in 1971 to somewhat mixed reviews even though it had two huge stars of the screen in the lead roles: George C. Scott as Sherlock Holmes (or Justin Playfair a retired judge who thinks he’s Holmes) and Joanne Woodward as Mildred Watson a psychiatrist in charge of Playfair’s case. Watson is at first curious about Playfair’s case and then gets drawn into her patients quest for his arch enemy Moriarty. Playfair plays the part of Holmes with Deerstalker, pipe and inverness. The best line in the movie is where Playfair is defending his quest for Moriarty and states; “If there is no Moriarty then I am not Holmes!” Okay, you have to see the movie to appreciate the line.
The movie has been compared quite often to a variation of Don Quixote rather than Sherlock Holmes with Scott tilting at windmills and Woodward as Sancho trying to keep her ward out of trouble. The comparison comes from lines in the movie itself where “Holmes” defends Don Quixote and the title which refers to Don Quixote’s belief that windmills were “monstrous giants”.
The movie is very well done and I won’t tell you if they find Moriarty. Woodward gives a superb performance (even better than Scott). She is a convincing Watson. Unfortunately, for me, there also starts to be a romantic twist. Not a severe one but it’s there none the less and that’s where it slides into “chick flick”. I suspect the mixed reviews were for that very reason. Female viewers like this movie better than guys. (Am I in enough trouble yet?) This movie is hard to come by and very expensive when you can find it on Amazon or eBay. Fortunately I bought a copy years ago. The film is well worth watching and Woodward is an excellent modern day Watson.
Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward was born in Thomasville, Georgia on 27 February 1930. Her acting career started in high School and local theater productions in South Carolina. She majored in drama at Louisiana State University before going to New York City and the big stage. By 1952 Woodward was a regular on TV with roles on shows like Goodyear Playhouse, You are There and Lux Video Theatre. Her first movie was Count Three and Play in 1955, only two years later she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve. In 1958 she married Paul Newman, a marriage that lasted 50 years. The couple had three daughters; Elinor (Nell), Melissa (Lissy) and Claire (Clea). There are also two grandchildren. Woodward has had an amazing career with over 70 film credits. Besides the best actress Oscar win she has been nominated on three other occasions. She has won two Emmy Awards and been nominated five more times.