The Many Watsons – Forest Holger-Madsen

Watson & Holmes – The Gray Lady

One of the interesting things about film and Sherlock Holmes is how quickly the Great Detective came to the screen. Holmes was born of pen in the very earliest days of attempts to bring the moving picture to audiences. Holmes is introduced to the world in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. In 1888 Thomas Edison met with Eadweard Muybridge, at Muybridge’s request. Muybridge asked Edison to combine the Zoopraxiscope (invented by Muybridge in 1879) which used a series of cameras to make “moving pictures” with Edison’s phonograph. Muybridge already saw the need for sound with his moving pictures. Edison turned down the venture but decided to develop a system that would take multiple pictures from one camera. By 1892 Edison’s Kinetoscope (from the Greek, meaning “to watch movement”) was in production. By 1905 Holmes was on the screen and by 1908 the Danish film company Nordisk was producing a series of Sherlock Holmes films. Nordisk was founded in 1906 by Ole Olsen and is still in business today.

Larsen as Holmes

At first the Sherlock Holmes series of films would be one reelers running about 11 to 14 minutes. And one of the earliest actors to play Holmes on the screen was Viggo Larsen. Larsen was born in 1880 in Copenhagen and would die there in 1957. His movie career included 87 films and he directed 60. He was active in the movie industry from 1906 until 1942. During that time he played Sherlock Holmes in a number of movies, including “The Gray Lady” (Den Graa Dame). The Grey lady was the sixth in the Nordisk Sherlock Holmes series and was directed by Larsen as well as being it’s star.

Forest Holger-Madsen

Our man Watson was played by Forest Holger-Madsen. Forest Holger-Madsenhad previously appeared in two earlier Sherlock Holmes movies by Nordisk but each time he appeared as the villain: A.J. Raffles. The story line of the movie short “The Gray Lady” is that there is a ghostly “gray lady” who appears shortly before each victim’s death. Sherlock Holmes arrives on the scene and finds the very mortal culprit.

Forest Holger-Madsen was born in Copenhagen on 11 April 1878 and died on 30 November 1943. Holger-Madsen started his acting career in 1896 on the stage. The stage was always special to him and he returned to it frequently. In 1908 he made his film debut and by 1912 was not only acting but directing for Nordisk. This was a time when Nordisk was turning out 190 films a year, granted they were mostly one reelers, but Nordisk would be the company that some say invented the feature length film. Forest Holger-Madsen’s main achievement was not his acting but his directing. He was known for his use of camera angle, the close up shot and lighting effects.

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