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Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes

Author: Revati

Most people know British actor Ronald Howard as the title hero of the American television series Sherlock Holmes that run between 1954 and 1955, though he starred in numerous British and American productions. He was born on the 7th of April 1918 in Norwood. His father was the famous actor and playwright Leslie Howard, whose most memorable role was Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. Leslie’s father, Ronald’s grandfather, Ferdinand Steiner was Hungarian. You can read more about the relationship between Conan Doyle and Hungary here: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Hungary

Before deciding to be an actor, Ronald worked as a journalist. He played his first role in Pimpernel Smith (1941), which was directed by his father who also played the leading role in it – though his scenes were cut out from the final version. His career had been aggravated by the fact that he was the son of a legendary actor, and studios began to be interested in him only after the tragic death of his father (Leslie Howard’s airplane was shot by Germans in 1943). Some producers even wanted to persuade him to change his name to Leslie Howard Junior, but Ronald refused it. His official debut was in 1947 in the movie While the Sun Shines.

Ronald Howard the Sherlock Holmes actor

The series Sherlock Holmes that consisted of 39 half hour-long episodes, was aired weekly in the United States. Its producer was Sheldon Reynolds. Besides Howard’s Holmes Watson was played by Howard Marion Crawford. Reynolds decided to shoot the series in Europe to spare production costs. When he started looking for his main actors in 1953, Howard’s career was on the decline. He had been looked upon as a talented actor, but he was less charismatic than his father. Reynolds chose him because he wanted to tell the story of the tenants of Baker Street with young characters (Howard was 35 at the beginning of the series).

The crew shot in Paris, France, in Post Parisien Studios. Some exterior shoots were taken in England for a week. Except the main characters the other actors were French. The episodes were based on the stories of Conan Doyle, though many changes were made on them. Some are quite odd, and unfortunately the results of the reduced costs can be seen on them too. The usual schedule for shooting one episode was four days. It was very straining for Howard, as he had the most text to learn. Critics say he does not belong to the most outstanding Sherlocks, but they all admit that he looked good in the deerstalker. His portrayal was fresh and engaging, and he did his best to give a performance faithful to the original. His build-up was perfect for the role. His Holmes is a captivating, well-dressed and highly educated Victorian gentleman, and his features resemble to the most famous portrait of the detective, drawn by Sidney Paget (Read more about the fantastic artist here: Sidney Paget and Sherlock Holmes). His onscreen partner, Marion Crawford was not a too lucky choice for Watson, as though he was four years younger than Howard, he looked much older. In addition, his portrayal was similar to that of Nigel Bruce, in his interpretation the good doctor was a comic figure, it is hard to believe he was an army doctor in Afghanistan.

Shooting the series kept Howard in France for almost a whole year. By the time he returned to England, agents and the audience already forgot his name. Though he starred in many British and American movies, he never became as popular as his father. In the middle of the 1970s he quit acting and opened an art gallery, then in the 1980s he wrote Leslie Howard’s biography. Ronald died in Bridport on the 19th of December 1996.

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