The Maniac Collector's Inbox (141)
February 13, 2005
Sherlocking in Not-So-Sunny Florida
By Don Hobbs
I was sent to Daytona Beach, Florida for a seemingly life-long work assignment. Three weeks in Florida during February would normally be a vacation of sorts but the weather during my stay was anything but normal. The temperatures hovered near the mid-forties with a sustained wind so strong that I thought I was in a blizzard. I know the diehard Floridians will just scoff at my sissified attitude concerning their states blowing wind. I mean this is the same area that suffered back-to-back-to-back hurricanes last year and those storms damages can still be seen at every turn. I think I was just expecting the kind of warmth one thinks of when looking at those glossy travel brochures.
My friend and ex-Dallasite E. Howard Ostrom saved me from a nearly total non-Sherlockian stay in Florida. He drove from Orlando one Friday night to rescue me and took me back to his house. Howie is a collector of the first order and his collection includes many one-of-a-kind treasures. Some of the treasures are photographs and autographs of every Holmes and Watson pair that have been seen or heard together on screen, stage, or radio. Covering nearly every square inch of the walls of his house are framed Sherlockian rarities.
It was such a pleasure not only to see these mementos but also to hear about how they came to be in Howards collection. Hearing the first hand tales from another collector and knowing his enthusiasm was a treat all its own. Howard usually finds the particular actor he is looking for through their agent and sends them a letter that mentions the play or film in which they starred. Actor Ron Moody drew a Sherlock Holmes caricature next to the picture of himself and another Sherlock Holmes, Tim Preece included a note with his autograph, thanking Howard for remembering him. Ian Richardson is another of Howies favorites. He sent a letter expressing his interest in Howards Internet poll for the most popular Holmes and Watson. Ben Kingsley sent his autograph back within the week only to have Howards framer lose it. He had to resubmit his request to Sir Ben. The second time he sent along an autographed picture of himself as well as Michael Caine.
Howard has a certain knack for ferreting out first-time Sherlockian actors and older ones as well. The growth of eBay has helped all collectors and using it, he has found autographs and photographs of Charles H. E. Brookfield and Seymour Hicks from the play "Under the Clock" (1893) These actors were the first stage Holmes and Watson. The same goes for the pieces of Louis Hector (first TV Holmes), Maurice Costello (first credited film Holmes), and Marcel Myin (Holland's 1st Holmes).
Some of the other highlights are the trisected Hardwick-Brett-Burke and the Rathbone-Bruce-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ones. He also has a Boris Karloff ("A Taste of Honey") autograph on a Sardis menu. There is a piece featuring John Barrymore and Roland Young which includes a photograph and on the back a copy of the original contract from Youngs estate. Lucky for Howard, his collection also includes the Holmes-Watson costumes worn by Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan in "Shanghai Nights".
I could go on and on about the comedians who are represented on the walls. If they ever wore a deerstalker or an Inverness cape at anytime in their career, it is likely they are somewhere on one of Howards walls. If one was to get bored by all of the interesting wall coverings, fret not. Howard also has more Sherlockian DVDs and VHS tapes than many movie stores. We chose to watch the 1990s Russian edition of "The Hound of the Baskervilles." The actors Visilij Livanov and Vitally Solomon, who play Holmes and Watson, are on the walls but the movie itself stole the show. I had never seen this film before and I must say there are some extremely interesting scenes. When Dr. Mortimer introduced his curly-haired spaniel, Snoopy, I thought I was going to lose it. Thank God we were watching a DVD with English subtitles so I could see "Snoopy" and know I wasnt just hearing things.
Howards second love is ballet and his personal favorite in his fabulous collection is the one with the Sir Kenneth Macmillan and Stanley Holden from Sadler's Well's ballet "The Great Detective" (1953). Although Sir Kenneth has passed I'm happy to report Stanley Holden is still around, and running a ballet academy in Angora, CA.
The nice thing about collecting is that it is a never-ending process. Howard was quick to tell me there are still plenty of photographs and autographs to be acquired. Some of these are Taichiro Hirokawa and Kousei Tomita - Japanese Holmes and Watson, Philip King, Holger Madsen, Herman Speelmans, and H. A. Saintbury. He needs autographs of H. Marion Crawford (his most wanted item), Keith Mc Connell, Laurie Main, Martin Fric, Paul Edwin Roth, Richard Gordon, Robert Hardy, David Llewellyn, Debrah Farentino, Carleton Hobbs, Norman Shelly, Viggo Larsen, Cyril Scott, Harry Benham , Richard Bates, Sam Robinson (a silent Black Sherlock Holmes, 1918), Lawrence Chenault, G. Edward Brown (silent Jazz Hound), Caryle Blackwell, Warburton Gamble, H. Reeves-Smith, James Bragington, Roger Morlidge, Edward Fielding, Leigh Lovell, Campbell Singer, Vaclay Voska, Radovan Lukavsky, John Scoot-Paget, Frederick Lloyd, Fred Mace, John Payne, John Stanley, Alfred Shirley, Ian Fleming (the actor, not author), Rupert Everett, and Tony Randall. He is also looking for a photograph of Milton Berle and Melvin Cooper as Holmes and Watson.
I havent heard of many of these actors but rest assured Howard has and they are just as much a part of the Sherlockian world as any of the great books or other pieces of Sherlockiana. If anyone ever finds himself or herself in Orlando, Florida, it is worth the effort to look up E. Howard Ostrom.