RARA-AVIS: sherlock; ronin/payback & steinbeck

Frederick Zackel (fzackel@bgnet.bgsu.edu)
Wed, 3 Mar 1999 09:46:17 -0500 (EST) I think my wife and I watched all the Jeremy Brett versions of Holmes on
PBS; we never really thought of him as "a practicing detective."
Yes, there was too much of the cozy in them. But what turned me off to
the detective came from two of the episodes. One, about a journalist who
loses his job then becomes a professional begger, had Holmes looking down
his nose at the poor fellow for trying to keep his family fed; Holmes
tells the wife and at the end of the story everybody knows she'll leave
him. (The man was middle-class and struggle; holmes feeds him to the
dogs.) The second was where Holmes discovers a man has hidden the news of
the death of his mother(?) until after his horse wins a horse race, in
order that the man doesn't lose his inheritance. (The man was a
gentleman; therefore Holmes could cut him a break.) Neither case had any
"crime" attached to it. But in both cases Holmes is clearly a member of
the upper crust, with all the prejudices and biases.

One comment Brett made before he died was that among many actors the role
of Holmes is especially draining because, to quote Brett, "the man is
hollow at the core." Unlike most hard-boiled protagonists who operate
according to a very personal set of values, Holmes is essentially an empty
shell an actor puts on like an overcoat.

I haven't seen Ronin yet, but I enjoyed Payback as a Mel Gibson movie. I
love the Parker stories, and i just ignored the fact that "Porter' was
supposed to be "Parker." He wasn't. He was Mel Gibson. It was a popcorn
movie. It was cartoonish, almost like Wile E. Coyote-Roadrunner.

I find the POV of rara-avians (i.e., Payback is not hard-boiled) vs. the
POV of the American public (i.e., Payback is too hard-boiled) amusing.
It's like John Steinbeck. Some think he's too grim and unrelenting, while
others find him too treacly sentimental. And when Of Mice and Men came
out, the New York Times called it "a great thriller." And when he started
the book, Steinbeck thought it was a children's story!

Frederick Zackel
Bowling Green, Ohio

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