Fodor’s Travel is naming Gillette Castle in E. Haddam, Connecticut as one of “10 UNDER-THE-RADAR ATTRACTIONS IN THE U.S.”
Read more at Fodor’s Travel.
Gillette Castle was built with field-stone and was home to legendary stage actor, William Gillette. The 184 acre park is situated on a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. Gillette is best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stage, designed his house with intricately carved locks and wood doors. Hiking trails, picnic spots, food concession, gift shop.
Gillette Castle is open from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day, 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Tickets are sold until 4:30 PM. Staff are available to assist with questions about the Gillette Castle interior and its history. The grounds are open year round and offers beautiful views.
Address: Gillette Castle State Park, 67 River Rd, East Haddam, Connecticut 06423
William Gillette (July 24, 1853 – April 29, 1937) was an American actor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage and in a 1916 silent film long thought lost: the 1916 Sherlock Holmes starring none other than William Gillette. This film is significant because it has long been lost.
While most of Gillette’s work has long been forgotten, his last great masterpiece is still well known today: Gillette Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Gillette asked for and received permission from Arthur Conan Doyle to adapt material and use the character for a play in 1899. And from that time until the early 1930s, he played the role some 1,300 times. And yet the 1916 film is the only record that was made of Gillette’s performance in the title role that dominated so much of his career.
The silent film version of Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette has been found! Long considered lost since its first release, the Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Holmes on screen. Directed by Arthur Berthelet and produced by Essanay Studios in 1916, it was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française in 2014. The Sherlock Holmes film is believed to be the only filmed record of his iconic portrayal.
By the time the film was made, Gillette had been established as the world’s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage. He gave his face and manner to the detective and inspired the classic illustrations of Frederic Dorr Steele. Dynamic but calm, he played Holmes in the colorful attire—bent-stemmed briar, ornate dressing gown, and deerstalker cap—that has been identified ever since with the character. Just as durable was Gillette’s distinctive bearing, preserved in the film: the charismatic, all-seeing detective who dominates scenes with his preternatural stillness.
Booth Tarkington famously wrote after seeing Gillette on stage, “I would rather see you play Sherlock Holmes than be a child again on Christmas morning.” For the well-known Chicago bookman, Vincent Starrett, Gillette was beyond criticism. But perhaps the most telling accolade came from Arthur Conan Doyle himself, who had killed Holmes off and thought he was through with the character. After reading Gillette’s adaptation for the stage, he said, “It’s good to see the old chap back.”
“Sir Arthur, you don’t know the half of it,” says Professor Russell Merritt, the supervising editor of the project and member of the Baker Street Irregulars. “At last we get to see for ourselves the actor who kept the first generation of Sherlockians spellbound. We can also see where the future Holmeses— Rathbone, Brett, Cumberbatch, and the rest—come from. As far as Holmes is concerned, there’s not an actor dead or alive who hasn’t consciously or intuitively played off Gillette.”
The newly found Essanay production is not only Gillette’s sole surviving appearance as Holmes. It is also the only film Gillette ever made, a unique opportunity to view the work of a major American actor in the legendary role that he wrote for himself. The film faithfully retains the play’s famous set pieces—Holmes’s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions—and illustrates how Gillette wove bits from Conan Doyle’s stories ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem,” into an original, innovative mystery play.