To film the series he decided to take advantage of some new studios that had just been built at Epinay-sur-Seine, about five miles cast of Paris. For location work he would hop across the Channel and use the streets of London. It all made much better sense than trying to commute from America.
Next Sheldon Reynolds needed an actor to fill the role of Holmes as he saw him. He found the man he was seeking in the slender, blond, 36-year-old Ronald Howard, the son of the late matinee idol, Leslie Howard.
The younger Howard, who had been born in London but raised in America, had appeared in both films and
stage plays on either side of the Atlantic. He was immediately attracted to the idea of playing Holmes and
fully shared Reynolds' vision of the great detective. In December 1954 as he neared the end of filming the 39 episodes which were to make up the series of half-hour plays, Ronald Howard said that his interpretation of the part as compared to that of his predecessors was 'as different as chalk and cheese'.
"Of course it will be up to the viewer to decide who is the chalk and who is the cheese," he said. "I mean no disrespect to some excellent actors; I simply wish to point out that Holmes, in my portrayal, and in the text from which I work, is vastly different from the others.
"In my interpretation Holmes is not an infallible, eagle-eyed, out-of-the-ordinary personality, but an exceptionally sincere young man striving to get ahead in his profession. Where Basil Rathbone's Holmes was nervous and highly-strung, mine has a more ascetic quality, is deliberate, very definitely unbohemian, and is underplayed for reality."
For Doctor Watson, Sheldon Reynolds sought a similarly distinctive actor, and cast Howard Marion Crawford, the veteran English stage, screen and radio actor, and grandson of another of the Victorian literary giants, Francis Marion Crawford. Despite all his acting accomplishments, this was to be Crawford's television debut – and he accepted the part with alacrity. It was a role he had long wanted to play, he said, and he was delighted with the chance to give the good Doctor a new image. "I had never thought of Watson as the perennial brainless bungler who provided burlesque relief in the earlier portrayals." Crawford said. "He is a normal man, solid on his feet. A medical student who gives valuable advice. He is also very sincere and honest and has a keen sense of humour. In other words, he is a perfect foil to Holmes' youthful buoyancy."
To complement the new interpretations of the Holmes and Watson roles, Reynolds contacted Michael Weight, who had built the Sherlock Holmes exhibit for the Festival of Britain, and commissioned him to build a replica of Holmes' Baker Street flat. To augment this set, Weight sought out reproductions of genuine Holmesian period furnishings including Holmes' dark lantern, coal scuttle cigar container, low-powered microscope and velvet chair. In building Baker Street on the Epinay-sur-Seine lot, complete with its gas lights and hansom cabs. Michael Weight and his team unexpectedly received the cooperation of the Paris authorities who provided thousands of cobblestones for the street!
Another first in the history of Sherlock Holmes on the small screen was the appointment of a woman in a senior position on this production – as associate producer. She was a chic, blonde Parisienne, Mme Nicole Milinaire, who had been a lover of the Sherlock Holmes stories since she had read French translations as a teenager in her father’s library.
In a delightful interview with Don Ross of The New York Herald-Tribune in March 1955. Mme Milinaire said she considered herself as thoroughly steeped in the Holmes tradition as any Englishman.
Asked what an associate producer did, Mme Milinaire responded sharply to the popular idea that it was 'romantic, leisurely, big desk, flowers and tea in the afternoon.'
"I actually work twelve hours a day," she said. "I talk over ideas with the writers and edit their scripts so that they fit into the budget limitations, cast the shows, see that the thousand and one necessary details get attended to — for example, making proper arrangements with the London authorities for shooting street scenes — and scrutinize the film rushes to see that everything has turned out all right."
She assured Don Ross that the series was not a cheap one to produce— millions are involved in the period furniture we use, she said (though she did not say whether she meant francs or dollars) — and she believed that 'out of all the stories we have only five stinkaires'. She declined to identify which they were, but there were strong suggestions that Holmes becoming involved with Red Indians while solving a tomahawk murder in the Wild West, might stretch credulity a little far!
In the final analysis, the series proved a hit when screening began over WRCA TV on October 18, 1954. This Week, magazine urged viewers, 'You won't want to miss this 4-star video event,' while members of the Baker Street Irregulars showed their appreciation of Sheldon Reynolds' adaptation of their much-loved stories. `They capture the full flavour of the times, and portray faithfully the characteristics and the mood which are, to us, the essence of these tales. We felt ourselves — and what could be more than this? — back in Baker Street again.'
There was praise, too, for the leading actors from the 'Bible' of the entertainment business, Variety. In a review on
October 20, the journal called the show `a winner that avoids the customary cliches that seem inevitable in any treatment of the Conan Doyle stories'.
Variety continued. 'Ronald Howard makes an excellent Holmes. He's got the fine features one expects in the man, plus a commanding voice. And, bless us, he doesn't overplay. H. Marion Crawford is something new in Doctor Watson, a commonplace type and by no means a buffoon. Archie Duncan is also good as the blustering Inspector Lestrade.'
The Adventures of.Sherlock Holmes enjoyed a successful airing throughout America. The production was clearly an important one in the story of Holmes on TV.
* from an eBay DVD description