“The Dancing Men”

This is a quick post I’m making in advance of the next Notorious Canary-Trainers virtual meeting, in which we’ll be discussing “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.” If you’ve somehow stumbled across this blog post without knowing anything about the Canary-Trainers, they’re a Sherlock Holmes group in Madison, Wisconsin that was once a regular member of and have rejoined virtually in the last few weeks. I sent them this brief “dancing men” cryptogram.

If properly decoded (and if my hand-drawn dancing men were intelligible enough!), it should have pointed them (you?) to this blog post — it decodes into the URL “bit.ly/nctdance” or so it’s intended to. There are multiple versions of the dancing men cryptogram out there and some of them have distinct similarities between letters (C and M in some, R and I think D? in others). Anyhow, the rest of this post includes a number of supplementary links I thought might be fun to pass along for our upcoming discussion of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.” Hope you enjoy!

First off, here are several filmed adaptations. I have to admit that my earliest memories of this story are not reading it but seeing the Jeremy Brett-led Granada adaptation from 1984. Some brave soul risked a takedown notice to share the entire episode on YouTube, but it’s been up since August, 2018, so I suspect it ain’t going anywhere soon.

Also, I’m not much of a Rathbone/Bruce guy, but if you like these films, here’s Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, which is loosely adapted from “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.”

And, one more! If you’re in the mood for a very different adaptation, here’s an episode of the cartoon Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century that adapts “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” to fun effect. I’ve seen a few of these episodes and love the morbid idea of this as a kids’ TV series — Holmes’s corpse is revived centuries from now! A robot reads the Canon and becomes a new Watson!

Additionally, I’m a casual fan of old time radio broadcasts and have collected over four hundred different Sherlock Holmes adaptations (Rathbone/Bruce, Gielgud/Richardson, Hobbs/Shelley, Foster/Buck, Merrison/Williams, etc). Here are two I could find that were adaptations of “The Dancing Men” — first, the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley version from 1969 and then the Bert Coules-produced version starring Clive Merrison and Michael Williams from 1993. If you have to listen to just one, I recommend the Merrison/Williams version; all of the Coules productions are well-produced, and some of the best Sherlockian adaptations ever, in my opinion.

The Hobbs/Shelley version of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
The Merrison/Williams version of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”

Oh, and here’s more video to share, though not an adaptation. This video from Heritage Auctions in 2018 shows the original manuscript of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” which has now been reproduced in the Baker Street Press’s Dancing to Death (which Max and Monica described in the Google Group recently). I’ve got a copy on order but hasn’t arrived yet — hopefully it’ll get here before the next Canary-Trainers meeting. This video is brief and gives you the sense of what an original Doyle manuscript looks like, in case you haven’t seen one before.

That’s all for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed!