Alexander Holder (Leonard Sachs) is a well-respected city banker. Early one evening he is visited by a prominent member of society who urgently needs £50,000. Holder is happy to advance the money, especially when he’s given the Beryl Coronet as collateral. Holder shows it to his son and niece and though he admits it’s not quite the Crown Jewels, it’s certainly highly impressive – and is worth at least double the amount he’s advanced.
Holder’s son, Arthur (Richard Carpenter), is worried about such a valuable item residing overnight in their house, but he also has concerns of his own. Although he’s an amiable sort, Arthur is a gambler and owes a considerable sum. He asks his father for several hundred pounds, but Holder refuses – he’s tired of settling his son’s gambling debts.
In the middle of the night, Holder is awoken and comes downstairs to find the coronet in the hands of his son. He is appalled to find that the crown is broken and three beryls are missing. Arthur offers no defence and is arrested. Although an intensive search is carried out, there’s no trace of the missing jewels. It seems to be a simple case and Arthur’s guilt appears to be obvious, but Holmes is never prepared to take anything at face value.
The Beryl Coronet was one of the earliest Sherlock Holmes short stories (originally published in the Strand Magazine in 1892). Since it was never adapted for the Granada series, the Douglas Wilmer version is quite noteworthy, as it’s the only sound version of the story (it was twice adapted for the silent screen, in 1912 and 1921).
Although Wilmer and Stock don’t enter the story until the 17th minute, it’s still a lovely vehicle for both of them. Wilmer’s Holmes is rather enigmatic in this one – until he reveals the true solution to Holder at the end, he’s not prepared to share any of his theories. This, of course, helps to sustain the mystery, which is no bad thing. Holmes also gets to don a disguise (which totally fools Watson!)
The story boasts a strong supporting cast. Leonard Sachs (best known for The Good Old Days) is the unfortunate Holder, whilst Richard Carpenter is his son, Arthur. Carpenter was a decent actor, but it’s his later career as a writer that he’ll undoubtedly be best remembered for. Amongst his many writing credits were the well-remembered Look and Read serial The Boy From Space, Catweazle, The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Dick Turpin and the best television adaptation of the Robin Hood legend – Robin of Sherwood. He’s very appealing as the unfortunate Arthur, who’s regarded by everybody (except Holmes and Watson) as clearly guilty. Another noteworthy appearance comes from David Burke as the devious Sir George. Burke would later play Watson opposite Jeremy Brett’s Holmes during the first two series of the Granada run.
The Beryl Coronet possibly wasn’t the most obvious story to adapt, but I’m glad they did – especially since nobody else had done so since 1921! Wilmer continues to dominate the screen and it’s easy to see why, for so many people, he’s regarded as the archetypical Holmes.