Monday, February 1, 2010

Private Life, part 1

Since I recently rewatched Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes I've wondered what would have happened if the Russian Ballerina scenes had ended differently. You see, to get out of sex with the Russian ballerina Madame Petrova, Holmes lies and claims that he and Watson are lovers. Later Watson hears this story from the director of the ballet, and he confronts Holmes angrily. This plot happens within the first 35 minutes of the film, and is the basis for Watson wondering if Holmes has ever had any female lovers or not. The rest of the movie is hetero.

Well, this story is based on that movie, but with an alternate outcome, where the movie actually is "a love story between two men" as it was promoted. The scene of Holmes bathing while Watson breakfasts is in the movie, and also, Mycroft and Sherlock do not have a friendly relationship.

A Love Story Between Two Men, part 1

Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Story: movie-verse, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Pairing: Holmes/Watson
Warnings: slash, PG-13

Normally, Holmes would have insisted that Watson come with him to meet the client. He did not want that snobbish Nikolai Rogozhin to exclude Watson, especially since Watson seemed to be a fan of this Madame Petrova. However, Watson looked so eager to spend time with the giggling young ballerinas, that Holmes could not tell him no. Indeed, Holmes had only agreed to attend the boring ballet because Watson had insisted on it.

Holmes had been bathing this morning when Watson walked into his bedroom, and even leaned over to tell him that the ballet was Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and he could not bear to miss it. So Holmes agreed to go, but was glad that he was bathing in soapy water, and could hide his reaction with the bubbles. He asked Watson to go get their tuxedos pressed, so they could attend the ballet tonight.

"Gladly!" Watson grinned and nearly went to hug Holmes, before remembering himself. He coughed and said, "Thank you, Holmes." Then he stood and hurried to his own bedroom to change out of his dressing gown.

Sitting there, in his cramped bathtub, with the door still open, Holmes exhaled slowly and considered that it was his own fault for leaving his bedroom door open while he bathed. He longed for Watson to watch him, let alone come nearer, and so he shouldn't be surprised when Watson did so. If only Watson had embraced him after all, or even kissed him! Perhaps, if he indulged Watson's sentimentality with the ballet tonight, Holmes might be able to romance him when they got home. Perhaps, if he serenaded Watson on the violin again, played some music from the ballet, and told him how handsome he looked in his tuxedo, Holmes could at last tell Watson how he felt.

But of course his hopes were dashed the moment that Watson gazed at those giggling ballerinas. Watson remained, as always, a ladies' man.

So here Holmes was, being escorted by Rogozhin to Madame Petrova's dressing-room. The grand ballerina greeted the director familiarly as Nikolai, and she apparently spoke only Russian, so Nikolai translated for her.

Holmes graciously kissed the lady's hand and politely responded to her small talk about Watson's stories. He kept wondering about her case, though, and for a while Rogozhin led him to believe that Madame Petrova wanted him to authenticate a Stradivarius violin that she had. However, the director indicated that the "fiddle" would actually be his payment for services to be rendered.

Holmes was astounded, and took hold of the violin only when the man insisted on it.

Finally Madame Petrova emerged from behind her changing screen. She wore a dark red dress with a fur-trimmed jacket over it. Sitting down on the chaise lounge, she instructed Nikolai to go on.

"All right, I will pour vodka and explain." Oddly, the man poured out of a decanter of reddish liquid rather than clear vodka, but Holmes ignored it as he was eager to hear about the case at last. These Russians could be very roundabout.

Nikolai explained that Madame Petrova was retiring from ballet to "spend life bringing up her child."

"How admirable."

"Problem is, how to find father."

"Oh, is he missing?" Finally, we were getting to the point.


The man now handed Holmes a glass, but he did not drink from it yet. Holmes asked, "And that is why you have called me in?"

"Also correct. We must have father, because without father, how could there be child?"

Holmes finally began to understand, and he looked wary. "I see. The whole thing is still in the planning stage."

"Correct again. Madame would like child to be brilliant and beautiful. Since she is beautiful, she needs man with brilliant."

Thereupon, Madame Petrova and Rogozhin toasted something celebratory in Russian. Holmes was quite stunned, but he weakly joined in the toast because he needed a stiff drink just now. However, when he tasted the vodka, he choked. "What's in this?"

Rogozhin said the vodka had red pepper in it. No wonder the colour was wrong.

Holmes could not believe that they both regularly drank this abominable concoction.

Just then Madame Petrova asked a question, and Rogozhin again translated, "Madame would like to know when you can be ready."


"To leave for Venice. All the arrangements have been made. You will spend one week there with Madame--"

Holmes interrupted, "This is all very flattering, but surely there are other men? Better men."

"To tell truth, you were not first choice. We considered Russian writer Tolstoy."

"Oh that's more like it. The man's a genius."

Rogozhin said that Tolstoy was too old, though, and said they had also considered the philosopher Nietzsche, before dismissing him as too German. "Then, we considered Tchaikovsky."

"Oh you couldn't go wrong with Tchaikovsky."

"We could, and we did. It was catastrophe!"

"Why?" Surely two Russians enamoured of ballet music should be a perfect match?

"You don't know?" The director chuckled and said, "Because Tchaikovsky--how shall I put it? Women, not his glass of tea."

"Oh, pity that."

Madame Petrova raised her glass and spoke with a smile.

Rogozhin translated, "Madame is very happy with her final choice."

Oh God, he had to get out of this. Holmes backed away from them both and put down his glass on a table. "Ah, Madame must not be too hasty. She must remember that I am an Englishman."

"So?" Rogozhin asked.

"Well, you know what they say about us. If there's one thing more deplorable than our cooking, it's our lovemaking. We are not the most romantic of people." Except Watson, apparently.

"Perfect!" the director said. "We don't want sentimental idiots falling in love, committing suicide..."

Holmes remembered that Watson had told him that twelve men had died for Madame Petrova.

"One week in Venice with Madame, she goes back to St. Petersburg with baby, you go back to London with fiddle."

"An equitable arrangement." Holmes put back the violin in its case, and he tried a new tack, claiming that he had haemophilia in his family medical history. He didn't realise at the time that this would be quite illogical, since he had never bled profusely in all his fights during cases--stories that Madame Petrova must have read. Holmes was simply that desperate for some escape.

She interrupted Holmes angrily, and perhaps suspiciously.

"Madame says you talk too much. You find her attractive or no?"

"Well, I, um--" Holmes didn't want to insult her and cause a diplomatic incident. His brother Mycroft disapproved of him enough already.

Suddenly, Watson ran to the room and burst in. He had a red carnation in his hair, above his left ear. "Oh, excuse me." He asked Rogozhin to translate a word for him.

The man was irritated, but he said, "It means, 'you little devil'."

"It does? I am?" Watson grinned and said, "Thank you." He then left and closed the door. Holmes still stared after him, thinking of his beautiful face.

Rogozhin spoke as if offended, "I repeat question. You find Madame attractive or no?"

Holmes finally turned to them, and said calmly now, "Oh, I-I find her most attractive... for a woman, that is."

"Then no problem!"

"Maybe a slight one. You see, I am not a free man."

"Not free? But you are bachelor."

Holmes hinted as broadly as he could, "A bachelor living with another bachelor for the last five years. Five very happy years."

The man stepped closer, looking confused, "What is it you are trying to tell us?"

"Well I hoped I could avoid this subject, but some of us, through a cruel caprice of Mother Nature--"

"Get to point."

"The point is that Tchaikovsky is not an isolated case."

"You mean you and Dr. Watson--?"

Holmes nodded, and only wished it could be true.

The director stammered in disbelief, "He is your glass of tea?"

Holmes nodded again. "If you want to be picturesque about it."

Stunned, Rogozhin turned back to Madame Petrova, who then asked why they had mentioned Tchaikovsky's name. The man pointed to Holmes and called him a "pederast."

She stood up angrily and glanced at Holmes, before yelling at Nikolai for being an idiot. That much Holmes could clearly understand.

Smiling in relief, Holmes gathered up his hat, gloves, and cane. "Believe me, Madame, the loss is all mine." He kissed her hand again, then went to the door. "But I would rather disappoint you now, than disappoint you in a gondola in Venice." He put on his hat and opened the door, posing playfully. He imitated Rogozhin's accent, saying, "It would have been 'catastrophe'!"

Finally Holmes departed and closed the door. He soon heard a glass smashing and Madame Petrova screaming unhappily.

Holmes hurried to the backstage party to collect Watson and leave the theatre.

Watson was now dancing in a line with eight ballerinas. His tie and collar were now undone, along with his black waistcoat.

Holmes tried to speak to him, but the doctor would not stop dancing. "Watson? Watson, are you coming?"

"What is it, old boy?"

"We're going home."

"Home?" Watson did not even inquire about the supposed case. He outright refused to leave. "Not a chance! Not the slightest, not the remotest chance. Toodle-loo!"

Having no choice, Holmes walked away, but he turned back a final time to stare after Watson again. Then he left without a word.

Outside, Holmes shook his head and sighed. What an idiot he was to imagine that he could have had a chance with Watson tonight. Watson would always remain a ladies' man.

Holmes returned to Baker Street and exchanged his tuxedo jacket for his green smoking jacket. He sat in his chair and waited for Watson to come home.

Perhaps Watson would manage to bed one or more of those ballerinas tonight, thereby proving that he was neither queer nor involved with Holmes. Well, if Madame Petrova or Rogozhin came to confront him about his lie, he did not care. He would then finally risk the ultimate insult, that Madame Petrova at 49 was too old to conceive a baby, and should look instead into adopting a child.

End of part 1. Part 2

Note, there a few Russian phrases shown in the DVD subtitles, in a Romanized form. First Watson compliments the ballerinas on their "lovely pooh-poohs" but he actually pronounces it with a long O sound rather than an "oo" sound. So it's more like "popos." Watson gestures with his cane, showing that he means the ladies' bottoms, and this seems to be a different form of the word popa (written попа in the Cyrillic alphabet). Google Translate renders it as "fanny," but this would be much more naughty for British speakers, who use "fanny" for the female genitals. In Russian I guess that попа is a more polite term than шопа (pronounced shopa) which means "ass." It would be like saying "behind" or "bottom" rather than "ass" or "arse," I think.

Next there is Madame Petrova's greeting "ochen priatna" (очень приятно in Cyrillic alphabet) which means approximately "Pleased to meet you." The celebratory toast that appears in the subtitles as "Zo sdarovya" is за здоровье in Cyrillic, and it means "To your health!" Finally, Watson asks what "prokyzhnik" means and is told that it means "you little devil." This is проказник and it actually means "rogue." I give the Cyrillic spellings so that you can look them up on translation services if you want to, although Google Translate will often go for a literal translation like "very nice" for очень приятно, instead of the meaning in context.

Other Russian words and phrases are spoken in the film, of course, but they aren't rendered in the subtitles.

1 comment:

joan said...

Oh this is wonderful! Thank you for writing and sharing!