Here's some notes on the scenes cut from THE PRIVATE LIVE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, and some of Billy Wilder's comments about the cutting of the film. Incidentally, the DVD release of the film has restored the cut scenes with as much material as could be found. In the Naked Honeymooners episode, the picture is subtitled, because the soundtrack has been lost, and in the Case of the Upside Down room, just the opposite occurred: they have sound, but no picture, so they play the soundtrack with a series of stills. It's still fascinating, as both give you an idea of what was cut better than just reading the script.
Original running time: 200 minutes
Released version: 125 minutes
75 minutes where cut from the film, including the prologue, two whole episodes, and a brief flashback from the Loch Ness episode. Originally, the film opened with Holmes and Watson returning from Turkey on the Orient Express. There was a brief comic scene where Holmes deduces that a Italian music teacher has fled from a ladies compartment (in order to escape from the sudden arrival of the ladies husband). This segues into Holmes and Watson’s arrival at Baker Street, and Holmes boredom since he has no case to work on, which leads him to indulge in his cocaine habit. Watson suggests a cure in a Swiss clinic, then concocts a phony murder case to distract Holmes (The Case of The Upside Down Room), with the help of Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard.
Next eposode is "The Affair of the Russian Ballerina," which had several trenchant bits cut, including a coda, where Rogozhin visits 221B Baker St. and asks Mrs. Hudson to speak to Mr. And Mrs. Holmes. Rogozhin presents Holmes with the violin Madame Petrova offered, explaining she is now in Venice with the painter, Tolouse-Latrec, who she has selected to be the father for the baby she wanted (and hopes it will be a normal height). Rogozhin then presents Watson with some flowers, and suggests a clandestine meeting between them at the Savoy Grill.
The third episode was to be "The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners," which was cut completely, and led to the final Loch Ness episode, which had many choice scenes cut, such as Watson reading about the Loch Ness sightings at Baker Street, before Gabrielle arrives, and an important flashback that Holmes relates to Gabrielle in their train bunks on the trip to Scotland (concerning his distrust of women). Holmes first love experience—while on the rowing crew at Oxford—was falling for a girl, who it turns out was a prostitute. Final coda has Holmes taking cocaine, after learning of Gabrielle’s death in Japan from Mycroft's letter, and Inspector Lestrade coming to inquire about Holmes possible help in solving a series of baffling murders in Whitechapel, that the papers are referring to as the "Jack The Ripper" murders. Watson explains that Holmes is unfortunately indisposed and cannot be of any help to Scotland Yard.
from FILM COMMENT - Jan, 1979:
BILLY WILDER: The original explained a little bit more about the relations between those two men. It started off with them on a train and he is doing some of his deducing there, and then coming back (to London). There was, subsequently , an episode of Sherlock Homes in Oxford, the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, and he won the money to go out and pay for a hooker. That's where he finds out that this is the girl he was in love with. The Sherlock Homes thing was premature; after that there came a whole slew of Sherlock Homes pictures. This was sort of the first one. You only see about 60 % of it. I understand United Artists has the complete picture in London. I never inquired into that, because I never inquire into old pictures. But if it takes my permission to help restore THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES I'd be delighted to, any time they want. If they can get a hold of it, I would not ask for any money, they can show it. I would be absolutely delighted. That's the one I would like to redo.
Interviewed by Cameron Crowe - 1999:
BILLY WILDER: SHERLOCK HOLMES was a wonderful picture, but the preview went poorly and I sloughed it off. I was not too interested in a perfect rendition of the picture. It was an unhappy circumstance. The only instance where I abandoned a picture. It was shot in London, and I could not go back to fix things and re-shoot. I had to walk away for another picture. AVANTI, or another picture that fell apart in Paris. I left SHERLOCK HOLMES in the good hands of my editor, and my pals the Mirisch brothers and they murdered it. The cutting was done by an Englishman, Ernest Walter, because I had to have an English editor. A very tough movie to shoot. And episodic. Never do a picture with episodes, because some of them can be cut out. Twenty minutes can go out. And the producer had preferences in which sections to cut, preferences different than my own. I don't know, we just had a tough time. I loved the movie, and it got screwed up. It was too long, and I had the final cutting rights, but I left and didn't do the cutting myself. I told the editor, "I trust you, you know what I would like. Cut this, cut that." And then when I came back, it was an absolute disaster. The whole prologue was cut and whole sequences were cut. I had tears in my eyes as I looked at that thing. It was a very, very well done picture. It was the most elegant picture I've ever shot and I don't shoot elegant pictures. Mr. Vincente Minnelli, he shot elegant pictures.