Billy Wilder spent 7 years with his co-writer I. A. L. Diamond working on the script [pdf, for educational purposes only] of ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.’ The finished film originally lasted over 3 hours, but the studios panicked over the failure of such long form films (“Doctor Doolittle” with Rex Harrison, and “Star!” with Julie Andrews and Michael Craig) and demanded cuts. The film was hacked down to an acceptable 93 minutes. Diamond didn’t speak to Wilder for almost a year. —Holmes as Hamlet: Billy Wilder’s ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’
With a 260-page script and a budget of $10 million, this was set to be a 165-minute Road Show picture with an intermission for comfort. It was to be the “big one” for Billy Wilder. The shooting schedule ran for six months and resulted in a rough-cut that came in at three hours and 20 minutes. The film was originally structured as a series of very specifically structured linked episodes, each with a particular title and theme. The opening sequence was to feature Watson’s grandson in London claiming his inherited dispatch box from Cox & Co. and there was also a flashback to Holmes’ Oxford days to explain his distrust of women.
All were shot, but deleted from the final print. So what happened? Well, it appears that United Artists suffered a number of major film flops in 1969 that pretty much scuppered the road show format for Wilder’s massive project. Studio execs ordered the film to be cut to fill a regular theatrical running time, whittling it down to a 125-minute version. The episodic format made the pruning process relatively simple, so cut were the opening sequence, the Oxford flashback and two full episodes entitled “The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners” at 15 minutes and “The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room” at 30 minutes. We can only hope that the full footage can one day be restored, although a full print is not currently thought to exist. (source: mypdfscripts)