Jeremy Brett

Jeremy Brett

Infobox actor
name = Jeremy Brett

imagesize = 200px
caption = Jeremy Brett in the role of Sherlock Holmes.
birthname = Peter Jeremy William Huggins
birthdate = birth date|1933|11|3|df=y
location = Berkswell Grange in Berkswell, Warwickshire, England, UK
deathdate = death date and age|1995|9|12|1933|11|3|df=y
deathplace = London, England, UK
othername =
yearsactive = 1954 - 1995
spouse = Anna Massey
(24 May 1958 - 1962) (divorced)
Joan Wilson
(22 November 1976 - 4 July 1985) (her death)
homepage =
academyawards =
emmyawards =
tonyawards =

Jeremy Brett (3 November 1933 – 12 September 1995), born Peter Jeremy William Huggins, was an English actor famous, among other things, for his portrayal of the detective Sherlock Holmes in four British television series: "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", "The Return of Sherlock Holmes", "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes", and "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes".

Early life

Brett was born at Berkswell Grange in Berkswell, Warwickshire, England, UK and was educated at Eton College. Brett later claimed that he was an "academic disaster" at Eton and attributed his learning difficulties to dyslexia. However, he excelled at singing and was a member of the college choir.

Acting career

Brett trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. ["Who's Who in the Theatre", 17th ed. Gale Research, 1981.] He made his professional acting debut at the Library Theatre in Manchester in 1954, and made his London stage debut with the Old Vic company in "Troilus and Cressida" 1956. "Some Joe You Don't Know: An American Biographical Guide to 100 British Television Personalities", by Anthony Slide, Greenwood Press, 1996] In the same year he appeared on Broadway as the Duke of Aumerle in "Richard II". [Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 15. GALE, 1996] He went on to play many classical roles on stage, including numerous Shakespearean parts in his early career with the Old Vic and later with the Royal National Theatre. Brett made his first television appearance in 1954 and his first feature film appearance in 1955.

He was briefly considered by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli for the role of James Bond in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" after Sean Connery quit the series in 1967, but the role went to Australian George Lazenby instead. A second audition for the role of 007 for "Live and Let Die" was also unsuccessful as Roger Moore won the coveted part.

From the early 1960s, Brett was rarely absent from British television screens. He starred in many serials, notably as D'Artagnan in the 1966 adaptation of "The Three Musketeers". A few of his appearances were in comedic roles, but usually with a classic edge, such as Captain Absolute in "The Rivals". In 1973, Brett portrayed Bassanio in a televised production of William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", in which Laurence Olivier portrayed Shylock and Joan Plowright Portia. (Brett, Olivier and Plowright had previously played the same roles in a Royal National Theatre production of the play.) Brett joked that, as an actor, he was rarely allowed into the 20th century and "never" into the present day.

Although Brett's feature film appearances were relatively few, he did play Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the 1964 blockbuster film version of "My Fair Lady". His singing voice was dubbed in the film, but Brett could still sing, as he later proved when he played Danilo in "The Merry Widow" on British television in 1968.

Notable in all of Jeremy Brett's roles is his precisely honed diction. Brett was born with a speech impediment that kept him from pronouncing the "R" sound correctly. Corrective surgery as a teenager, followed by years of practising, gave Brett an enviable pronunciation and enunciation. He later claimed that he practised all of his speech exercises daily, whether he was working or not.

Although he appeared in many different roles during his 40-year career, Brett is now best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes in the 1984–94 series of Granada Television films, adapted by John Hawkesworth and other writers from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (see "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"). Even though he reportedly feared being typecast, Brett appeared in 41 episodes of the Granada series. After taking on the demanding role, Brett made few other acting appearances and he is now widely considered to be the definitive Holmes of his era, just as Basil Rathbone was during the 1940s. Interestingly, Brett had played Doctor Watson on stage opposite Charlton Heston as Holmes in the 1980 Los Angeles production of "The Crucifer of Blood", making him one of only three actors to play both Holmes and Watson professionally (the other two are Reginald Owen, Watson in the 1932 film "Sherlock Holmes" and Holmes in 1933's "A Study in Scarlet" and Patrick Macnee, Watson first in 1976's "Sherlock Holmes in New York" and Holmes in 1993's "The Hound of London").Fact|date=November 2007

Illnesses and death

Brett suffered from bipolar disorder (commonly known as manic depression), which worsened after the death of his second wife, Joan Wilson, on 4 July 1985. She died shortly after Brett finished filming Holmes’ "death" in "The Final Problem". He took a break from filming the "Holmes" series. When he returned to film new episodes in 1986, however, grief and the stressful shooting schedule aggravated his disorder.

He suffered a full-blown manic depressive crisis and was hospitalized. During the last decade of his life, Brett was treated in hospital several times for his mental illness, and his health and appearance visibly deteriorated by the time he completed the later episodes of the " Sherlock Holmes" series. During his later years, he discussed the illness candidly, encouraging people to recognise its symptoms and seek help.

There were plans to film all the Holmes stories, but Brett died of heart failure at his London home before the project could be completed. Brett's heart had been damaged by a childhood case of rheumatic fever and was apparently further weakened by his heavy smoking. In an interview, Edward Hardwicke (the second actor to play Dr. Watson in Brett's "Holmes" series) claimed that Brett would buy 60 cigarettes on his way to the set and smoke them all throughout the day. After his heart problem was diagnosed, Brett reportedly quit smoking for a short while, but began smoking again shortly before his death at the age of 61 on 12 September 1995.

Mel Gussow wrote in a "The New York Times" obituary "Mr. Brett was regarded as the quintessential Holmes: breathtakingly analytical, given to outrageous disguises and the blackest moods and relentless in his enthusiasm for solving the most intricate crimes." [ [ "Jeremy Brett, an Unnerving Holmes, Is Dead at 59"] by Mel Gussow, "The New York Times", September 14, 1995, p. B15] Jeremy Brett's final, posthumous on-screen credit was as the "Artist's Father" in "Moll Flanders", with Robin Wright Penn in the title role. This American feature film (not to be confused with the ITV adaptation starring Alex Kingston) was released in the summer of 1996, nearly a year after Brett's death.


In 1958, Brett married the actress Anna Massey (daughter of Raymond Massey),but they divorced in 1962 when he left her for a man. [citation|title=A very Massey business|publisher=Daily Mail|date=Mar 3, 2007|author=Mary Riddell|pages=15] Their son, David Huggins, born in 1959, is now a successful British cartoonist, illustrator and novelist.

Years later, Brett and Massey appeared together in the BBC's dramatization of "Rebecca" (1978), with Brett playing the haunted hero, Max de Winter, and Massey playing the sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. (David Huggins also played an uncredited bit part in the film.). In 1991 Brett and Anna Massey's brother Daniel Massey appeared in an episode of Sherlock Holmes series. In 1977 Brett married American PBS producer Joan Wilson, but she died of cancer in 1985. Brett was devastated by Wilson's death and did not marry again. Brett was related to another noted British actor, Martin Clunes; Clunes' mother was Brett's first cousin.


* "Svengali" (1954)
* "War and Peace" (1956)
* "The Very Edge" (1962)
* "The Wild and the Willing" (1962)
* "Girl in the Headlines" (1963)
* "Act of Repriasal" (1964)
* "My Fair Lady" (1964)
* "Nicholas and Alexandra" (1971)
* "The Medusa Touch" (1978)
* "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"(1995)
* "Moll Flanders" (1996)


ee also

* List of actors who have played Sherlock Holmes

External links

* [ The Brettish Empire] - Your destination for all things Jeremy Brett (fansite)
* [ Jeremy Brett Dedication]
* [ Interview] with Jeremy Brett at
* [ Release the Jeremy Brett programs]
* [ Images from the Granada series, and Strand comparisons]
* [ Jeremy Brett Interview-November 6, 1991]
* [ Jeremy Brett Society of France] In English
* [ the Société Sherlock Holmes de France]

NAME=Huggins, Peter Jeremy William
DATE OF BIRTH=3 November 1933
PLACE OF BIRTH=Berkswell Grange, Warwickshire, England
DATE OF DEATH=12 September 1995

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