Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes Information

Jeremy Brett (who's real name was Peter Jeremy William Huggins) is the actor widely considered to have portrayed the best Sherlock Holmes ever.  He devoted ten years of his life to playing "You Know Who" (as Brett would call Holmes.)  Some (such as Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch) say that the part of You Know Who drove Brett mad.  However, Brett did have bipolar disorder.  His very last public recording was for a UK mental health charity, the Manic Depression Fellowship.

All of his Sherlock Holmes episodes were done by Granada.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes lasted from 1984 to 1994.  Although the original goal was to do the entire Doyle canon, they wound up doing only 42 stories in 41 episodes.

Why was Brett's Holmes so different and so damn good? 

  • Brett intensely studied not only the Doyle canon, but also the original illustrations by Sidney Paget in The Strand. Brett convinced Grenada to be as authentic to the stories as possible. Some scenes were even recreated directly from Paget's illustrations.
  • Some scripts were approved by Dame Jean Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter.
  • Brett's Holmes behaved like never before seen on screen: he laughed, waved his arms about, snarled in rage and climbed drain pipes.  Brett would be criticized for being melodramatic -- and yet Doyle wrote Holmes as being melodramatic.
  • Brett described his acting as "becoming." He learned this from none other than "Larry" -- that is, Sir Lawrence Olivier. An actor should be a sponge that squeezes out all of the actor's self and soaks up all of the character in the self's place. 
  • Brett, like Holmes, was a heavy smoker. 
  • Brett's Holmes had a simmering sensuality under his superficially cold manner. This sexiness had never been brought to a Holmes before.
  • Brett was able to improvise on camera.
  • Brett explored Holmes' dark side, including his cocaine addiction.
  • Brett helped write scripts, authorize wardrobe, plot shots -- and also acted.
  • Brett added to the Holmes canon with his first draft of what would wind up being a two-man play called The Secret of Sherlock Holmes.  The first draft consisted of Brett talking into a tape recorder for eight hours.  From the tapes, writer Jeremy Paul wrote the play, adding dialogue directly from Doyle when he could. Brett did not take credit for the writing.

 
Brett died in his sleep on September 12, 1995.  His cardiomyopathy had finally caught up to him.  Perhaps it's not so surprising that this ebullient and friendly man died of having a heart that was just too big for him.

With Brett died The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  He is sorely missed -- and not just by Sherlock Holmes fans.  He left behind two stepchildren and one biological son, author David Huggins. 

Brett's Holmes has retired from detective work and has taken up beekeeping in Kent.  He still receives fan mail from around the world from people who are absolutely positive that he was a real person.

And yet Brett's Holmes still pops up in new books.  There are more Sherlock Holmes novels published today than ever before.  Author Paul D. Gilbert acknowledges that the Holmes in his short stories and books is Brett's Holmes.

3 comments:

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