JEREMY BRETT Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Jeremy Brett.                                                                     
Birth name: Peter Jeremy William Huggins                                               
Born: 3 November 1933 Berkswell Grange in Berkswell, Warwickshire, England             
Died: 12 September 1995 London, England                                                 
Jeremy Brett (3 November 1933 – 12 September 1995), born Peter Jeremy William         
Huggins, was an English actor famous 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.                                                                       
Brett was born at Berkswell Grange in Berkswell, Warwickshire, England 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.                             
Brett trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.         
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. In the same year he appeared on Broadway as the Duke of                 
Aumerle in Richard II. 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       
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 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 and Patrick Macnee).                                       
Brett suffered from bipolar disorder (commonly known as manic depression), which       
worsened after the death of his second wife, Joan Wilson, on July 4, 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. "Holmes was threatening me. He became the dark side of the moon           
because he is moody and solitary and I am sociable and gregarious. It got               
dangerous for me." 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. Mel Gussow wrote in a 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."                                                             
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.                                                                         
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.