The Brettish Empire
Vol. I #13

October 1, 1995

***In Loving Memory of Jeremy Brett, 1933 - 1995***

"His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with each fresh part he assumed."
--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "A Scandal in Bohemia"


Well, life goes on, and the story of Jeremy Brett's passing has been relegated to yesterday's news. However, the news of Jeremy's death still weighs heavily upon us, his fans. For Jeremy Brett was more than just "some actor" to us, more than just, "Oh, yeah--'Sherlock Holmes'". He was a special friend who riveted us with his triumphs and tragedies.

Rather than dwell on Jeremy's passing in this issue, I'm going to share some writings which celebrate his life. If anyone doubts that Jeremy was revered as an actor and well-loved as a human being, they need only to read the many tributes which appeared in various newsgroups on the Internet after his death was announced. What follows are just a few of the tributes I found:

"Forgive me for being sentimental. The deaths of actors and celebrities rarely affect me this way...My first exposure to Holmes was when I was in college, when I read the books. After reading all the stories, I made an effort to find and watch many of the old films, mostly the Basil Rathbone productions, some others. Then, I lost interest. I rediscovered Holmes through the Granada series and Jeremy Brett. By this time I was married, and my wife--who had barely heard of Sherlock Holmes--watched them with me and we enjoyed them together. Once, I made a reference to other actors who have played Holmes, and she could not believe that ANYONE other than Brett had ever played the role! Brett WAS Holmes to her, and became Holmes to me. Other actors in the role seem like a caricature of the great detective. We all have places we cherish in our mind, places that never change as we grow older and are faced with the continuing flux of day-to-day events. The rooms at Baker Street are such a dream haven for me. But tonight, my mind's eye sees them as being cold and empty. Thanks, Mr. Brett, for bringing a a beloved fictional character to life with such talent and virtuosity. You will be missed."--Robert S.

"Robert: Thanks for expressing so well what I (and countless others) have been feeling for the past few days. I just can't believe he's dead. I just can't. I suppose since Sherlock Holmes himself is immortal, it's hard for me to realize that my favorite actor is actually dead. I believe it was Wednesday night that A & E's 'Biography' was about Sherlock Holmes. Rather ironic, wouldn't you say? Here is a character that will never die and yet, on the day the program is presented, we are mourning the loss of one of our favorite interpreters of Holmes. You are quite right to say that other actors just seem to be a 'caricature' of the detective, but Brett never gave that impression. He was as close to perfection as I can imagine..."--Anthony V. 

"As some friends have been reminding me, at least now he's reunited with his beloved wife. I met [Mr. Brett] once. A gracious, lovely person. Immensely different from Sherlock Holmes, of course. He made you think of champagne. As an actor, his portrayal of Holmes is probably what he'll be remembered for, but I also like remembering how he was part of Olivier's little troupe at the National, and spent so much time on the stage, creating roles like the son in John Mortimer's 'Journey Round My Father', or being Bassanio to Joan Plowright's Portia in 'The Merchant of Venice'. And, of course, he starred in 'Mystery!'s' first ever series, as Max De Winter in 'Rebecca'. Rest well, Mr. Brett. We'll miss you, but it's been a joy."--Kathy L.

"...Here was an entertainer. His breadth was so unusual that it's hard to reconcile the memory of the song-and-dance man courting Audrey Hepburn ('On the Street Where You Live' in 'My Fair Lady') with the hawk-faced Sherlock Holmes of the final years. It happens that last month my wife and I visited the Granada studios in Manchester and stood in quiet reflection on the Baker Street set, recalling the excellence of what had been created there...I had the pleasure of knowing Basil Rathbone. He loved Holmes, and I think it showed in his work. Rathbone died long before Brett gave Holmes a rebirth, but I fancy he would have wanted to shake Brett's hand warmly. Perhaps today he is doing so...RIP, Mr. Brett. We won't see your equal soon."--Paul D. 

Sonia Fetherston forwarded the following tribute, which was published in the BBC's "Radio Times" magazine (9/30-10/6/95):

"During our 10 year association, I was privileged to get to know Jeremy very well. We became great friends. We both believed that the friendship between Holmes and Watson must be rooted in humour. In reality, Jeremy made sure there was always laughter when we were working. In spite of the enormous strain his illness placed on him he never lost his sense of joy. He had a wonderful laugh. It was infectious. The enormous list of actors and technicians who worked on the series will tell you that they never had a happier job. That was Jeremy. This, of course, was the background to a great actor giving a great performance. I shall miss him."--Edward Hardwicke ("Dr. Watson")

My favorite tribute appeared in this morning's "Columbus Dispatch":


By Tom Tucker, Cox News Service

Sometimes we become so attached to certain actors or other entertainers, they become part of our family.

I don't watch much television.

One program I rarely miss, though, is 'Sherlock Holmes Mysteries' on the Arts & Entertainment network.

Last Monday night, as I watched Holmes' 'The Problem of Thor Bridge', something strange happened.

At program's end, a haunting cello moaned its final, sad notes, and a familiar picture of Jeremy Brett, portraying Sherlock Holmes, moved in slow motion, then froze.

The screen was framed in black and this phrase appeared beneath the scene of Holmes at the window of his apartment at 221-B Baker Street.

'His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with each fresh part he assumed.'--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle was describing Holmes, but producers intended it as a tribute to the actor who portrayed him so convincingly.

The episode was dedicated to Brett, who died September 12.

I sat stunned. A member of my family was gone.

We always spent Monday nights together. In my imagination, Brett was Holmes, moving deftly through twisted, tangled plots of Victorian England woven by Doyle.

Brett dead? No. It could not be.

Once, in Atlanta, a small newspaper advertisement said Brett would appear at a tiny bookshop. Excited by the prospect of meeting him, I rushed to the shop. People waited in line down the block. The small brick building was crammed full of people. The rest stood in the hot sun 30 minutes. The line moved maybe 6 feet. Finally, some of us gave up and went home.

Today, I wish I'd stayed. What was he like? Was he charming? An oaf? A lout? A friendly person? Pompous? Arrogant? Thin? Did he smile much or smoke incessantly, like Holmes?

Once, I saw Muhammad Ali in an airport. Huge, lonely.

Once, I met Bob Dylan. Small, keenly aware.

What would Jeremy Brett have been like?

According to his obituary in 'The New York Times', Brett regarded the detective he played as 'a black-and-white figure moving through a world of color', as a 'man without a heart'.

Brett, who died of heart failure in his sleep, was born Peter Jeremy Huggins, 11/3/35, and studied at Eton. He appeared on Broadway, played Dracula and made several films.

He became Holmes on British television in 1984, originally broadcast here on PBS' 'Mystery!' series.

Tall and hawklike, according to an obituary, Brett worried at the time he became Holmes that it was 'the most dangerous thing' he'd ever done, because of the familiarity of the character. Instead, it became his signature role.

You drift through the years, then a small zephyr of opportunity breathes in your face, a chance to meet an interesting person you admire from a distance.

I had a chance to meet Jeremy Brett, a guest who 'visted' my home often, though I never knew him. In my mind, he was/is Sherlock Holmes.

As I watch him on television in my Florida room on Monday evenings, I'll still slip back in time with Holmes and Watson, moving quietly in shadows across the cobblestones of old Londontown. I will smile.

But, I'll be sad, too, realizing Mr. Brett has died.

Sherlock Holmes, the character he portrayed so brilliantly, lives on only in print and film."

(This, to me, says it all.--llo) 

As most of you know, Jeremy's voice was last broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 9/3 in an appeal for the Manic Depression Fellowship, a charity for manic depression sufferers and their loved ones. Jeremy gave a moving account of his struggles with this condition.  I'm sure that donations sent in Jeremy's memory to the following address would be greatly appreciated:


Manic Depression Fellowship
Castle Works
21 St. Georges Road
London SE1 6ES

UK Phone # 020 7793 2600
(From the US, dial:  011 44 207793 2600)

One more bit of news to share with you. Sonia F. has also informed me that Jeremy's name was removed from the O.B.E. list--it seems that there is no provision for posthumous honors. There are many things I could say right now, but I'm only going to say this:


(He deserved it...) 

Take care, everyone.

Until next time,


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"The Brettish Empire"/"TBE" Copyright Lisa L. Oldham.