JEREMY BRETT THE BEST SHERLOCK HOLMES
When the question emerges, who’s the most brilliant from the actors portrayed the world famous detective, it is very hard to answer. Certainly everybody has more than one favourite, so it’s difficult to choose. Lots and lots of wonderful artists played the Baker Street sleuth and gave memorable performances in movies, television films or series. Every generation has its beloved Sherlock actor, but maybe those who starred in series as Conan Doyle’s most famous creature had bigger impacts on their audiences. That’s the reason why many people name Basil Rathbone, Vasily Livanov, Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller as the greatest Holmes. They all played the detective in more episodes, so they had enough time to elaborate the character and to get used to the person they had to portray. This does not mean that the actors who donned the deerstalker „only” in one film gave bland performances. There are many brilliant „one-time” Sherlocks throughout the history of movies and television, and hopefully there will also be some memorable ones in the future (Link: Sherlock Holmes actors).
I belong to the middle-aged category (I was born in 1979), and for me Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes in the Granada series is the best (Link: Granada series). I was in my mid-twenties when I saw some of his predecessors in the role and I also followed with attention those artists who had the chance to make the detective their own since the year 2000. Though there are some outstanding performances, Jeremy is and will always be my perfect Holmes. The actor was an excellent choice for the part. He was tall, thin and aristoratic. An elegant, skilled and highly energetic man, just as the detective of the Canon. It is an awesome experience to watch the series in the original language, with his wonderful, deep voice and clear articulation. But there are not only external similarities between him and Sherlock. He shared many of the sleuth’s inner qualities as well. He was a real gentleman, he had deep respect for women, he loved animals, and in his profession he was accurate, a perfectionist. Both of his Watsons were his close friends, and they spent lots of time together.
The character of Sherlock Holmes was not merely a new task, a new job for him. When he got the part, he read the whole Canon for preparation. He paid attention to the smallest details, and became an expert of the stories. During shootings he always made a stand for accuracy, insisted on correcting mistakes and didn’t want any changes. He fought for Doyle and for his hero. Unfortunately in the later seasons he was impaired and lacked the energy that was needed for the strict control. This is quite noticeable in the latter episodes, where the quality is lower – though it is also true that production costs were reduced and the company had less time for finishing an episode.
Brett was determined to give an outstanding performance. In an interview he talked about his fear of stepping into the shoes of such great actors like Ronald Howard, Basil Rathbone or Ian Richardson. He became obsessed with Holmes, he wanted to portray the sleuth exactly like Sir Arthur created him. It was certainly difficult for him to overshadow his highly social, kind, happy and affectionate personality to play the loner, emotionless thinking machine. This required enormous concentration, but resulted in a genuine, valuable portrayal that stood the test of time. He deeply respected the character and the viewers. He asked permission from Conan Doyle’s daughter to have a scene in one of the stories (in The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot) where Sherlock gets rid of his bad habit of using the seven-per-cent solution. Jeremy knew that many children were among the fans of the series, and for them the detective is a real superhero. Superheroes have to set tan example. So he showed that Holmes is able to change and quit using drugs (You can read more about the misbeliefs concerning his drug use here:
Misbeliefs about Sherlock Holmes).
Nowadays it is a well-known fact that the actor suffered from manic depression. He talked about it in an interview and urged people to seek for help. Manic depression causes extreme mood swings – optimistic, dynamic periods are followed by melancholia and apathy. This makes it even more unbelievable what an outstanding job Jeremy did – in his bad periods he had to make almost heroic efforts for being able to shoot. In 1985, shortly after they began shooting the series he lost his beloved wife and he entrenched himself in working to ease his sorrow. He had problems with his heart. He also took antidepressants, and the drugs fought with each other. This generated water retention in his body, and slowly the lean and energetic Sherlock transformed. It hurt him, he thought the viewers will be disappointed and he never wanted that. The dosage failure of his pills was corrected and after that Jeremy lost lots of weight, but sadly he could not return to his old self. Time had also passed in between. The shooting of the series began in 1983, when Brett was 50, and in the last episode he was 61. Shortly after he had to be taken to hospital again, and he died on the 12th of September 1995. You can read his detailed biography here: Jeremy Brett
I read and heard mixed opinions on his performance. Some say he was over-acting, enforced, mannered or simply old-fashioned. I think they only see the surface, and maybe they do not know what a complex person Sherlock Holmes is, with lots of fantastic qualities. Jeremy Brett was able to show even these hidden characteristics. He will always remain the perfect Holmes for me. He did a wonderful job, his unique, legendary portrayal stands the test of time. I like him very much as an actor, and as a beautiful human being as well. His death is a great and tragic loss for the British acting scene. I am forever grateful for him for being a kind and human person, and I am grateful for his one of a kind Sherlock portrayal.
The charitable Jeremy Brett
Jeremy Brett: Sherlock Holmes, the Granada series
Jeremy Brett's Churchwarden pipe
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