The Brettish Empire
Vol. I #2

January 21, 1995

Hello Everyone:

"Bretter" late than never! I apologize for taking so long to mail the second installment of The Brettish Empire. I've been worn out by crises at work and have had some problems with my computer, but, I'm here now, SO, without further ado, here is TBE2.

TIME WELL SPENT

It seems most of us became interested in Jeremy Brett through his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. For instance, I first watched Granada's Sherlock Holmes at my mother's urging. I was dubious about watching it, since Sherlock Holmes had never appealed that much to me, but, after one episode, I was hooked, first on Holmes and later on Jeremy Brett.

Pat Lawrence, a.k.a. MizPat@aol.com, explains how she discovered Brett and Holmes:

"Your story of finding Holmes is precisely the same as mine, except it was my son who put me onto the series. The rat had been watching it in his own room for some time before he let me in on his secret...I grew up with Basil Rathbone. '50's television often featured Holmes movies and I watched them every chance I got. But, they were kid stuff. I think I was interested in the mysteries, but mostly I was fascinated by Rathbone's unusual voice. Later I discovered that some of the stories had been slightly tweaked, or written especially, to serve as (World War II) propaganda. The amazing thing is, as much as I watched Sherlock Holmes, no one ever told me that there was this wonderful collection of adventures I could read for myself.

"So anyhow, I saw one episode of Brett's Holmes and was just a little unnerved, because he was so different from what I'd been used to. But by the second episode, I was into Brett's portrayal 100%. (He also has a unique voice.) It was also at this time I first thought, 'Hmm, who is this fellow Jeremy Brett, and why haven't I seen him before?' I pushed that question out of my mind for at least two years before finally admitting that he was a BIG part of my enjoyment of Holmes...

"My whole family loves Brett as Holmes. In fact, for a year we had a boarder who became a believer once she saw an episode or two. Our son in Oregon never misses Holmes. Our son in North Carolina watches it as often as his wife will let him. (She says she likes [Jeremy's] acting but she thinks he's the ugliest man ever...) Our daughter and her husband live with us and they watch it in their own room. We have three TVs and on Mondays, we have three TVs tuned into Holmes."

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Pat. My mom and I still watch "Holmes", BTW. I have a 13 year-old niece who makes faces when she sees "SH" coming on, but she sits spellbound through each episode.

BIOGRAPHY

"Miz Pat" made another point: "But I gotta tell you, it's real hard to find information on someone who's not an American here. And [Jeremy Brett] is not one of those well-known names like Anthony Hopkins, so you don't see anything about him anywhere."

I know what you mean, Pat. Trying to find info on Jeremy involves lots of searching through references such as Who's Who. The book The Television Sherlock Holmes by Peter Haining is a good resource. Also, fellow Brett fans are a good source of info. We trade articles that many of us would not otherwise have access to.

The following is a mini-bio of Jeremy which I've compiled from various sources:

The youngest of four sons, Jeremy Brett was born Peter Jeremy William Huggins (perhaps his mother read Beatrix Potter?) in Berkswell Grange (near Coventry), Warwickshire, England. His birthday is November 3 (same as your editor's!). The year of his birth is generally listed as 1935, although some sources list 1933. Jeremy's father was Lieutenant Colonel Henry William Huggins, a distinguished, hot-tempered Army man, and his mother, Elizabeth Edith, was a half-Irish Quaker.

Jeremy grew up in an Elizabethan manor home in Warwickshire and became a champion archer and an expert fox hunter (he was "blooded"--his face smeared with the bloody tail of a fox--at age 8). He was educated at Eton.

Jeremy suffered a bout of rheumatic fever at age 16 and was "tongue-tied" (unable to say "r" and "s" sounds) until the age of 17, but he overcame these obstacles and studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Lt. Col. Huggins didn't want Jeremy to use the family name when he became an actor, so the young man took the name "Brett" from the label in his first suit.

Young Jeremy first acted professionally in 1954 at the Library Theatre in Manchester (where he was reportedly nearly fired because he made the leading lady look too old!). Hollywood director King Vidor saw Jeremy's picture in the British acting publication Spotlight and cast him as "Nicholas Rostov" in 1956's War and Peace starring Audrey Hepburn.

After completing War and Peace in Rome, Jeremy could have "gone Hollywood", but he chose instead to return to London to appear in Tyrone Guthrie's daring production of Shakespeare's Troilius and Cressida. He appeared in many stage plays, a couple of low-budget films (The Wild and the Willing; The Very Edge), and a British TV version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, for which he was voted "Most Promising TV Actor of 1963". In 1964, he went to Hollywood to play "Freddie Eynsford-Hill", would-be suitor of Audrey Hepburn's "Eliza Doolittle" in My Fair Lady. (He recently appeared in the introduction to the restored edition of this film and also the "making-of" documentary which accompanied the My Fair Lady gift set.)

In 1967, Jeremy was invited to join Sir Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company, where he played such roles as Orlando, Bassanio, and Berowne. In the 1970's, Jeremy made a belated stab at becoming a Hollywood movie star, but succeeded only in making guest shots on TV shows such as Hart to Hart. However, while in the States, Jeremy had a successful run starring in Dracula, a stage production which reportedly broke box office records in Chicago and San Francisco. He also had his first brush with Holmes in the stage play Crucifer of Blood. Jeremy didn't play Holmes (Charlton Heston did), but he played Dr. Watson and was [reportedly] awarded a "Best Actor" award from the Los Angeles drama critics.

Back in Britain, Jeremy had more rewarding experiences with television: an excellent version of Rebecca; The Good Soldier; and, of course, Sherlock Holmes.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The A & E cable network will be presenting "Super Sleuth Sunday" as an alternative to Super Bowl programming on January 29, 1995. Granada's The Sign of Four will be shown at 4:00 EST. (Good luck wrestling the remote away from your resident football fans!) 

Well, this wraps up edition two of The Brettish Empire, the online newsletter for fans of Jeremy Brett. Remember, I welcome (I plead for!) submissions from you, the readers of TBE. Please send essays, comments, questions, etc., to my e-mail address.

Thanks for reading. The next issue should be along in the next few weeks--keep watching your mailbox.

Very sincerely yours,

Lisa Oldham


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