There were other portents, as well. Only three days before I had watched the 1960 British film The Entertainer. Although Jeremy Brett wasn't in this film, many links to him were--Laurence Olivier, his mentor; Joan Plowright, later Olivier's wife and "Portia" to Jeremy's "Bassanio" in The Merchant of Venice; and Daniel Massey, Jeremy's brother-in-law at the time. The film climaxed with an old theatrical trouper dying of a heart attack.
Even more portentious, the very night of September 12, I happened to pop a tape of a 1986 British film called Foreign Body into my VCR. I hadn't viewed it for some time; I just felt like looking at it for a moment. (Coincidentally, Jeremy's first wife, Anna Massey, played a supporting role in this film.) The scene that appeared when I pushed the "play" button was when the death of a main character is announced: "She died in her sleep--she had heart disease"...
I watched it for a few more minutes, then shut off the VCR. I was tired, and I wanted to go to sleep. I wasn't planning to log on to the computer; anyway, it was being used to play video games. However, when the computer became available, something told me to log on, "just to check my mail".
My eyes were immediately drawn to an ominous subject line--"OH MY GOD, NO!" The next subject line read simply, "Jeremy". My heart froze, but my mind raced with fear. My fear became fact when I read the messages--Jeremy Brett was gone.
I quickly logged on to AOL. Several messages had already been posted in the Sherlock Holmes area concerning Jeremy's death. I added my own emotional posting, and then switched to CompuServe to scan the daily British newspaper articles. I saw no news on Jeremy's passing. (It's mind-boggling when one stops to consider the speed of the Internet--we learned of Jeremy's passing before the "offline" world did.)
Before I went to sleep (make that "before I went to bed"--sleep was nearly impossible) I tuned to the BBC World Service, broadcast on a local NPR station. Still no word.
Fog swirled around the upper floors of the skyscraper I work in. How Holmesian, I mused. At lunch I had no appetite, so I went to a local bookstore to read newspapers. Still nothing, so I bought a cup of yogurt and sat down at a picnic table by the Scioto River. Of course, I thought of Jeremy. It occurred to me that, while Jeremy's death at the relatively young age of 59 was tragic, perhaps it was for the best. Being told that his career--and his life--was virtually over must have been a terrible blow to him. His heart--and his "heart"--was irrevocably broken. Now, there would be no more disease or worry or pain. (Except for the pain in our hearts caused by his passing...)
Back at home, I checked CompuServe again. The British news service that I had scanned almost daily (albeit in vain) for news about Jeremy while he was still alive finally showed me the one headline I had never wanted to see--"Holmes Star Jeremy Brett Dies at 59". So, it was "official" now.
I gathered up the news I'd found and sat down at the computer to send out the "In Memoriam" edition of "TBE". My arms felt like lead and it was difficult to type such sad words, but I made it through.
It was strange seeing Jeremy's name in the newspaper like that. It had seemed like Jeremy was "our" personal treasure, and now here was his obituary in cold black-and-white for the whole world to read.
Tears welled up at times during the day. I had to hide them, though--how do you tell strangers you're crying because your favorite actor died? (Even though Jeremy was much more than that to his fans.)
After supper, I drove to Media Play and bought four Holmes tapes including The Hound of the Baskervilles. I watched part of Hound and smiled at the sight of Jeremy's impish face. I'm so thankful for these tapes.
I logged on to the computer and was greeted by many eloquent, heartfelt messages from "TBE'ers". (Thank you all--I'll reply as soon as I can.)
There was no balderdash on the Internet tonight--only warm tributes and remembrances of Jeremy.
What made us care so deeply about an actor we didn't know personally? It could be the "TTT"* factor--Jeremy met all of the specifications--but I think it was more than that. He captured our imaginations and touched our hearts with his characterizations. Jeremy's humanity showed through in every role he played. Thus, one could empathize with his logical Holmes and even with his Max de Winter when he confesses to shooting "Rebecca." Also, we were aware of Jeremy's personal struggles. It took a lot of courage and determination for him to keep on going after the setbacks he suffered, and we admired him for that. We came to "know" him in a sense, so we were saddened when he died. But, we'll never forget how he enriched our lives. Thank you, dear Jeremy.
Until next time,
*"TTT"--"Tall, Thin, and Tortured"--See "TBE" Vol. I #11