December 12, 1995
(Revised November 24, 1999)
Welcome to the first anniversary issue of The Brettish Empire. Yes, it's been one year since I sent out the first issue of TBE.
I couldn't foresee all the things that would happen after I sent out the first TBE. The TBE subscription list has more than tripled from the original 10 subscribers; TBE is filed in the Westminster Library's Sherlock Holmes collection; back issues are also available on the World Wide Web. (And, I wasn't even sure that there would be a second TBE when I sent out the first!)
Of course, I couldn't foresee the event that stunned us all: the passing of Jeremy Brett. I had no idea that TBE, my salute to Jeremy Brett, would become a tribute to him.
Many people have asked me to continue TBE. TBE will continue. It will be a monument in cyberspace, a remembrance of an actor many of us had admired for years (and some had only recently "discovered").
I hope that doesn't sound morbid or maudlin. I know Jeremy's gone, but I can't help thinking, "We weren't finished with him yet." They say those whom we hold dear live on in our hearts and in our memories. Thanks to the miracle of audio and video recording, this is especially true of entertainers. Indeed, one of the most popular songs on the radio right now is "Free As A Bird," sung by the late John Lennon. Documentaries about the late Jack Benny and the late Rod Serling were recently broadcast on U.S. television, reminding us of how these gifted men touched us with their talents. Jeremy, too, left a wealth of performances which we may enjoy again and again with the flick of a VCR button.
Also, scores of articles were written about Jeremy, articles which are waiting to be found and shared. Jeremy once said that playing Sherlock Holmes was like a "treasure hunt" for him--he was always discovering new things about Holmes. I feel the same way about Jeremy. I'm always discovering things about him that I didn't know before.
For instance, here's what Jeremy enjoyed watching on television: "At home, Brett catches lots of American shows on the telly. He roars at The Golden Girls ('they're brilliant') and Cheers ('a fabulous show'). Oprah Winfrey 'is a big star in my life and a very important American.' Phil Donahue 'is a great hero.' (So much for British reserve.)" (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/24/91.)
Now, please join me as TBE begins its second year...
Here are Christopher's remarks:
"The service was a simple one of music, choral music, personal addresses, and a blessing from Jeremy's brother, the Reverend John Huggins.
The order of service was as follows:
Trumpet Fanfare: In Paradisum from Faure's Requiem
Welcome - Reverend Nicholas Holtam (vicar of St. Martin's in the Fields)
The Lord's Prayer
An Address by Charles Kay
O For the Wings of a Dove (Soprano)
An Address by Sally Head
The 23rd Psalm (Choir)
An Address by Penelope Keith
A Reading by Tarn Bassett Gresser
Thee Will I Comfort (from Brahms' 'German Requiem')
A Reading by Judy Parfitt of a Message from Stefanie Powers
A Reading by John Stride
An Address by Myra Fulford of the Manic Depression Fellowship
Violin Solo - The Reichenbach Falls played by Katherine Gowers
An Address by Edward Hardwicke
An Address by Denis Qulley - Alistair Cooke: A Letter From America
Lord of the Dance
Blessing - The Reverend John Huggins
Amen Chorus from Handel's Messiah
Penelope Keith recalled Jeremy as a friend. They used to play bridge together. But most of all what she remembered was the Christmas parties, when Jeremy allowed himself to be himself. She recalled one particular party when a number of household items were concealed around the house and a dozen or so fully grown adults spent an hour searching them out: a toothbrush concealed in a flower arrangement; a nail hidden in the crystal chandelier; but, no one discovered the location of the toilet brush! And, through it all, Jeremy stood smiling, laughing, drinking his champagne, thoroughly enjoying having his friends around him.
And that came through more than anything this afternoon: Jeremy's love of his friends and laughter.
Sally Head, the executive producer at Granada, gave thanks to June Wyndham Davies for arranging the event, and mentioned just about everyone EXCEPT Michael Cox.
Let's put this on the record right now: if it hadn't been for Michael Cox, there would never have been a Granada series. And Michael has been continually snubbed and neglected by Granada ever since he parted company with the organisation. This is inexcusable, but, to the end, Michael remained in contact with Jeremy, and the two of them were good friends.
Judy Parfitt read a message from Stefanie Powers, which concluded 'Goodnight, Sweet Prince.'
Edward Hardwicke, in his address, said that what he would most recall about Jeremy was his laughter. He recalled, he said, that on their first day shooting together, Jeremy commented that Watson needed hair--hence, the toupee which Hardwicke wore throughout the series in which he appeared--a hairpiece which Jeremy christened 'Roland,' after Roland Rat, the puppet character perhaps best known to British 'Hounds.'
By far and away the most poignant part of the whole service was Katherine Gowers' playing of the music from The Reichenbach Falls, which, of course, her father, Patrick Gowers, composed for The Final Problem. No sound could be heard, but many a tear was shed. This was the end of Jeremy Brett; this was the end of Sherlock Holmes as known by this generation. No amount of sadness will compensate for Jeremy's loss. Instead, rather that we should remember his laughter, his eccentricities, his mannerisms; Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes for a great many people."
Indeed, he was. Christopher also mentioned that Tarn Bassett Gresser read the following poem by Canon Henry Scott Holland. I think it is quite appropriate:
"Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other we are still.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we have always laughed
At the little jokes that we enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
I am waiting for you, just around the corner.
All is well."
Now, Catherine's article:
"Since others have given a more direct account, I will content myself with passing on a few thoughts...
Firstly, what came over was the fact that everyone had very fond memories of Jeremy Brett. He was evidently a tremendous person to work with and extremely generous, both with his time and in throwing parties at any opportunity to cheer someone up. (If I may be allowed a small personal reminiscence at this point, years ago I went up to watch some of the filming of The Empty House. One of the crew slipped in the external night shoot, hurting his leg--Jeremy Brett went over and stayed with him, chatting, while they fetched a doctor and carried him off for treatment. A caring touch one might not find in every TV star, especially in view of the freezing February weather.) In talking about him, several people, including Edward Hardwicke, evoked him so well, you could almost hear him speaking.
The most moving point in the service had to be Katherine Gowers' performance of the violin theme of The Reichenbach Falls--written as a lament for Holmes, it was a fitting lament for Brett in an otherwise appropriately joyful and thankful memorial service. More than one eye misted over.
It was a great privilege to be able to attend the service and a rare chance to see, albeit, as such things often are, a little too late the more human side of a famous actor. Several people described Jeremy Brett as larger than life, which he certainly was. His concern for others despite his own health problems was genuine--witness his readiness to do all he could to support the work of the Manic Depression Fellowship. Tragically, it was already too late for him."
Again, thank you, Christopher and Catherine, for your comments.
Both Christopher and an article in The London Times provided a list of attendees. Since there were over 400, I can't list them all, but here are some of the highlights of the list. Of course, Jeremy's son, David Huggins, was there, along with his mother, Jeremy's first wife, Anna Massey. Martin Clunes, star of the British series Men Behaving Badly was there, because Jeremy was his cousin (in fact, Mr. Clunes looked up to Jeremy as a father figure, because his own father died when Mr. Clunes was a child). Lady Robert Stephens, the widow of Jeremy's recently deceased friend, was also in attendance. Jeremy's two "Watsons" were there, David Burke (who arrived late) and Edward Hardwicke. Many people from the British entertainment industry attended the service, including many performers who played only small roles on the Holmes series. In addition to Christopher and Catherine, other members of various Sherlock Holmes societies also attended the service.
It was Katherine Gowers whom we heard playing whenever Jeremy picked up the violin in the Holmes series. As Peter Haining revealed in The Television Sherlock Holmes, "The reason for this choice is because Patrick thought she would most sound like a 'gifted amateur'--the status accorded to Sherlock Holmes."
I'm appalled that Granada chose to snub Michael Cox (who was at the service). As anyone familiar with the history of Granada's Holmes series knows, Mr. Cox was the creator and original driving force of the project. His contribution to the series cannot be denied.
I'm also dismayed that Jeremy's American fans were not given more of an opportunity to attend. St. Martin is a beautiful church I'm told, but not really large enough to hold a great crowd of people. If Granada had considered how many fans Jeremy had all over the world, perhaps they could have held the service at a larger venue and given more advance notice (the announcement in the London Times appeared on November 24, although Jeremy's friends and associates were notified earlier). Even better, Granada could have compiled a memorial special and televised it for viewers everywhere to see. (I've been told that ITV has done nothing in the way of a tribute to Jeremy, although such other late notables as Paul Eddington and Robert Stephens were remembered.)
Thursday, December 7, 1995
10:00 p.m. The Cardboard Box begins on my local PBS station. (The Dying Detective was shown the previous week.)
10:27 p.m. Local PBS Station intrudes with a pledge break. Jeremy Brett isn't mentioned--not once. Hostess makes intelligent comment: "These Sherlock Holmes programs are so complicated--I'm still trying to figure out what's going on."
10:41 p.m. The episode has resumed, but suddenly the Mystery! logo appears and an announcer intones, "We'll return to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes after these words from your local PBS station." Screen goes blank for about a minute. Arrrgh! (Perhaps the pledge break was supposed to go here?)
11:00 p.m.The Cardboard Box ends with Jeremy Brett giving an eloquent speech about "the circle of misery and violence and fear." These were the last words he spoke as Sherlock Holmes. Does Local PBS Station acknowledge this? Do they acknowledge Jeremy's passing? Do they acknowledge Jeremy at all? Nope. At the end of the episode, they skip Diana Rigg's closing remarks and cut to the credits, which they helpfully shrink so their phone number can be displayed on the screen. Host blithely chatters on about pledge drive: "Call our volunteers and tell them what you think of our programming!" I'm sorely tempted to...
11:05 p.m. I nervously wonder where Diana Rigg's tribute to Jeremy is. Surely Local PBS Station will show it!
11:07 p.m. Are You Being Served? begins.
11:08 p.m. I'm mad enough to demolish Local PBS Station with my bare hands.
Actually, this story has a happy ending (don't worry--Local PBS Station is still intact! ;->) The next day, I received a videocassette in the mail from my sister. She lives near Washington, D.C. and thoughtfully taped The Dying Detective and The Cardboard Box for me from her local PBS station, WETA. She left the pledge breaks in, so I was able to see a host and hostess who spoke warmly and knowledgeably about both Holmes and Brett. In fact, they even showed an all-too-brief clip from an interview Jeremy gave to WETA in 1991. WETA showed both episodes uninterrupted, inserting a pledge break between the episodes.
At the end of The Cardboard Box, WETA ran Diana Rigg's moving tribute to Jeremy. Photographs and film clips illuminated scenes from Jeremy's life--a fitting benediction. Why didn't my Local PBS Station (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) show this tribute? I don't know for sure, but it seems to me they just tried to use as much time as possible to push for pledges. By running the Mystery! tribute, they could have appealed to the many Holmes/Brett fans in the audience. A missed opportunity, for sure. They missed getting a pledge from me--for sure.
To which Diana Rigg added: "London, yes; and far beyond."
Yes, and far beyond...in Ohio, California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Canada, the United Kingdom--in all the places where the friends I've met through our shared admiration of Jeremy Brett live. I want to thank you all for your friendship and support over the past year.
I wish you all a joyous, blessed holiday season.
Until next time,
"The Brettish Empire"/"TBE" Copyright Lisa L. Oldham.