Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Brilliance of Brett

For the first time in who knows how long, I watched the impressive Jeremy Brett do his thing [as only he can] as Sherlock Holmes in The Return of Sherlock Holmes. I was mesmerized all over again.

My PBS station is airing episodes of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, filmed during the years 1986 to 1988, on Friday nights I believe. The one that I Tivo-ed and watched was The Musgrave Ritual. The first thing that struck me about it was the depiction of Holmes' recreational morphine habit. I don't remember if I had ever seen this particular episode before, although I'm sure I had during my teenage years but...I was particularly clueless and off in my own world then. Drugs, drug paraphenalia, and any references to those kinds of illicit things went straight over my head. I'm alittle more wordly now so I was able to catch these pretty obvious references, both in Holmes' manner as well as the scene showing his hypodermic syringe. Duh, right? I really was off in la la land.

Jeremy Brett is of course brilliant here, showing Holmes' hawk-like deductive skills even whilst in the throws of drug-induced euphoria. Personally, I think Brett's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is unparalleled, and considering how many actors have taken on that role, that's quite a statement. During his career, he also appeared in the film version of My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison as Freddie Eynsford-Hill. I've seen that film many a time but don't remember Brett in it - must rent it again.

Sadly Brett was known to suffer from manic depression, or bipolar disorder, which became aggravated from the grief he suffered after his second wife Joan Wilson passed away. The episode I saw was filmed a year after her death, and I could note [and now understand the reason for] his frail appearance. From the time of his wife's death to his own, Brett was hospitalized on several occasions due to the effects of his mental illness, throughout which his health and physical appearance deteriorated further. In 1995, he passed away at age 61 from heart failure.

A few interesting notes regarding Jeremy Brett's relationships...his first wife was the daughter of actor Raymond Massey. Years after their divorce, in 1978, Brett and his ex-wife appeared together in Rebecca, with Brett portraying Max de Winter and Anna Massey portraying Mrs. Danvers. Brett was also a cousin to actor Martin Clunes, who may be recognized for his appearance in the Doctor Who episode Snakedance, opposite Peter Davison and Janet Fielding [Tegan]. Clunes also had a recurring guest role as Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps in season two of Jeeves and Wooster.

Also appearing in The Musgrave Ritual was Michael Culver, as Reginald Musgrave. Culver can be seen as Captain Needa in the Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, and as Edward Symmington in the Joan Hickson Miss Marple mystery, The Moving Finger [which is where I remember him best]. Culver also appeared in A Passage to India [what a beautiful movie] as Major McBryde.

Ian Marter had a small role as Inspector Fereday. For Doctor Who fans, you will know Ian Marter from his role as companion Harry Sullivan and a guest-turn in Carnival of Monsters years before. Tragically and quite coincidentally, Marter passed away from a heart attack the day of his 42nd birthday.

I fear this post has taken on a more melancholy note as it's progressed, and I apologize for that. But do rent the ultimate Sherlock Holmes adaptations as soon as you can, to watch the brilliant Jeremy Brett in action - or if you're lucky, maybe your local PBS station will air them for everyone's viewing pleasure. Take care, everyone!

[Photo of Jeremy Brett in profile is from Tapestry-Sagar Sunkle, photo of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in color is from NNDB, photo of Martin Clunes is from Daily Mail, and photo of Michael Culver is from Le Candide]


deepshikha said...

Oh Geri....i just can't believe how alike we think !!! I remember watching Jeremy Brett in the Sherlock Holmes series too and thinking that his act was out of the world. Till date i cant relate to anyone else potraying that character so effectively. and guess what, i remember seeing him frail just like u mentioned in a few episodes and wondered what was keeping him not in the pink of his health.Now i know of course !! Bless u dear Geri for i am lucky to have found ur blog dearie.

Geri said...

Thanks!! I know, I remember as a kid/teen watching Jeremy Brett in Sherlock Holmes and noticing how he was turning so frail [that's a good way to describe how he looked then]. The reason for his physical decline is so sad. But all in all, I love finding out about actors, authors, musicians, etc. and their lives, especially all those trivia bits that connect them to so-and-so - generally just things I never knew. It's quite interesting! Thanks so much for reading!