), probably best known in the U.S.
for playing Sherlock Holmes
in the Granada Television versions (showed on "Mystery!
" by PBS). Born Peter Huggins in Berkswell, Warwickshire
as the son of a Colonel who was a World War I
hero, he attended Eton
and then the Central School of Speech and Drama. He started acting in 1954
, with a stage name derived from a label on his first suit, because his disapproving father forbade him to use the name "Huggins" on the stage. In addition to a lot of stage acting, he had parts in movies, and built up a name for himself.
His performance as Hamlet in a 1961 production pleased his father enough that he rescinded the ban on using the family name, but Brett had already become well-known under the stage name. In 1964 he left Laurence Olivier's National Theatre to go to Hollywood and play Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the movie of My Fair Lady, but was disenchanted with how long the movie took to make and its forcing him to turn down other parts in the meantime. He came back to mostly stage roles until the 1970s, and then worked in television.
By the late 1970s, he had married PBS producer Joan Wilson, and was playing Dracula in a U.S. touring production of that play. Later he played Watson to Charlton Heston's Sherlock Holmes in the play The Crucifer of Blood in Los Angeles. During the 1980s, he started playing Sherlock Holmes himself (the first series broadcast in 1984) as well as narrating for a Martha Graham ballet and other work. Joan Wilson died of cancer in 1985, and Jeremy threw himself into the next Holmes series but afterwards suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
Brett continued playing Holmes in not only the TV shows but also a play (The Secret of Sherlock Holmes), but he had a love-hate relationship with the character (who could also be considered manic depressive by those who know the stories). His health was not perfect; the medication for his mental health caused him to retain water and was hard on his heart (weak since a childhood bout with rheumatic fever).
Troubled by the fact that his Sherlock Holmes was watched by children when Holmes was shown as a cocaine user, he arranged for the show to have Holmes kick his addiction and be shown burying the syringe he had used for the drug.
After the last Holmes series was over in 1994, Brett had plans for other parts to play, but unfortunately his overloaded heart gave out. He died of a heart attack on September 12, 1995.
Sources: The Internet Movie Database and http://www.jeremybrett.com