Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Brett was born in Berkswell Grange , Warwickshire, England. He was educated at Eton College and trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He played many classical roles on stage, including many Shakespearean parts in his early career with the Old Vic and later with the Royal National Theatre. Brett made his first television appearance in 1954 and his first feature film appearance in 1955.
In 1958, Brett married the actress, Anna Massey (daughter of Raymond Massey), but they were divorced in 1962 (they had a son named David Huggins, born 1959, who is now a successful British novelist). Years later, Brett and Massey appeared together in the BBC's dramatization of Rebecca (1978), with Brett playing the haunted hero, Max de Winter, and Massey playing the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. (David Huggins also played a bit part in the film.)
From the early 1960s onwards, Brett was rarely absent from British television screens. He starred in many classic serials, notably appearing as D'Artagnan in the 1966 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. A few of his appearances were in comedic roles, but usually with a classic edge, such as Captain Absolute in The Rivals. Brett joked that, as an actor, he was rarely allowed into the 20th century and never into the present day.
Although Brett's feature film appearances were relatively few and far between, he did play Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the 1964 blockbuster film version of My Fair Lady. His singing voice was dubbed in the film, but Brett could sing, as he later proved when he played Danilo in The Merry Widow on British television in 1968.
Notable in all of Jeremy Brett's roles is his precisely honed diction. Brett was born with a speech impediment that kept him from pronouncing the "R" sound correctly. Corrective surgery as a teenager, followed by years of practising to pronounce sounds correctly, gave Brett an enviable, flawless pronunciation and enunciation. He later claimed he practised all of his speech exercises daily, whether he was working or not, to keep his diction fit.
Although he appeared in many films and television series during his 40-year career, Jeremy Brett is now best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes in a decade-long (1984 to 1994) series of British television films based on the original Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. After taking on the demanding role, Brett made few other acting appearances and is now considered by many the Sherlock Holmes portrayer of his era, just as Basil Rathbone had been during the 1940s.
Brett suffered from bipolar disorder (commonly known as manic depression), which worsened after Joan Wilson's death. During the last decade of his life, Brett was hospitalized several times for treatment of his mental illness. He died of heart failure at his home in London. Brett's heart had been damaged by a childhood case of rheumatic fever, and was apparently further weakened by the various drugs prescribed to control his manic depressive episodes.
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