And now let us succumb to that most merciful and universal answer to all queries. ‘And what may that be?’, asked Watson. Holmes laid his head against the black leather seat of the cab… ‘Sleep, Watson. Sleep…’
Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) and John Watson (Edward Hardwicke)
Jeremy Brett (November 3, 1933 - September 12, 1995)
Jeremy Brett, quintessential paragon of the Great Detective, moved beyond The Reichenbach sixteen years ago today on September 12, 1995.
From JB’s NYTimes obituary: ”When he began playing Holmes on British television in 1984, he thought it was “the most dangerous thing” he had ever done. Because of the familiarity of the character, he worried that it would end his career. Instead, by moving into 221B Baker Street, Mr. Brett discovered his signature role.”
In many ways I believe its more accurate to say that the role of Sherlock Holmes discovered Jeremy Brett.
White watching Granada’s rendition of The Resident Patient last night, I was struck by Jeremy Brett and David Burke’s “sanity of the Barber’s Shop” scene as a pure display of Brett’s complete mastery of the character of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike some Granada scenes that are either perfectly faithful adaptations of the text or clever (and often times necessary) re-interpretations of the text, the barber shop scene at the start of RESI is completely non-canonical and yet Brett has once again ‘become’ Sherlock Holmes. Paradoxically, it is sometimes these non-canonical (yet well-written) scenes which allow Brett to display his ‘becoming’ of Sherlock Holmes even more than the straight-canonical scenes/dialogue.**
[I spent about 20 minutes clicking ‘play’ then ‘pause’, etc until I found the (above) frame that seemed to sum up both the scene (that poise, that smirk!) itself as well as Brett’s becoming of Holmes in general: ladies and gentlemen, you are looking directly at Mr. Sherlock Holmes.]
I (along with numerous other Sherlockians I’m sure) wish I could literally claim that Jeremy Brett was “the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known” but I made Brett’s acquaintance solely through 40+ hours of Granada’s Sherlock Holmes TV episodes, a 2 hour bootleg recording of Jeremy Paul’s “The Secret of Sherlock Holmes”, a smattering of YouTube interviews, the brilliant biography Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett As Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies and various reminiscences/essays/etc. in books and journals such as the Baker Street Journal.
After I click “publish” and see this article posted on Always1895.net, I’ll move on to the second, and perhaps more personal, half of my night of ‘Jeremy Brett Remembered’ by cuing up a sampling of Granada/JB episodes that will once again acquaint me with ‘the best and wisest’ adapter of Sherlock Holmes.
As an aside, there is the continuing noble quest to see Jeremy Brett awarded a posthumous BAFTA award. For further information about the BAFTA for JB campaign, see my early post about it here or go straight to the BAFTA 4 JB petition.
** Interestingly, while rushing to post this piece in time, I found it mentioned in the Wikipedia page for “The Resident Patient” (Other Media section): “In the 1985 television adaptation starring Jeremy Brett, the episode presents Watson attempting to apply Holmes’ methods to uncover his friend’s current state but largely failing, although Holmes does admit that “there is an element of truth in what you say”. This scene is very much in the manner of the Doyle penned parody “How Watson Learned the Trick” (1922), which also features Watson making incorrect conclusions about Holmes.” One difference of course is that the Doyle parody occurs at the breakfast table while the Granada version happens in the barber shop - ostensibly so Holmes can consult with the good barber about some hair samples Holmes has acquired. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that Brett could have played the scene in either setting with equal brilliance and gusto.