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Vital Statistics 

  • Real name: Peter Jeremy William Huggins.
  • Origin of Brett: According to JB, his hot-tempered father forbade him from using the family name on stage because he thought acting was a "dubious" profession. So he took his stage name from the label of his first suit, "Brett & Co". An alternative version of this story can be found in the autobiography of Anna Massey.
  • Born:  3rd of November, 1933
  • Location: Berkswell, Warwickshire, England. 
  • Eye colour: Hazel (containing a lot of grey, as well as, green)
  • Hair Colour: Chestnut Brown (in his younger days)
  • Height: 6'2 
  • Hand preference: Left
  • Weight: His regular weight was around 12.5 stone to 13 stone (175 pounds to 182 pounds). Jeremy slimmed down especially for the role of Holmes: weighing 11.5 stone (which is 161lbs) at the start of filming the first series. Later, medication complications caused excessive water retention - the result was notable weight gain in later Holmes episodes. 
  • Sexual orientation: Jeremy was very discreet about the fact he was not heterosexual, only telling those that he felt would be accepting. As a young man, in the era in which he lived, it was not safe or morally acceptable to appear to be anything but heterosexual, and many gay men experienced fear and loathing upon being outed by those that betrayed
    their trust. In her autobiography his ex-wife, Anna Massey,
    says following the Wolfenden Report Jeremy was "released from the tension and pain that had haunted him", and that she regretted the fact "Jeremy had been forced to feel guilty" about being sexually attracted to men. This has left some Brett fans decidedly divided on the true nature of his sexuality; and some more obsessive female fans unnecessarily hostile towards her. Whether Jeremy was simply homosexual or was indeed bisexual cannot truly be ascertained by an outsider but the facts remain as such: JB had a number of heterosexual, as well as, homosexual relationships during his lifetime - including a relationship with an American actor by the name of Paul Shenar. Jeremy's last publicly known relationship was with Joan Wilson, whom he married and loved very deeply. Her tragic early death caused him much personal pain. -References and Souces: David Huggins (via The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry), Anna Massey (via her autobiography, Telling Some Tales), David Stuart Davies (via Dancing in the Moonlight), Stephanie Powers,  theatre critic and reviewer Sheridan Morley, William J Mann (via 'Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger', an authorised biography), Michael Coveney, actress Mary Lowe (via interview),  David Graham (via 'Casting About: a Memoir').
  • Passed on:  Jeremy died in his sleep on Tuesday the 12th of September 1995, at his home overlooking Clapham Common
  • Cause of death: Cardiomyopathy 
Education
  • Miss Kenderdine, Balsall Common (Primary education)                                                                                               
  • Abberley Hall Prep School                                                                                                                                      
  • Eton College: Like his brothers before him, Jeremy went to Eton, where he found it a great strain to be dressed constantly in the uniform of striped trousers and back coat. Jeremy said, as a teen, he felt "tremendously lost in a quagmire of little black mourning people". Read more about Jeremy's Eton experiences here.                                                      
  • Central School of Speech and Drama: he won three principal awards while at the school, including the Laurence Olivier Award (now known as Laurence Olivier Bursary Award) and the William Ford Memorial Prize.
Family, Friends and Significant Others
  • Parents: Jeremy's parents first met at a Quaker meeting house they both attended regularly in Birmingham, they fell in love and married in 1923.
    His mother was Elizabeth Edith Cadbury (Bunny to loved ones), of the famous Cadbury family, known worldwide for their chocolate. Jeremy was very close to his mother, a free-spirited social reformist, from Kilkenny, Ireland. She was a warm-hearted creative lady with a strong, independent, and charitable nature. She never hesitated to receive gypsies, or anyone else in need of her compassion, inculding dozens of familes that had been bombed out of their homes during WWII. Jeremy is said to have inherited many of her own personal qualities, as well as her love of archery. In 1959 Jeremy's mother was killed in a car crash; this event had a termemdous affect on Jeremy. Speaking of his performance in 'Hamlet', staged at that time, he recalled: "my mother had been killed savagely in a car accident in 1959, and I was very angry about that, because my son, when she was killed, was only three months old. And I was - there was anger - it was interesting... there was anger in me. And I think that came through. I felt cheated - I felt my mother had been cheated - the rage of that came through." Anna Massey wrote in her autobiography, Telling Some Tales, that the death of Jeremy's mother also seemed to spell disaster for their marriage: "Jeremy's mother was tragically killed in a car crash in the Welsh mountains. It was the most enormous shock for Jeremy, and from this time on, our marriage suffered greatly. I was filming Peeping Tom, and was not around to give him essential support. But, looking back, I doubt that I would have been of much help. His mother's death released Jeremy from past restraints. He changed, and our relationship never really recovered".     
                                                                                                                             
    Jeremy's father was Lieutenant - Colonel Henry William Huggins (Bill to friends and family); an old fashioned British patriot and courageous war hero, was born in 1890. He was awarded one of the first DSOs (Distinguished Service Orders) of World War 1 - an award given for outstanding leadership during active operations - as well as winning the Military Cross twice, in recognition of acts of exemplary gallantry during combat operations. He was mentioned in Despatches five times. In pacetime, Jeremy's father had a position with the family firm, Tube Investments (becoming the Managing Director). Then, after the Second World War broke out, his father was away from home running an army training champ in North Wales.  According to Jeremy's eldest brother, Reverend John Huggins (an Anglican Vicar), Jeremy took on the responsibility of nursing their father during his long and final illness. Jeremy's father would die on the 22nd of April 1965 from heart disease.                                                                                                                              
    -References and Souces: #The Baker Street Journal, Volumes 45-46 #The Huggins Family of Berkswell (Berkswell Miscellany, Volume V, 1989) by Connie Fell.  Published by The Offshoot Group. # HUGGINS, Lt-Col Henry William’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 #Jeremy Brett radio and magazine interviews #1994 BBC2 documentary on Hamlet. 
                                                                                                                              
  • Siblings: John, Patrick and Michael. Jeremy was the youngest of four - and according to him - he was  "very much the runt of the litter for quite a while". John became a clergyman, Michael a painter, and Patrick, a farmer.                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Son: David Huggins.  Anna Massey wrote in her autobiography that it took David a very long time to recover from his father's death. as David's sense of loss was deep. The following newspaper report from the 1980s clearly illustrates the strength and power of the father and son bond: Son's Tears Saved Sherlock From Hell.                                                                                               
  • Step-children: Caleb and Rebekah Sullivan. He liked to think of them as his legacy from his late wife. He refered to Caleb and Rebekah as his own children, although they were both in their mid to late twenties by the time he married their mother.                                                                                                                                                                                
  • Former Wife (1958-62): Anna Massey. "I think," recollects Anna Massey, "Jeremy was somebody who never grew up." Anna wrote in her autobiography: When I married Uri, he had been genuinely delighted, and sent us the most beautiful bottles of bath essence from Penhaligon's, and insisted on giving us a box to see his quite brilliant performance as Sherlock Holmes at Wyndhams Theatre, with champagne served at the interval. That sums up Jeremy perfectly - generous, warm, larger than life and often quite crazy. A light went out in many people's lives when he died, for he was one of life's true originals.                                                                                                                                                                       
  • Former male partners: Jeremy Brett is known to have had two important long term relationships with men: one being with Gary Bond, the other being with Paul Shenar. Further details                                                                                                                 
  • Wife (from November 1977): Jeremy fell in love with Joan Wilson (aka Sullivan) in 1976. It seems that their love was steadfast but not built on co-dependency. They had very independent lives which suited them well as they were both passionate about their careers. Jeremy said that their periods apart made the time they shared together more special. He also said (as a couple) they had a unique understanding and acceptance of each other wants and needs, being truly the best of friends. Joan tragically died from pancreatic cancer in 1985, a tremendous blow to Jeremy, but it is a misconception to say the loss triggered manic depression (it did not). He had the illness all his life to a lesser degree. However, grief certainly appeared to trigger an escalation of the manic and the depressive episodes, as well as their severity. It was clear to all that he never recovered from her loss. He talked about her as his soul mate until the very end of his own life.           - References and Sources: New York Times, Laurence Jarvik, Terry Ann Knopf, various newspaper and magazine articles.                                                                                                                                         
  • Best of friends (from the 1950s onwards): Robert Stephens and Tarn BassettMichael Coveney in The Guardian (London Newspaper) on the 14th of September, 1995: After Jeremy Brett and Robert Stephens's Manchester days came London fame: Brett at the Old Vic, and Stephens as a founding member of the English Stage Company. Both were later close to, and fondly encouraged by Laurence Olivier when he opened the National Theatre.  Brett once told me that Olivier had advised him, with regard to his voice, to find a trumpet. The friendship was very special, devotedly platonic on Stephens's side, rather more physically committed, though apparently unfulfilled, on Brett's.  In some ways they were an odd couple: Stephens the rambling, womanising, uncomplicated country boy from Bristol; Brett the bisexual scion of an upper class military background. Both sought escape in the theatre, both filled any room they entered with laughter and high spirits. Whenever Stephens was in emotional trouble in the seventies, Brett never failed him. Talking about Stephens earlier this year, Jeremy's eyes filled with tears of affection. Not affection, he corrected me as we spoke; love.                                                                                                                                                      
  • Hound of Heaven (Mr Binks): Jeremy lovingly bestowed the title of 'Hound of Heaven' on his late companion dog, Mr Binks. Mr Binks was a wire haired Jack Russell Terrier mix, that sometimes went by the nickname of Bonkers, because of his cheeky personality, and knack of causing chaos. In one magazine interview from the 1980s, it sounds as though Mr Binks was a childhood dog, but all evidence points to this being a complete falsity -- no pictures of Mr Binks with Jeremy in boyhood have been found, where as, there is a family photo of him with an Airedale Terrier (perhaps his real childhood companion?). Pictures of the terrier, strongly believed to be Mr Binks, date him to the mid 1960s. There is even a picture taken in 1971 of Jeremy and his romantic partner, with an elderly dog, fitting the description of Mr Binks -- clearly in the garden of Jeremy and Gary's Notting Hill residence! And in a radio interview from 1991, JB indicated that his dear dog had been dead some sixteen years, which would mean Mr Binks died in 1975! What is certain is Jeremy loved Mr Binks dearly, so much so that after Mr Binks died he never wanted another dog. He kept a photo of Mr Binks on his desk near a window in his Clapham home, right next to pictures of his son and stepchildren, surrounded by semi precious stones. Jeremy said his dog still visited him in his dreams. Moreover, JB loved to recant tales of his beloved dog. In one such tale, loving but naughty Mr Binks somehow managed to sire puppies with a greyhound called Gladys, "they must have done it on the side of a hill", he remarked curiously. Before adding, "This Gladys and Binks - what emerged was the most improbable, simply ADORABLE, but different, puppies!". Mr Binks is said to have died in Jeremy's arms, at the ripe old age of seventeen, after age related illness.                                                                                                                                                                             
  • Friend/Nurse: Linda Pritchard first came into contact with Jeremy Brett in 1989 during the run of the stage-play,'The Secret of Sherlock Holmes'. Jeremy enjoyed sharing cups of tea, champagne and conversation with theatre goers backstage in what he dubbed his green room. Linda and her friends were to become known as The Regulars. Linda planned to run around Britain to raise funds for Cancer Research -- something that struck a deep emotional chord within Jeremy. He was still grieving for his late wife, and wanted to do all he could to help stamp out the wretched disease which had claimed her. So Jeremy aided Linda in setting up "The Keep Hope Alive" marathon with his own generous donation, helping to raise over £50,000 for charity, as a result. Later, when Jeremy's health was deteriorating Linda moved into his Clapham penthouse apartment on Cedars Road in order to care for him until his death.                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Guardian Angels: During the run of "Secret..." , an actor friend phoned Jeremy to tell him of an 11-year-old girl from Chicago, called Louise Ann, who was his greatest fan. Louise was dying from Leukaemia and she wished to communicate with Jeremy before she died. So half an hour before curtain call, Jeremy was dialling Chicago hoping to talk to the little girl. Louise’s aunt took the call, and she told Jeremy that Louise was sleeping and she didn’t want to wake her, but she would gladly pass on his message as soon as her niece woke. So Jeremy left a message for Louise, and sent his love. Upon waking Louise Ann was given Jeremy’s message before passing back into sleep, this time the sleep of angels. A few weeks later a letter arrived from America, which had been written by Louise not long before the day she died. Jeremy was profoundly touched by her letter, in which she showed much care towards the actor, while in her own weakened state.  She wrote that she was concerned about him. She hoped he could be happy and well again. After Louise's passing, Jeremy corresponded with a friend of the dead girl for some time. But tragically, at the age of 15, the friend lost her own life in a car accident. Jeremy told one newspaper reporter from Texas “I can only tell you, that I have two guardian angels. And that’s all there is to that.” - If you would like to donate money to help the fight against Leukaemia, you can do so here.    

Issues

  • Dyslexia: Jeremy Brett said he had dyslexia and called himself an "academic disaster", attributing his learning difficulties to the disability (reference: Radio Times, 1994). In The Man That Become Sherlock Holmes, Terry Manners claims that it was Jeremy's first teacher, Miss Kenderdine, who first noticed that something was amiss. The young boy was thought to have hearing difficulties and so was taken for tests - which proved negative. His hearing was excellent. In Dancing in the Moonlight, David Stuart Davies wrote that Jeremy could not keep up with other children in class. Dyslexia was a widely misunderstood condition, and, until recent times sufferers of dyslexia were incorrectly labelled as lazy or stupid. Davies sights Jeremy's hyperactive and sometimes difficult behaviour at school as a manifestation of the frustration Jeremy felt. When dyslexia was eventually diagnosed, Jeremy's mother spent time reading to him, so that he could become familiar with words; but elements of dyslexia were to remain throughout his life.                                                                                                                                                                
  • Speech Impediment: During his childhood Jeremy sometimes found himself taunted by other children because he had a speech impediment. Jeremy attributed the impediment to being born with Ankyloglossia - commonly known as tongue-tie. With Ankyloglossia, the tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth, bound by mucous membrane; this unfortunate congenital anomaly caused him difficulty when he tried to produce certain linguistic sounds - Rs and Ss were particularly difficult for him to articulate naturally.  Jeremy's speech impediment would worsen considerably when he was nervous; and if he was feeling distressed: whole sentences could become quite inaudible. Feeling deeply hurt for being singled out and ridiculed by other children, he would often withdraw into himself - using his own imagination as a form of escape - but he refused to give up his dreams of one day becoming an actor; such was the determination and positivity of the youngster.  At the age of 17, Jeremy underwent an operation on his tongue to help correct his speech; he then spent hours a day engaging in vocal and mouth excises to improve his diction. Even though the impediment was to dissipate with practice and some tuition, and Jeremy was to become a successful thespian, the psychological impact of his speech impediment was lasting.  For the rest of his life he preformed daily mouth and speech exercises as a part of his morning routine, fearing that, if he did not, his speech impediment would return with a vengeance. - References: Dancing In The Moonlight by David Stuart Davies, The Times On Sunday, BBC Radio Interview (1989).                                                                                                                                                                          
  • Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression): Jeremy suffered from Bipolar Type 1, which is the most severe form of the episodic mood disorder. As well as possible bouts of debilitating depression, it's main feature is episodic mania (these manic episodes are frequently refered to as highs - though not always happy or fun to experience). During manic episodes - which can last days, or many weeks, even months on end in some cases - the sufferer may become mean-spirited, irritable, cocky, over spiritualised, immoderate, delusional -- the victim may also experience distressing (or exhilarating -  often spiritual) hallucinations in severe cases. When truly manic the Type 1 sufferer has little awareness or control over their behaviour (which is often far removed from the person's real nature and temperament). This lack of awareness during severe episodes is another marked difference between type 1 and other lesser forms of the mental illness.  Sufferers can find it hard to say sorry to loved ones for any distress or hurt they may have caused while 'high', as it is often too painful to acknowledge what they have done.  Moreover, not all sufferers are met with the sympathy, understanding and support they so desperately need. This often leads to periods of social withdrawal, shame and deep depression. However, Jeremy is far from a tragic figure. He proved that he was more than his disorder and was a separate person from it. It never stopped the genuinely kind-hearted actor from leading a fulfilling life, filled with many happy memories, and people that loved and cared about him. It was once remarked by a disappointed journalist that no one could be found who would say a word against Jeremy, such was the genuine affection felt for Jeremy by all those that knew him. Jeremy wanted other bipolar survivors to feel able to fulfil their own dreams as he had done his. Nearing the end of his life he took part in a public awareness appeal on BBC Radio Four for the MDF: listen here.                       
Memorials
  • Memorial Service (29th of November, 1995): Jeremy's funeral was a private family affair (at which he was cremated), but a special memorial service, organised by Granada Television, was held on Wednesday the 29th of November, at St. Martin in the Fields Church, London. The service - with over 400 people in attendance - featured Katherine Gowers' performance of the violin theme of The Reichenbach Falls, and choral music, along side personal speechs by his friends and co-workers. There was also a blessing from Jeremy's brother, the Reverend John Huggins, as well as personal recollections of his youngest brother, whom he spoke of with great fondness. John Huggins also reminded everyone present that Jeremy was intensely proud of his own son, David. David Huggins was, of course, there, as was ex-wife, Anna Massey, and acting cousin, Martin Clunes (who cried during the service). The trusty and affable Watsons, Edward Hardwicke (read his speech) and David Burke, were also there to celebrate Jeremy's life.  Jeremy's friend and bridge parnter, Penelope Keith, gave an uplifting speech about Jeremy's mischief making which filled the church with laughter, and long-time friend, Tarn Bassett Gresser, read a poem by Canon Henry Scott Holland called 'Death is nothing at all'. There was also an address by Myra Fulford of the Manic Depression Fellowship. Myra explained how she had written to him, congratulating Jeremy on his courage in revealing in a newspaper that he suffered from the mental illness. Later, when she was trying to find a person to make a similarly brave appeal on radio to raise funds for the MDF and create bipolar awareness, Jeremy spread his arms wide - in what Michael Cox described as - typically warm enthusiastic Jeremy fashion, and proclaimed, "Darling, use me!".                                                                                                                                             
  • Memorial Reception: A reception, with light snacks and fine wine, was held at The Players Theatre (after the Memorial Service), for A list invites the family and the theatre and television personalities. Michael Cox in his book, 'Study in Celluloid: A Producer's Account of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes', said of this: Jeremy would have been out there, dragging them in off the street! And when he had sorted it all out in his own generous way, we would have heard him laughing.                                                                                                                                                                          
  • Memorial Plaque: A memorial plaque along with a photo of Jeremy can be found at the Circle Bar of Wyndham's Theatre. It was unvailed by Edward Hardwicke in 1995. It bears the inscription, 'I have lost a friend whom I regarded as the best and wisest man I have ever known.'
  • Memorial tree: A young horse-chestnut tree was planted by some of Jeremy's friends in his memory. It is located just to the west of La Baita, the cafe near the Bandstand, on Clapham Common. The planting ceremony took place at 2:30 pm on Friday 30 March 2007, on a misty and drizzly day, which had a touch of Victorian England about it. Edward Hardwicke and David Burke read a toast to Jeremy during the ceremony, which was written by Peter Howell, you can read it here.           
                                                                                  
  • I'm in Love with Jeremy Brett: Poi Dog Pondering wrote and recorded a song called "I'm in Love with Jeremy Brett" as a gesture of love & respect for the late great actor. Hipofizis made a video to the song, you can view it here.       
       Fact File © Rebecca Wilde 2011