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The charitable Jeremy Brett

Author: SherlockExtra and Revati - Translator: Revati

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„Smiling in your brother’s face is an act of charity.” – said Prophet Mohammed.

If we take this as a basis, we can say that Jeremy Brett did lots of charity. And we mean not only that he sponsored Linda Pritchard’s run to collect money for cancer research or that he spoke about his depression to raise the awareness of others having the same problem. Even as a child, he was very good-hearted. This came from his ancestors, mostly from his mother, who supported the Red Cross and was famous for her generosity among vagabonds and townspeople as well. Of course these are important and wonderful things, and Jeremy gladly took part in them. But his greatest mercy had been Sherlock Holmes. With the character of the detective he made lots of people happy and he transmitted all the wisdom with which Conan Doyle adressed humanity with the greatest goodwill. Because Doyle was a true artist, and as French writer Romain Rolland thought:”It is the artist’s business to create sunshine when the sun fails.”

The famous Granada Sherlock Holmes series was the idea of producer Michael Cox. His aim was to make a faithful adaptation of the legendary British sleuth’s adventures. The television studio where Cox worked agreed to shoot the series. When Jeremy Brett had been suggested for the leading role, some thought it would be funny, because it was surmised that he was too handsome to play Holmes. The detective is clean and well-dressed in the novels, but he is not a good-looking man (Sidney Paget, the first illustrator of the adventures drew him as an attractive man, because he liked the character very much. Later other artists depicted him handsome as well, for example Robert Fawcett and Frederic Dorr Steele. But Conan Doyle’s opinion was that the portraits of Frank Wiles were the closest to his idea of Sherlock.)

More information: Sidney Paget , Robert Fawcett , Frederic Dorr Steele , Frank Wiles

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Frank Wiles's picture of Sherlock Holmes

Apart from this trifle no other doubts emerged in connection with Brett. It was a known fact that he is a talented actor who will be perfect in the role. Difficulties occured for Jeremy though. Conan’s hero is the national pride of Great Britain and many other nations like him as well (USA, France, Switzerland, Japan, etc.). In addition, earlier the brilliant Basil Rathbone portrayed the character so masterfully, that for many people he was Sherlock Holmes himself. So the role was a huge challenge for Brett. If he fails, it can be a fatal repulse, but if he succeeds, he will be identified with the role – and the latter may be trying sometimes, because of the trespass of some fans.

The stories of the canon were familiar to Jeremy and he often reread them while working on the series. He told in interviews that he saw Holmes as a very dark figure (Unfortunately this was because of his depression, he saw himself and the world worse than they really were.). But his special viewpoint resulted in an extraordinary delicacy for the audience. Brett’s detective was stricter and he became unique. The actor realized how important was his own profession for Holmes, and he played the sleuth according to this. When he found out how many children look at Sherlock as their role model, with the help of his second Watson, Edward Hardwicke they arranged a scene where the detective quits using drugs. They did not wanted Holmes to be a bad example. Though the detective smoked, its harmful effects were unknown in the Victorian era, and some even said that smoking is good for the health (More information: The pipes of Sherlock Holmes). On the other hand, the pipe is one of the most familiar symbols of Sherlock Holmes (this fact had been respected by filmmakers till the most recent modern adaptations.). Brett sadly could not quit smoking. Yet, because of the change he achieved with the drug use of Holmes we can say that he was fully aware of the educational effects of the media, and he used every possibility to utilize its benefits and communicate worthy things to the viewers. Filmmakers wanted to left out the famous rose monologue from The Naval Treaty, which deals with the providence of God. Jeremy fought for keeping it in the script, because it shows the more sensible side of Holmes and the philosophical and literary greatness of Conan Doyle as well.

" There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion," said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers. " - Sherlock Holmes quote from "The Naval Treaty"

Sherlock Holmes God and rose

Jeremy considered himself a believer (he kept his favourite poem about God in his pocket), and as an artist, he realized and respected the value of that scene. His outstanding acting skills were praised many times before, but we must not forget that he was a true artist, who supported culture as far as possible and stood up for the work of others – and this is respectable too. He did not think that in the name of creative freedom he has the right to change or dishonor the work of a famous artist who died long ago. He knew very well that what Doyle deserves is artistic devotion and sincere respect. He agreed with Spanish writer Baltasar Gracián: „You cannot force respect. You have to deserve it.”

Brett’s service was his humble and heroic work in the Granada series and in the theatre, in the play The Secret of Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately not only his health was deteriorating, but the studio encountered financial and other difficulties. It was painful for him that some stories were totally rewritten and altered, and he talked about it in interviews as well. But in spite of all the changes the Granada series is the longest small screen adaptation of Doyle’s adventures, and the most faithful to the canon as well.

Jeremy had a troubled life. He had tough days because of his self-doubt, his depression and the tragedies he gone through. Shortly before his death he found consolation when his doctor told him that the adventures of Sherlock Holmes remain accessible for the upcoming generations. It gives us comfort, hope and strength that the legendary Granada series will last, in which the work and the memory of Joseph Bell, Conan Doyle, the fascinating actors, Michael Cox and the crew lives on. The series evoke a smile on our faces. The light, what was sent off by the amazing Conan Doyle, reaches our hearts, and artists like Sidney Paget, Robert Fawcett, Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett helped to make it even brighter.

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