#2. Jeremy Brett
If I had come up with this Top Five several years ago, there is no doubt that Jeremy Bretty would have been my number one choice. And I still think, as far as Victorian portrayals of the great detective, no one has ever matched Brett's version. When the BBC series starring Brett as Holmes began in the early 80s, I was a teenager, and though I was relatively new to the Sherlock Holmes canon, it was clear to me that no actor had ever really captured the true spirit and style of Sherlock Holmes. And then I saw Jeremy Brett...
It was as if Sidney Paget's drawings had come to life! Every little pose, every mannerism was just as I had imagined Holmes, based on the illustrations I had seen. For many years, then, to my way of thinking Jeremy Brett was the Sherlock Holmes. As I've read more about that BBC series, and its ups and downs, I've learned that the series consciously imitated Paget's drawings as closely as possible, and that Brett himself had an almost obsessive insistence on the most minute details. (He also smoked several packs of cigarettes a day, which contributed to his poor health in later installments of the series...)
As I've gone back and watched many of the episodes of this very successful BBC Sherlock Holmes series, I'm still immensely impressed by Brett's finely detailed portrayal of the detective. Sure, some of the adaptations of the stories tend towards slavish adulation, while other episodes add somewhat poorly rendered plot lines to flesh out the stories. And Brett's performances in several of the later episodes was negatively impacted by his failing health. But Jeremy Brett at his best inhabited the role as very few actors have managed to do.
As I said above, if I had written this several years ago, Brett would have easily been my favorite choice, but then along came a series called Sherlock...and my world changed. But more of that in my next article...
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN. And a longtime fan of Sherlock Holmes.