who was the better sherlock holmes - jeremy brett or basil rathbone?

I’m taking a plunge into BBC Sherlock Holmes series. I watched the Jeremy Brett series as a kid and I think his delivery is spot-on. Though, how do the two compare? Or are there perhaps an even greater portrayal of Holmes that I should check out first?

Having read many of the stories, I’d have to say Jeremy Brett.

Jeremy Brett no contest.

I fear I’ve only seen Brett, but I my understanding is that Basil was more swashbuckling and such (which isn’t terribly Holmesy.) So given that and, what I would assume to have been better acting just due to the relative modernity, that Brett was better.

I’ve read his blurb on Wikipedia and there is no mention of it, so I suspect that it is an Urban Legend saying that Mr. Brett “got so into the character that he actually began to believe himself to be Sherlock Holmes, and had to be institutionalized several times.” I can certainly see how such a legend could come to be, he really did seem to take the role and live it (though I think we are still missing a proper presentation of a drugged out Holmes.)

Brett, although Nigel Bruce made a grand, fine, Watson.

Apparently he suffered from bipolar disorder.

Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes, down to the tiniest detail.

Basil Rathbone was… Basil Rathbone, in a deerstalker. WTF?

Overall, I have to give Brett the edge.

But I like Rathbone’s “Hound of the Baskervilles” better. It was the only Holmes film he did that was set in the period and IIRC the closest to the original story.

Brett. All the way.
I have an edition of Conan Doyle with the original Sidney Paget illustrations from Strand magazine. The first time I saw Jeremy Brett I was gobsmacked. He looks exactly like the drawings! :smiley:

I’ve read all the Holmes stories and novels, and I say Brett, no contest.

He’s physically right, in my mental image of the man, and he exudes a wry intelligence like no other.

By the way, I drove past 221B Baker Street the other day, and it now exists (having been both a non-existent address and part of the Abbey National Building Society offices until recently). They’ve done a great job with recreating what it would have looked like had it ever been real.

Bosda jokes, I’m certain.

Nigel Bruce, as Dr. Watson served as comic relief in those old Rathbone flicks. He was embarrassing to watch, portraying the good doctor as a bumbling fool.

The Watson of the Brett films is flawlessly portrayed by Edward Hardwicke. On occasion, I found Jeremy Brett to be too friggin’ too, but Hardwicke was always perfect - and my favorite character in this series.

No Way to Brett! He was a dork. Basil was a studly-Holmes. Remember, the real Holmes was vigorous. Watching Brett sort of made me wince whenever he was called upon for any physical activity. Basil could do what Brett couldn’t; and look like Mr. Cool and Collected all the while.

Between the two I’d vote for for Basil Rathbone. But better still, I think, was Robert Stephens’ interpretation in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Poop. Brett played Holmes with a nervous intensity that put real oooomph to any fisticuffs in which he had to engage.

In one episode there was a country pub setting, Holmes was accosted by a Local Rough, and Brett pulled out this Marquis of Queensbury boxing stance that showed such confidence and authority that a ninja would’ve ducked.

Brett gets my vote. (I never had a chance to see Gillette, however)

I can agree with those who say Brett was the more dead on to the literary Holmes, but Basil Rathbone’s portrayal was more compelling and interesting on screen. The Movies were more engaging. I too watch a few of the Sherlock Holmes last night with Brett and they did a great job with the Red-Headed League but Basil was so much more memorable.


The worst of the Jeremy Brett episodes was The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle.

Xmas story, featuring Holmes & Watson finding a rare gem hidden inside an Xmas goose.

So far, so good.

But throughout the show, green & flowering plants were everywhere. Trees had leaves on em. At Xmas?!?
:confused: :smack: :dubious:

But up in heaven Nigel Bruce was still envying Hardwicke’s Watson. Poor Nigel. He had to hit up Aldus Huxley for a couple of Somas. :slight_smile:

This is not as easy to choose as one might think.

I think Jeremy Brett is physically a bit closer to Doyle’s conception of Holmes. He also portrays Holmes with more of a nervous energy than Rathbone, which I like. But Rathbone was more theatrical, and had greater range. On the whole, Brett’s Holmes is too modern, too much like a British detective series of today.

I’m too lazy to get the details, but another British actor recently portrayed some fictional adventures of Doyle’s real medical school instructor. Can’t remember the name (Doyle’s instructor was Scottish). I liked that more even, nuanced portrayal of a turn-of-the-century detective.

Nigel Bruce as Watson is just plain ridiculous. Bruce is too old and too bumbling.

The Rathbone-Bruce movies suffer from being anachronistic to the point of being set in “modern” times. But then again, all Doyle movies/TV shows are screwed up. For that, we may be thankful. Some of Doyle’s writing is top-notch, but other parts are dreadful. He hasn’t aged well at all.

Despite being non-Doyle, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is quite imaginative and true to form. The Seven-Percent Solution, alas, ruined a really good non-canonical story.

Brett has pretty much become Holmes in my head, so that when I read Doyle or Holmes pastiches, I picture Brett.