Jeremy Brett is now widely considered to be the definitive Holmes of his era, just as Basil Rathbone was during the 1940s.
Many may not know that, prior to taking on the role of Holmes, Brett had played Dr. Watson on stage opposite Charlton Heston in the 1980 Los Angeles production of The Crucifer of Blood, making him one of four actors to play both Holmes and Watson professionally.
Dr. Watson is smitten with the mysterious maiden in distress, played by Suzanne Lederer. Although he didn’t study the Doyle canon like he did when it came time to prepare for Sherlock Holmes, the play did give Jeremy insight into the Holmes-Watson friendship.
"It was tremendous fun," he said, "and it taught me a lot about how to approach Holmes when the Grenada series got under way. I learned a great deal about the inter-relationship of the two men."
He describes the characters further in Bending the Willow, a book by David Stuart Davies: “In some ways Watson is stronger than Holmes. That comes through his kindness, I suppose. He sees Holmes’ weaknesses and tries to protect him from them. Look how Watson rants at him about cocaine. Watson is always on the lookout in order to save his friend from pain, indignity or destruction.”
Jeremy also has said (IMDb bio) that he relates better to Watson: “Watson is much more my kind of person. Watson is a warm, loving, sunny person who’s very enthusiastic — and hurt and slightly upset when his friend is rude to people or him. This is much more like me.”
Two actors who shared the stage with Jeremy had fine remembrances of the sunny, enthusiastic Brett.
Actor Ian Abercrombie (IMDb) wrote in an online message board: “Playing with Charlton Heston in The Crucifer of Blood one night, I got a case of the giggles when fellow actor Jeremy Brett started singing to me. I was paralyzed. Needless to say ‘Chuck’ Heston was not amused.”
Another actor in the play, Charles Pogue (IMDb), said of Jeremy: “He was just as brilliant a Watson as he eventually was as Holmes. May I say here and now that Jeremy Brett is one of the few true gentlemen I’ve ever met in this business.”