The collection of Douglas Wilmer, the quintessential Sherlock Holmes actor who brought Conan Doyle’s character to life on the BBC in the 1960s, will go under the hammer in Colchester auction house Reeman Dansie’s Autumn Fine Art auction.
Douglas Wilmer was born in Brentford, but spent his early years in Shanghai before moving back to the UK where he was educated at The King’s School, Canterbury. While in a school play he was “discovered” by Dame Sybil Thorndike, who was in the audience.
Training at RADA he initially worked in repertory theatre groups in London and Stratford alongside many of the great classical actors and directors of the age, including John Gielgud, Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Alec Guiness, Michael Redgrave, Noel Coward, Tyrone Guthrie and Lawrence Olivier.
From the mid-50s Wilmer’s career progressed into film, with early film appearances including Richard III, Cleopatra, El Cid, The Battle of the River Plate, Cromwell, Jason and the Argonauts and The Fall of the Roman Empire.
From 1964, he appeared on the BBC in a series of thirteen productions of Sherlock Holmes novels. It was the first televised version of the novels and Douglas Wilmer played Holmes with Nigel Stock as Doctor Watson. Douglas’s nuanced portrayal of Holmes as a complex and conflicted character won accolades and became something of a standard approach. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London has called Douglas Wilmer their ‘Definitive Holmes’ whilst the Baker St Irregulars (USA) stated he was “…the only one who got it right…”.
A variety of television and film roles followed throughout the 1960s and 70s including The Avengers, The Return of the Pink Panther, The Golden Voyages of Sinbad and Octopussy.
In retirement, Douglas settled in Woodbridge, Suffolk, where for a number of years he ran a popular wine bar, appropriately named ‘Sherlock’s’. In 2011, he was persuaded out of retirement by Mark Gatiss for a cameo guest appearance in an episode of BBC’s adaptation ‘Sherlock’. Douglas was always interested in art and collected many interesting paintings during his life. In retirement took up painting himself, becoming quite an accomplished artist. He went on to sell many of his own watercolours especially those depicting scenes of Malta, the home of his late wife, Anne.
Part 1 of his collection including fine art, sculpture and jewellery items from Douglas Wilmer’s Woodbridge residence feature in Reeman Dansie’s East Anglian and Fine Art auction on September 26 and 27.