Douglas Wilmer: British Character Actor Of ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ ‘Fu Manchu’ Fame Dead At 96

Douglas Wilmer, the British actor who was well-known for his endearing portrayals of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, has died at the age of 96 in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, as reported by IMDb. It was reported that Wilmer died in the hospital after a “short illness,” by The Hollywood Reporter.

Said to be considered by some with The Sherlock Holmes Society of London to be the “definitive” Sherlock Holmes, Douglas Wilmer first portrayed the famous detective in the BBC’s 1964 treatment of The Speckled Band, and stuck with the studio for a further 12 episodes. Then, in 1975, Wilmer played Sherlock Holmes in a film written and directed by Gene Wilder, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, as reported by IMDb.

“The part interested me very much because I’d never really, I felt, seen it performed to its full capacity,” Wilmer was quoted by The Hollywood Reporter with regard to the Holmes character in general. “There’s a very dark side to Holmes, and a very unpleasant side to him. And I felt that this was always skirted round, which made him appear rather sort of hockey sticks and cricket bats and jolly uncles … a kind of dashing Victorian hero. He wasn’t like that at all. He was rather sardonic and arrogant, and he could be totally inconsiderate toward Watson. I tried to show both sides of his nature.”

Wilmer played the character Professor Van Dusen in British television network ITV’s The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes in 1973. The actor was also reported to have recorded readings of the series of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books with Penguin in the 1990s, and to have been the proprietor of a British bar named Sherlock’s.

Sherlock Holmes and Shakesperean actor Douglas Wilmer has died from pneumonia at the age of 96.
[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]
Beyond his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and the length of the list of other productions Douglas Wilmer has appeared in, IMDb suggests that the British character actor may be best known for appearing as Nayland Smith in The Brides of Fu Manchu in 1966, and The Vengeance of Fu Manchu in 1967.

Douglas Wilmer also appeared in dozens of other films and television shows. That the popular actor appeared in productions of both Richard III, as well as Revenge of the Pink Panther, speaks to Wilmer’s depth and versatility. Other Shakespearean films that listed Wilmer’s involvement included a 1958 Macbeth television mini-series, a 1960 television movie, Macbeth, and a 1980 television movie, The Merchant of Venice.

In addition to his career in Hollywood, Wilmer was acclaimed for his appearance in a number of Shakespeare’s plays, performed in the theater, including The Merry Wives of Windsor, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, and Henry V.

British character actor Douglas Wilmer, famous for his portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, has died at the age of 96 from pneumonia.
Artwork from ‘Strand’ magazine — circa 1880. [Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]
In the early 2000s, Wilmer was reported to be earning a “successful living” working as a painter. Born on January 8, 1920, Douglas Wilmer was reported to have received his education at Stonyhurst College and trained as an actor at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Wilmer served during World War II with the British Royal Artillery and saw combat in Africa. Later, after falling ill with tuberculosis, the actor was reported to have been “invalidated” from the service.

One year later, reportedly against his doctor’s orders, Douglas Wilmer accepted his first acting role, which he later described as “hard work” performing “a play a week,” as reported by EADT24 via Wilmer cited Esmond Knight as a close acting friend during his theater period in England, and later enjoying the company of American Charlton Heston, during his film career; the two actors appeared in 1961’s El Cid, 1966’s Khartoum, and 1972’s Anthony and Cleopatra alongside each other. Heston passed away in 2008 at the age of 84.

[Image via videocurios/YouTube]

Share this article: Douglas Wilmer: British Character Actor Of ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ ‘Fu Manchu’ Fame Dead At 96
More from Inquisitr