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Nigel Bruce Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (9) | Personal Quotes (2) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 4 February 1895Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
Date of Death 8 October 1953Santa Monica, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameWilliam Nigel Ernle Bruce
Nickname Willie
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Nigel was, from the beginning, typecast as bumbling English aristocrats, military types or drawing room society snobs and, within the narrow parameters of his range, he was very, very good at playing these parts. Nigel Bruce was born in Mexico, where his father, Sir William W. Bruce, worked as an engineer. His family was part of English aristocracy, ever since Charles I. bestowed a baronetcy upon them in 1629 (William's older brother Michael held the hereditary title). Nigel was educated in England at Grange, Stevenage and Abingdon. His first job was at a stockbroker's firm. During World War I, he served in the British Army (like his future co-star, Basil Rathbone) where he received a serious leg wound and was for some time confined to a wheelchair.

Following his discharge, he turned to acting in 1919, but it wasn't until ten years later that he achieved a breakthrough in Noël Coward's 'This was a Man' on Broadway. Then followed the performance which was to set the standard for all his later work in Hollywood: the 1931 comedy "Springtime for Henry". On the strength of his performance as Johnny Jelliwell, Fox offered Nigel the opportunity to reprise his role in the 1934 movie. Soon after that, Nigel was cast to star as British detective Bertram Lynch in a minor thriller, Murder in Trinidad (1934). The contemporary New York Times Review (May 16,1934) was skeptical about the film's merit, but found Nigel's performance 'compelling'. After that followed a gallery of endearingly stereotypical 'Britishers': Squire Trelawny in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island (1934), the Prince of Wales in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), Professor Holly in She (1935) and Sir Benjamin Warrenton in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936). All, without exception, were roles in which Nigel felt perfectly at home.

In 1939, he teamed up with Basil Rathbone for the first two Holmes/Watson movies, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), filmed at 20th Century Fox. Both films had an authentic period feel for Victorian England and the chemistry between the two stars was just right. Three years later, Rathbone was contractually obliged to make a further series of twelve Holmes pictures at Universal, again co-starring Nigel as Dr. Watson. Unfortunately, these films were incongruously set in the 1940's, often poorly written and irritatingly riddled with sermonizing wartime propaganda. Poor old Nigel had suddenly regressed from being 'my friend and colleague' to bumbling, feet shuffling comedy relief. In between filming the Sherlock Holmes series, Nigel portrayed his lovable self in two Hitchcock classics Rebecca (1940) (as Major Giles Lacy) and Suspicion (1941) (as 'Beaky').

A prominent member of the resident English colony in Hollywood, Nigel Bruce at one time captained the cricket club established by fellow actor and compatriot C. Aubrey Smith in 1932 (other members included P.G. Wodehouse, Boris Karloff, Ronald Colman and David Niven).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Violet Campbell (21 May 1921 - 8 October 1953) (his death) (2 children)

Trade Mark (3)

Roles as buffoonish upper-class English gentlemen
An habitual pipe smoker, both on screen and off
The Dr. John Watson to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes

Trivia (9)

Best known for his inimitable, forever-indelible portrayals of a most blithering Dr. John Watson opposite Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes in Universal's World War II-era Holmes films.
Two daughters: Jennifer and Pauline
In late 1944 he began writing an autobiography entitled "Games, Gossip and Greasepaint" which was never published. However many extracts were published in The Sherlock Holmes Journal (London/Oxford, England) Winter issue 1998 Volume 19 Number 1.
Younger brother of Sir Michael William Selby Bruce, 11th Baronet of Stenhouse and Airth, a descendant of Robert the Bruce and of the Royal Stuarts. Source: Book entitled 'Tramp Royal' by Sir Michael Bruce of Stenhouse. Published 1945 by Elek Books Ltd, 14 Great James St, London.
Fought in the British army during World War I and was seriously wounded in action.
In May 1945 Bruce underwent surgery for varicose veins in his legs as a result of his war injuries.
Began his acting career on stage in 1920.
Although he played the seemingly older Dr. Watson opposite Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, he was actually 2 1/2 years younger.
Best known for playing Dr. Watson, he is fittingly also a cousin of Christopher Plummer, who went on to play Sherlock Holmes.

Personal Quotes (2)

I am in no way a distinguished man, but if I died tomorrow, I can honestly claim to have been what few men can call themselves - a really happy one. For 26 years I have been blessed with the love and friendship of a very wonderful woman. I have two attractive and splendid daughters of whom I am very proud, and my two sons-in-law I respect and like enormously. Except for a groggy leg I have been given excellent health, and all through my life I have had the friendship of many attractive and worthwhile people, for all this I am very grateful. I have made a few enemies and for their opinions I care not a fig. I may be broke or ill again, but as long as I have Bunny beside me I shall be happy, and I can only hope that our two daughters will enjoy their lives as much as their father has enjoyed every minute of his. (1947)
The stories we did were modernised but the characters of the famous detective and his biographer were kept more or less as originally written by Conan Doyle. Watson, however, in the films was made much more of a 'comic' character than he ever was in the books. This was with the object of introducing a little light relief. The doctor, as I played him, was a complete stooge for his brilliant friend and one whose intelligence was almost negligible. Many of the lovers of Conan Doyle must have been shocked, not by this caricature of the famous doctor but by seeing the great detective alighting from an aeroplane and the good doctor listening to his radio. To begin with, Basil and I were much opposed to the modernising of these stories but the producer, Howard Benedict, pointed out to us that the majority of youngsters who would see our pictures were accustomed to the fast-moving action of gangster pictures, and that expecting machine guns, police sirens, cars travelling at 80 miles an hour and dialogue such as 'Put em up bud', they would be bored with the magnifying glass, the hansom cabs, the cobblestones and the slow tempo of an era they never knew and a way of life with which they were completely unfamiliar.

Salary (1)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) $10,000

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