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Douglas Wilmer (8 January 1920 – 31 March 2016)[1] was an English actor, best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in the 1965 TV series Sherlock Holmes.

Douglas Wilmer
Actor Douglas Wilmer.jpg
as Sherlock Holmes (1965)
Born(1920-01-08)8 January 1920
Died31 March 2016(2016-03-31) (aged 96)
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Years active1945–2012
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Joan Melville (m. 1946–?)
Anne Harding (m. 1985–2016, his death)


Early lifeEdit

Wilmer was born in Brentford, Middlesex,[2] and received his education at King's School, Canterbury, and Stonyhurst College. A performance as the Archbishop of Canterbury in a school play at King's School was seen by Dame Sybil Thorndike who afterward told the headmaster "If that boy, playing the Archbishop, were to take to the stage, I think that he could well make a go of it."[3] After completing school, Wilmer applied for a scholarship at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was accepted.[3] Whilst in training RADA, he was conscripted into the British Army for military service with the Royal Artillery in the Second World War. After training, he was posted to an anti-tank battery, and saw war service in Africa with the Royal West African Frontier Force. He was later invalided out of the Armed Forces, having contracted tuberculosis.[3]


Wilmer made his theatre stage debut in 1945 in repertory at Rugby.[3] He appeared frequently on the London stage, mainly in classical and Shakespearean roles. He made his first major film appearance in Laurence Olivier's Richard III (1955);[3] thereafter, he appeared in a large number of films, mostly in supporting roles. They include several epic films: as M. Desmoulins in The Battle of the River Plate (1956), as Al-Mu'tamin in El Cid (1961), Cleopatra (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), as Khalifa Abdullah in Khartoum (1966), as Maj. Gen. Francis de Guingand in Patton (1970), as Sir Thomas Fairfax in Cromwell (1970), and Antony and Cleopatra (1972). Other appearances include Jason and the Argonauts (1963) as Pelias, the Pink Panther films A Shot in the Dark (1964) and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), The Vampire Lovers (1970), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), and Octopussy (1983).

He is mainly associated with the role of Sherlock Holmes, which he first played in the BBC's 1964 production of "The Speckled Band". Together with co-star Nigel Stock, who played Doctor Watson, Wilmer was brought back for a further twelve episodes of the Sherlock Holmes series. In 1973, Wilmer played author Jacques Futrelle's Holmesian detective Professor Van Dusen in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes for ITV. In 1975, he once again appeared as Holmes (albeit in a supporting role) in Gene Wilder's The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, with Thorley Walters as Dr. Watson. Wilmer also played Sir Denis Nayland Smith in two of Harry Alan Towers' Fu Manchu films, The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966) and The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967).[4]

He recorded a series of the stories on audiocassette for Penguin audio books[3] and appeared as a guest at several UK and US events, including the Society's Golden Jubilee Dinner in January 2001.[5] His other television credits include: The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Saint, The Troubleshooters, The Avengers, The Baron, UFO, and Space: 1999. He made a cameo appearance in "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock as an irate old man in the Diogenes Club.[5][1]

Honours and awardsEdit

Wilmer was an honorary member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London,[1][5] which considered Wilmer "the definitive Holmes".[3] On 24 March 2009 Wilmer was guest of honour at a launch party for his book, held at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall Place, London.

Personal life and deathEdit

On 16 February 1946 Wilmer married Elizabeth Joan Melville in Westminster. In his later years, he resided in Woodbridge, Suffolk.[3] Wilmer's autobiography Stage Whispers (Porter Press, ISBN 978-0-9556564-9-1) was published in 2010.[1][3] On 31 March 2016, after a short bout of pneumonia, Wilmer died at age 96 at Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk, England.[4][1] Roger Moore posted a tribute on social media the same day that Wilmer had died; the actors had worked together in the James Bond feature film Octopussy (1983) and on the television show The Saint (a 1963 episode).[4] He was survived by his widow Anne née Harding to whom he had been married for over 30 years.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Mike (31 March 2016). "Douglas Wilmer, Sherlock Holmes Actor, Dies at 96". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Clarke, Andrew (30 April 2009). "A life in the spotlight". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Sherlock Holmes actor Douglas Wilmer dies aged 96". The Guardian. Press Association. 1 April 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Douglas Wilmer". The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Retrieved 29 August 2015.

External linksEdit