JB Fact File: 
Joan Wilson
Joan and Jeremy married on the 22nd of November 1977.  Her death on July 4, 1985,
eventually led to major turmoil in Jeremy's life. "We had a decade together," he said of
his soul mate. "I loved her dearly, she was so beautiful and gutsy."

They shared a birthday - November 3 - and a common bond.  
"We had a once-in-a-lifetime  love" he has said.  "She was an incredible person, the best
wife a man could have.  This was the kind of relationship where I would start a sentence
and she would finish it. Sometimes you can see behind somebody's eyes and feel as if you
have known them all your life. That's how it was."

Joan had gone to see Design for Living in 1973 in London and saw Jeremy on stage. 
She declared, "That's the man for me!" 

Later, she interviewed him for Classic Theatre -- to introduce his performance in The Rivals 
when it aired on PBS.  According to Joan, it was love at first take: "My audio man put
together a video cassette and you could see the chemistry."

Here's some background information about Joan from a Boston Globe article, Joan Wilson bids for Masterpieces, Dec. 13, 1980: 

She was executive producer of public television's Masterpiece Theatre as well as Classic Theatre, Piccadilly Circus and Mystery! Her official bio listed her as "a Scorpio born in Wisconsin." A believer in the occult, her black Mustang ... bears a plate that reads "WITCH." She has been married three times ("four, if you count another relationship that was never formalized") and has two children -- Caleb and Rebekah.

Jeremy regarded Caleb and Rebekah Sullivan as his children -- a legacy for him from Joan -- and kept in touch with them after her death, as well as Joan's mother.

Joan and Jeremy thrived on work, and their absences from one another must have made their hearts grow fonder! During one span in 1980, Joan recounted, "I spent a week with Jeremy in January. In February, we got together when Mobil threw a party for Masterpiece Theatre. In April, I saw him in London. Mostly, he stays in Los Angeles and I'm here in Boston. We see each other in different places -- wherever we happen to be."

Joan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1984, when Jeremy was working on the first Sherlock Holmes series.

In a 1991 interview on NPR, Jeremy said: "I knew at the end of The Final Problem in '84 that she had cancer, and the lights really went out in my life. ... We were going to do all the treatment in England and then we decided to do it in Boston because she ... worked for WGBH."

To be near her and keep working, Jeremy took on two projects in New York City -- co-starring inAren't We All? and serving as a narrator in Song.

She died on July 4, 1985, and Jeremy continued in Aren't We All? through July 23. "I don’t know how I did those performances," he told NPR. "And I was contracted to start [Sherlock Holmes] again on September the 3rd of that year. And they said, 'Well, Jeremy, it may help if you get back on the bike.' ... And I did the next five films with the most appalling ill grace I’m afraid. I mean, I just didn’t want to do them.

"And then I had ... an almighty breakdown. And when I came through that, thanks entirely to my darling son, David, who was a valiant friend to me through that ... I got back on the bike again! (chuckles) And I remember saying, 'If I can get to Manchester [where Sherlock Holmes was filmed], I’ll be all right.' And then I made The Sign of Four and I began ... to feel better with Holmes, and I wasn’t quite so ... cross with him, 'cause I blamed him a little. I was working, you see, so far away from Joan, and it had taken up so much of ... our last few years. And ... you know, time is the great healer. And now ... actually, Caleb, my eldest, my legacy from Joan, says that I’m looking much better than he’s seen me in years.

"So, slowly, slowly, slowly. You never get over a loss like that. You get used to it but you never get over it."

American television and radio personality, Robert Aubry Davis, recalls witnessing Jeremy's grief at first hand:   
We planned a fund-raising event on television, and a two-hour long version of the popular BBC radio     
program "Desert Island Discs" (the guest chooses the five recordings he would take with him to a
deserted island, the music being a means to explore the subject's life and personality).  [...] the choices ended with the piece of music Mr. Brett and his wife danced to on the last New Year's Eve before her death, indeed, on her last "good" day.

The fact that both Mr. Brett and his wife shared a birthday (November 3rd), and their bond was forged in the context of Mr. Brett portraying Sherlock Holmes (all explained in the program), only intensified
the experience for the other two of us in the radio studio (my producer, Juliette Weinstein, was a witness to what is about to be revealed).
Mr. Brett began to tell us as he listened to the music every detail of that last happy night together. Suddenly (shocking even us), he fell into a complete collapse, doubling over in pain. He began to shudder with sobs. Juliette and I exchanged glances--there was more to the show, after all... and then, Mr. Brett fell to the floor. He began first to crawl towards the door. Then--in an unprecedented occurrence in my professional career-- fell into a prone position, as a soldier does when under fire. Pulling himself along in this manner, he squeezed out of the door to the studio. 

This being Saturday, the building was nearly empty. The record ended. Juliette and I snapped out of a trance-like state, sprang to the door...and he was gone. Literally. From the studio, from our lives.         

Joan Sullivan, Producer, Classic Theatre Preview and Classic Theatre: the Humanities in Drama (from Viewer Guide):  "The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden." I associate these words of Goethe with the communion I have experienced, the joy I've shared, the consolation in sadness and loneliness I've felt, and the insight I've gained from a variety of experiences with great plays of our theatrical heritage. As I screened over one hundred dramas available for this series, I based my choices on the degree to which the intent of the dramatic material was fulfilled through excellence of performance and presentation. I had no preconceived idea of choosing "classic" plays, which for me are simply the very best that survive. But as the choices narrowed down to dramas not considered "contemporary," I also saw the opportunity to make some contribution to the revival — for a larger public than is within the reach of "live" theatre in this country — of a tradition of literature that eloquently and powerfully speaks to the guts and minds of humanity in any age. I invite you to watch the television previews that precede each drama. These half-hour programs were designed to complete the theatre experience for you. They are your theatre playbill. Each program offers an intimate conversation with an individual who has devoted his professional life to the study, teaching, translating or performing of this great literature. These conversations, with highlights from the plays, as well as short pictorial essays about the playwright and the social and theatrical history of his time, are for your further enjoyment of the drama. You will also share conversations with leading players in the productions, videotaped in London settings historically associated with the plays.