Nigel Bruce

(1895 - 1953)

A photo of Nigel Bruce
Nigel Bruce
1895 - 1953
Born
February 4, 1895
Ensenada, Baja California Mexico
Death
October 8, 1953
Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California United States
Other Names
Nigel Bruce
Summary
Nigel Bruce, father to 2 children, was born on February 4, 1895 in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico. He married Violet Campbell, and they gave birth to Jennifer Beryl Bruce and Pauline Margaret Bruce. He died on October 8, 1953 in Santa Monica, California at age 58. We know that Nigel Bruce had been residing in California United States.
Updated: January 08, 2020
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William Nigel Ernle Bruce (4 February 1895 – 8 October 1953) was a British character actor on stage and screen. He was best known for his portrayal of Dr. Watson in a series of films and in the radio series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes). Bruce is also remembered for his roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films Rebecca and Suspicion.

Biography
Bruce was the second son of Sir William Waller Bruce, 10th Baronet (1856–1912) and his wife Angelica Lady Bruce (died 1917), daughter of General George Selby, Royal Artillery. Bruce was born in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, while his parents were on holiday there. His older brother was the author and adventurer Sir Michael Bruce. He was educated at the Grange, Stevenage and at Abingdon School, Oxfordshire. He served in France from 1914 as a lieutenant in the 10th Service Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry and the Honourable Artillery Company, but was severely wounded at Cambrai the following year, with eleven bullets in his left leg, and spent most of the remainder of the war in a wheelchair.

He made his first appearance on stage on 12 May 1920 at the Comedy Theatre as a footman in Why Marry? In October of that year, he went to Canada as stage manager to Henry V. Esmond and Eva Moore, also playing "Montague Jordan" in Eliza Comes to Stay; upon returning to England, he toured acting the same part. He appeared constantly onstage thereafter, and eight years later started also working in silent films. In 1934, he moved to Hollywood, later setting up home at 701 North Alpine Drive, Beverly Hills.

Nigel Bruce typically played buffoonish, fuzzy-minded gentlemen. During his film career, he worked in 78 films, including Treasure Island (1934), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Rebecca (1940), and Suspicion (1941).

Bruce participated in two landmark films: Becky Sharp (1935), the first feature film in full Technicolor, and Bwana Devil (1952), the first 3-D feature. He uncharacteristically played a detestable figure in The Rains Came (1939) which became the first film to win an Oscar for special effects.

Watson role
Bruce's signature role was that of Dr. Watson in the 1939-1946 Sherlock Holmes film series with close friend Basil Rathbone as Holmes. Bruce starred as Watson in all 14 films of the series and over 200 radio programs of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.[4] Although Watson often appears to be the older of the two main characters, Bruce was actually three years younger than his co-star Rathbone.

Though for most viewers Nigel Bruce formed their vision of Dr. Watson, Holmes purists have long objected that the Watson of the books was intelligent and capable (although not an outstanding detective), and that Bruce's portrayal made Watson far dimmer and more bumbling than his literary original. (A nickname resulting from this portrayal was "Boobus Britannicus." Loren D. Estleman wrote of Bruce:

"If a mop bucket appeared in a scene, his foot would be inside it, and if by some sardonic twist of fate and the whim of director Roy William Neill he managed to stumble upon an important clue, he could be depended upon to blow his nose on it and throw it away."

Conan Doyle

said Watson was Holmes' foil;
but surely he need not
have made him such a clot.

Rathbone, however, spoke highly of Bruce's portrayal, saying that Watson was one of the screen's most lovable characters. The historian David Parkinson wrote that Bruce's "avuncular presence provided the perfect counterbalance to Rathbone's briskly omniscient sleuth".[6] Historian Alan Barnes notes that, despite the criticisms against him, Bruce rehabilitated Watson, who had been a marginal figure in the cinematic Holmes canon to that point: "after Bruce, it would be a near-unthinkable heresy to show Holmes without him".

The Rathbone-Bruce film series lapsed with the death of producer-director Roy William Neill in 1946. Since then, most major modern adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, especially since the 1970s, have consciously defied the popular stereotype, and depicted Watson faithfully as a capable man of action.

Family
Nigel Bruce was married from 1921 until his death to British actress Violet Campbell (née Violet Pauline Shelton; 1892–1970) whom he always lovingly called "Bunny" and they had two daughters:

Jennifer, married in 1944 (divorced in 1946) Jay Gould III, son of Jay Gould II;
Pauline, married in 1946 the British flying ace Alan Geoffrey Page.
Later life
Bruce, known as "Willie" to his friends, was a leading member of the British film colony in Los Angeles, and was captain of the (mostly British) Hollywood Cricket Club. Unlike some of his contemporaries, and along with other British actors such as Basil Rathbone and Charlie Chaplin, Bruce maintained his British citizenship, despite long residence in the United States. He also retained his membership of London's Garrick Club and Buck's Club until his death. His final film, World for Ransom, was released posthumously in 1954.

Death
Bruce died from a heart attack in Santa Monica, California in 1953, aged 58. He was cremated, and his ashes stored in the vault at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.

He wrote an autobiography called Games, Gossip and Greasepaint which has never been published; however, excerpts have been printed in the Sherlock Holmes Journal, and these have been posted online, with permission.

Filmography
Year Title Role
1929 Red Aces Kinsfeather, T.B.
1930 The Squeaker Collie
Escape Constable
Birds of Prey Manager
1931 The Calendar Lord Willie Panniford
1932 The Midshipmaid Major Spink
Lord Camber's Ladies Lord Camber
1933 I Was a Spy Scottie
Channel Crossing Nigel Guthrie
1934 Coming Out Party Troon, the Butler
Stand Up and Cheer! Eustis Dinwiddle
Murder in Trinidad Bertram Lynch
Treasure Island Squire Trelawney
The Lady Is Willing Welton
Springtime for Henry Johnny Jewlliwell
The Scarlet Pimpernel The Prince of Wales
1935 Becky Sharp Joseph Sedley
She Horace Holly
Jalna Maurice Vaughn
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo Ivan
1936 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Thurber
Under Two Flags Capt. Menzies
The White Angel Dr. West
Follow Your Heart Henri Forrester
The Charge of the Light Brigade Sir Benjamin Warrenton
1936 The Man I Marry Robert Hartley
1937 Thunder in the City Duke Of Glenavon
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Lord Willie Winton
1938 The Baroness and the Butler Major Andros
Kidnapped Neil MacDonald
Suez Sir Malcolm Cameron
1939 The Hound of the Baskervilles Dr. Watson
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Dr. John H. Watson
The Rains Came Lord Albert Esketh
1940 The Blue Bird Mr. Luxury
Adventure in Diamonds Col. J.W. Lansfield
Rebecca Major Giles Lacy
Lillian Russell William S. Gilbert
Susan and God Hutchins Stubbs
A Dispatch from Reuter's Sir Randolph Persham
1941 Hudson's Bay Prince Rupert
Play Girl William McDonald Vincent
Free and Easy Florian Clemington
This Woman Is Mine Duncan MacDougall
The Chocolate Soldier Bernard Fischer, Critic
Suspicion Beaky
1942 Roxie Hart E. Clay Benham
This Above All Ramsbottom
Eagle Squadron McKinnon
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror Dr. John H. Watson
Journey for Margaret Herbert V. Allison
1943 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon Dr. John H. Watson
Forever and a Day Maj. Garrow
Sherlock Holmes in Washington Dr. John H. Watson
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death Dr. John H. Watson
Lassie Come Home Duke of Rudling
Crazy House Dr. John H. Watson (Cameo appearance)
1944 The Spider Woman Dr. John H. Watson
The Scarlet Claw Dr. John H. Watson
The Pearl of Death Dr. John H. Watson
Gypsy Wildcat High Sheriff
Frenchman's Creek Lord Godolphin
1945 Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear Dr. John H. Watson
The Corn Is Green The Squire
Son of Lassie Duke of Radling
The Woman in Green Dr. John H. Watson
Pursuit to Algiers Dr. John H. Watson
1946 Terror by Night Dr. John H. Watson
Dressed to Kill Dr. John H. Watson
1947 The Two Mrs. Carrolls Dr. Tuttle
The Exile Sir Edward Hyde
1948 Julia Misbehaves Col. Bruce "Bunny" Willowbrook
1950 Vendetta Sir Thomas Nevil
1952 Hong Kong Mr. Lighton
Limelight Postant, an Impresario
Bwana Devil Dr. Angus McLean
1954 World for Ransom Governor Sir Charles Coutts (final film)
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Biography
Nigel Bruce
Most commonly known name
Nigel Bruce
Full name
Nigel Bruce
Nickname(s) or aliases
California United States
Last known residence
Male
Gender
Nigel Bruce was born on in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico
Birth
Nigel Bruce died on in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California United States
Death
Nigel Bruce was born on in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico
Nigel Bruce died on in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California United States
Birth
Death
Heart attack at 58
Cause of death
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

Rich British family.
Childhood

Education

He was educated at the Grange, Stevenage and at Abingdon School, Oxfordshire.
Adulthood

Professions

Famous Actor. Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Homes.
Filmography
Year Title Role
1929 Red Aces Kinsfeather, T.B.
1930 The Squeaker Collie
Escape Constable
Birds of Prey Manager
1931 The Calendar Lord Willie Panniford
1932 The Midshipmaid Major Spink
Lord Camber's Ladies Lord Camber
1933 I Was a Spy Scottie
Channel Crossing Nigel Guthrie
1934 Coming Out Party Troon, the Butler
Stand Up and Cheer! Eustis Dinwiddle
Murder in Trinidad Bertram Lynch
Treasure Island Squire Trelawney
The Lady Is Willing Welton
Springtime for Henry Johnny Jewlliwell
The Scarlet Pimpernel The Prince of Wales
1935 Becky Sharp Joseph Sedley
She Horace Holly
Jalna Maurice Vaughn
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo Ivan
1936 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Thurber
Under Two Flags Capt. Menzies
The White Angel Dr. West
Follow Your Heart Henri Forrester
The Charge of the Light Brigade Sir Benjamin Warrenton
1936 The Man I Marry Robert Hartley
1937 Thunder in the City Duke Of Glenavon
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Lord Willie Winton
1938 The Baroness and the Butler Major Andros
Kidnapped Neil MacDonald
Suez Sir Malcolm Cameron
1939 The Hound of the Baskervilles Dr. Watson
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Dr. John H. Watson
The Rains Came Lord Albert Esketh
1940 The Blue Bird Mr. Luxury
Adventure in Diamonds Col. J.W. Lansfield
Rebecca Major Giles Lacy
Lillian Russell William S. Gilbert
Susan and God Hutchins Stubbs
A Dispatch from Reuter's Sir Randolph Persham
1941 Hudson's Bay Prince Rupert
Play Girl William McDonald Vincent
Free and Easy Florian Clemington
This Woman Is Mine Duncan MacDougall
The Chocolate Soldier Bernard Fischer, Critic
Suspicion Beaky
1942 Roxie Hart E. Clay Benham
This Above All Ramsbottom
Eagle Squadron McKinnon
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror Dr. John H. Watson
Journey for Margaret Herbert V. Allison
1943 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon Dr. John H. Watson
Forever and a Day Maj. Garrow
Sherlock Holmes in Washington Dr. John H. Watson
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death Dr. John H. Watson
Lassie Come Home Duke of Rudling
Crazy House Dr. John H. Watson (Cameo appearance)
1944 The Spider Woman Dr. John H. Watson
The Scarlet Claw Dr. John H. Watson
The Pearl of Death Dr. John H. Watson
Gypsy Wildcat High Sheriff
Frenchman's Creek Lord Godolphin
1945 Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear Dr. John H. Watson
The Corn Is Green The Squire
Son of Lassie Duke of Radling
The Woman in Green Dr. John H. Watson
Pursuit to Algiers Dr. John H. Watson
1946 Terror by Night Dr. John H. Watson
Dressed to Kill Dr. John H. Watson
1947 The Two Mrs. Carrolls Dr. Tuttle
The Exile Sir Edward Hyde
1948 Julia Misbehaves Col. Bruce "Bunny" Willowbrook
1950 Vendetta Sir Thomas Nevil
1952 Hong Kong Mr. Lighton
Limelight Postant, an Impresario
Bwana Devil Dr. Angus McLean
1954 World for Ransom Governor Sir Charles Coutts (final film)

Personal Life

He ran a CRICKET CLUB in Hollywood where he died and was cremated.

Military Service

He served in France from 1914 as a lieutenant in the 10th Service Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry and the Honourable Artillery Company, but was severely wounded at Cambrai the following year, with eleven bullets in his left leg, and spent most of the remainder of the war in a wheelchair.
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

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Bio
Jul 19, 1902 - June 1970 1902 - 1970

Children:

Bio
Sep 19, 1924 - Unknown 1924 - ?
Bio
Dec 27, 1922 - Unknown 1922 - ?

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Nigel Bruce
BIRTH 14 Feb 1895
Ensenada, Ensenada Municipality, Baja California, Mexico
DEATH 8 Oct 1953 (aged 58)
Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California, USA
BURIAL
Chapel Of The Pines Crematory
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
PLOT Vault #35167
MEMORIAL ID 5429 · View Source

MEMORIAL
PHOTOS 3
FLOWERS 711
Actor. He is best remembered for playing 'Doctor John H. Watson', opposite Basil Rathbone, in the "Sherlock Holmes" movies of the 1930s and 1940s. The son of a British baronet, Sir William Bruce, he was born in Ensenada, Mexico, where his parents were vacationing. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, he enlisted into the British Army, and was severely wounded in France in 1915, spending the remainder of the war in the hospital. In 1920, he began a stage career in the play "Why Marry?" and in 1929, shifted to British silent films. In 1934, he moved to Hollywood, where he would become a staunch and beloved member of the California British "colony" of actors. He had mastered playing blustery, inept, aristocratic Brits, and it was in this characterization that he most charmed the American audiences. In "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936), an Errol Flynn show piece movie, he played the lovable and charming Sir Benjamin Warrenton, while in "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934) he played the ineffective, blustery Prince of Wales, roles that he had mastered earlier in Britain in such movies as "The Calendar" (1931) and "Lord Camber's Ladies" (1932). He is best remembered as the bumbling but lovable Dr. John Watson in the Sherlock Holmes' films, beginning with "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1939), and ending with "Dressed to Kill" (1946). He also played 'Dr. Watson' in a series of radio broadcasts with Basil Rathbone, continuing the Sherlock Holmes' mysteries. All total, he would appear in some 77 movies. He died of a heart attack in 1953, in Santa Monica, California, and his last movie role, that of Governor Coutts in "World for Ransom" (1954), was released the following year. His autobiography, entitled "Games, Gossip and Greasepaint" has never been published, although extracts of it were printed in 1998.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Nigel's lifetime.

In 1895, in the year that Nigel Bruce was born, on May 18th, Italy's first motor race was held. The race was 58 miles long - from Turin to Asti and back. Five cars started but only three completed the race. It was won by Simone Federman who drove a Daimler Omnibus - his average speed was 9.6 mph.

In 1907, when he was merely 12 years old, the second Hague peace conference was called by Russia in the Netherlands. While nothing was settled regarding the matter of peace among nations, many resolutions were passed (and accepted by many nations) about the conventions of war - especially the protection of noncombatants.

In 1938, at the age of 43 years old, Nigel was alive when on June 25th (a Saturday) the Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt (along with 120 other bills). The Act banned oppressive child labor, set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and established the maximum workweek at 44 hours. It faced a lot of opposition and in fighting for it, Roosevelt said "Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, ...tell you...that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry."

In 1945, when he was 50 years old, on January 20th, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in to his fourth term as President of the United States. He died 82 days into his term and his new Vice-President, Harry Truman, became President.

In 1953, in the year of Nigel Bruce's passing, actress and comedian Lucille Ball gave birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr on January 19th. On the same day on "I Love Lucy", the fictional Little Ricky was born as well. Baby Desi graced the cover of the first TV Guide magazine with a headline that read ""Lucy's $50,000,000 baby" - because the commercial revenue from his birth was expected to be that amount.

Other Bruces

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Aug 25, 1975 - Unknown 1975 - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Jun 2, 1978 - Unknown 1978 - ?
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Apr 13, 1910 - Unknown 1910 - ?
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Sep 29, 1910 - Feb 24, 1982 1910 - 1982
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Feb 23, 1933 - Unknown 1933 - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Apr 13, 1933 - Jun 17, 1999 1933 - 1999
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Mar 9, 1955 - Unknown 1955 - ?
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Jul 16, 1956 - Unknown 1956 - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?

Other Bios

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Apr 13, 1939 - Jun 4, 1969 1939 - 1969
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October 1931 - Unknown 1931 - ?
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Nov - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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1918 - 2012 1918 - 2012
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Mar 8, 1959 - Unknown 1959 - ?
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Jul 18, 1958 - Unknown 1958 - ?
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Feb 24, 1979 - Unknown 1979 - ?
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Jul 18, 1958 - Unknown 1958 - ?
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Dec 18, 1997 - Unknown 1997 - ?
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1941 - Unknown 1941 - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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