8 January 1920 |
London, England, United Kingdom
|Years active||1945–88, 2012|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Wilmer (?–present)|
Wilmer was born in London, England, and received his education at King's School, Canterbury, and Stonyhurst College. Whilst in training as an actor at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, he was conscripted into the British Army for military service with the Royal Artillery in World War 2. 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.
He made his theatre stage debut in 1945 in repertory at Rugby. He appeared frequently on the London stage, mainly in classical and Shakespearean roles. On 16 February 1946 he married Elizabeth Joan Melville in Westminster.
He made his first major film appearance in Laurence Olivier's Richard III (1955); 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, 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 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 Harry Alan Towers' Fu Manchu films The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966) and The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967).
Wilmer was an honorary member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. He has recorded a series of the stories on audio cassette for Penguin audio books and has appeared as a guest at several UK and US events, the most recent being the Society's Golden Jubilee Dinner in January 2001. His other television credits include: The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Saint, The Troubleshooters, The Avengers, The Baron, UFO and Space: 1999.
In 2009 Wilmer published his autobiography entitled Stage Whispers. 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. In 2012 Wilmer made a cameo appearance in the "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock as an irate old man in The Diogenes Club.
- It is Midnight, Doctor Schweitzer (1953) (TV film)
- Sacrifice to the Wind (1954) (TV film)
- The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)
- Richard III (1955)
- Passport to Treason (1956)
- The Battle of the River Plate (1956)
- El Cid (1961)
- Cleopatra (1963)
- Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
- The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
- A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- One Way Pendulum (1964)
- The Golden Head (1964)
- Khartoum (1966)
- The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
- The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)
- Hammerhead (1968)
- A Nice Girl Like Me (1969)
- The Reckoning (1969)
- Patton (1970)
- Cromwell (1970)
- The Vampire Lovers (1970)
- Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)
- Antony and Cleopatra (1972)
- The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
- The Incredible Sarah (1976)
- Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
- Rough Cut (1980)
- Octopussy (1983)
- Sword of the Valiant (1984)
- Sherlock (2012)