Born on 4th of February 1915
Died on 4th of October 2010
British hero of the week October 5th 2010
Though mainly celebrated for his 1950s films – low budget affairs made for Rank, constantly shouting for Mr Grimsdale – Norman Wisdom’s long career demonstrated a huge well of talent.
Born in Marylebone in 1915 Wisdom had a tough start in life, his drunken and violent father throwing him out when Norman was a child. He worked as a grocer’s delivery boy; a cabin boy in the Merchant Navy, and then entered the army where he became a champion boxer and discovered a gift for slapstick.
Entering showbiz at the age of 31 he first played David Nixon’s foil, then was rapidly thrust into films, in 1953 starring in his best-known movie, Trouble in Store. The Rank Corporation used his films as cash cows, spending little on them and failing to tap his abilities beyond slapstick and occasional pathos. Oddly and famously his films were huge in Albania.
In the Sixties Wisdom made a second career on Broadway, leading to his appearance in the 1968 movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s.
When the film work dried he put his musical and verbal talent to good use in cabaret and seaside seasons, and developed his acting with straight roles in series like Bergerac, Dalziel and Pascoe, Coronation Street, Casualty and most notably in Going Gently for the BBC Playhouse strand.
In his eighties he became a regular on Last of the Summer Wine, and was still doing new things in his nineties. Knighted in 2000 Wisdom spent his last years living in the Isle of Man which he adored, though it was a long way from his beloved Brighton and Hove Albion.
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1 Response to Norman Wisdom
From Johnny Mans on 6th February 2012
Norman actually died on the 4th October not the 5th, which was the wedding anniversary of my wife Becky and me, and the sad news came as we were celebrating with dinner at a restaurant in Hertford. Norman's last theatre show was at the Norwich Theatre Royal in 2004, and his last onstage appearance was at the Encore Magazine Awards at Croydon's Fairfield Halls a few years later. His last film was a 'short' called Expresso, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and also raised money for Cancer Research. It also starred Guy Henry (Holby), Geoffrey Hughes (Royle Family), Lucy Mans (my daughter), Finty Williams (Judi Dench's daughter) and Nigel Martin Davey (actor/producer). He was also a soccer fan and enjoyed watching Brighton, Manchester United, Newcastle and also went to several matches with his agent's son Elliot Mans to support Merseyside team Everton. He did much charity work, especially for the Grand Order of Water Rats and was the biggest thing ever to hit Albania, where he was adored by all Albanians who knew him as 'Pitkini'....taken from his film character's name, Norman Pitkin. We all miss him so much as, although he was a client, he also became part of our family as we were so very, very close. We loved him dearly. I had the pleasure of doing the eulogy at his funeral on the Isle of Man and cannot believe he's not with us anymore. He was a big part of my life. Johnny Mans Agent & Manager to Norman for the past 30 years.
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