This week ATV Sunday brings a special round up with the celebrity tributes to Sir Bruce Forsyth.

This week a celebration of the performer who became a household name via ATV and Sunday Night at the London Palladium, changed Saturday night viewing habits with The Generation Game for BBC One and then hosted hit game and entertainment shows for both ITV and the BBC including Play Your Cards Right and Strictly Come Dancing.

Tributes to Brucie

The world of showbiz has been paying their tribute to the late Sir Bruce Forsyth who died on Friday aged 89. His Strictly Come Dancing co-host lead the celebration of his life;

“There are no words to describe how heartbroken I am to be told the saddest news, that my dear friend Sir Bruce Forsyth has passed away. From the moment we met, Bruce and I did nothing but laugh our way through a decade of working together on Strictly Come Dancing and I will never forget his generosity, his brilliant sense of humour and his drive to entertain the audiences he so loved.

 

“He has been there for me as a co-host, a mentor, but most importantly as a friend, and I’m extremely fortunate to have worked alongside the man who defined Saturday night entertainment for so many decades. He was a gentleman and a true legend and I will miss him deeply. My heart goes out to Winnie, his wife, and his beautiful family at this sad time.”

Bruce’s career spanned over 70 years, with many celeb pals made over that time. Former chat show host Michael Parkinson told the BBC;

“He loved being a star. He loved making people laugh. He loved entertaining people. All those cliches of that kind of era and that kind of life were true in his case. There wasn’t a phoney part of him. He was through and through vaudeville like a stick of rock. The training he went through – that’s all gone now. He’s the last remaining survivor of it all. There was no-one quite like him. Never was, never will be.”

Arlene Phillips, a former judge on Strictly and also a television and stage dance choreographer recalled;

“To me, he was an indestructible titan tap dancing his way through life. I’ve known Bruce since the 70s when we judged a disco dance competition together and the rest is history… Bruce was a true legend, to watch him warming up the audience before filming was a masterclass in entertainment. His quick use of comedy to avoid disaster on a live show was beyond compare.

 

” Bruce was the best of the best. He was a true national treasure and there will never be another like him. He will be missed by many generations.”

Saturday night television became the home of Sir Bruce on both the BBC and ITV, here hosting LWT’s You Bet! for ITV.

Fellow Sunday Night at the London Palladium presenter and comedian Jimmy Tarbuck added;

“He was one of the most talented men this country of ours has ever produced. He could do it all. He was the best push and shove quiz master – that’s an old line. He was magnificent and he was a great entertainer. He could dance, he was a very nice pianist, he was good at sketches, he was the greatest moaner in the world on the golf course, and he was a unique friend to me. The public and the showbusiness fraternity have lost one of the real greats of our business. He was great, and he was a national hero.”

Dame Barbara Windsor told the Irish News;

““This is the end of a show business era and the last of the truly all round great entertainers that this country has ever produced. I am so sad as I was a massive fan and was in awe of his professionalism. I was lucky enough to know him and was thrilled to be at his last book launch. He will be so sadly missed by all in show business and his millions of fans… God bless you Bruce and my thoughts are with his beautiful wife Wilnelia who made him so very happy and his family.”

BBC Radio DJ Tony Blackburn noted;

“People like Morecambe and Wise and Bruce Forsyth who came from the 60s, they all became names because there weren’t so many outlets around, you had just the BBC and ITV… Bruce was a big name because everyone knew him; Sunday Night at the London Palladium was watched by everyone, whereas nowadays it’s not quite the same. He didn’t need to use swear words to get a laugh which is perhaps something today’s comedians could learn from.”

Singer, comedian and television presenter Des O’Connor reflected;

“Bruce was so very special, he had such warmth and humour and he was such a superb talent. He will be irreplaceable in peoples’ hearts. I have known him a lifetime. I toured with him in the early days. He was brilliant right from the start. This is such a sad time – the nation will be heartbroken.”

Strictly Presenter Claudia Winkleman said;

“He was the King of TV, the Prince of performers and the most generous of people… all toe-tapping twinkle, all kindness, all love…. The Bruce you saw really was the man he was. We’ll miss him so much.”

Former Strictly Judge and television presenter Len Goodman also reflected on the television icon;

“As long as I can remember there has always been Bruce on our TV. He was a part of my telly viewing from my teens. So you can imagine my excitement on being asked to be on Strictly and have Bruce one of my heroes on the same show. He was so kind and encouraging to me. I used to pop round to his dressing room and chat. There was no one I mentioned he hadn’t met. His work ethic, professionalism and charm will be with me forever.”

An ATV Today picture special looking at the career of Sir Bruce can be seen here.

Sir Bruce on ATV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1961.

Brucie Bonus – Career timeline

He made his first television appearance at the age of eleven on the BBC’s Come and Be Televised in 1939. This live programme from Alexandra Palace starred Brucie just three years after regular beeb visual services began.

Bruce turned professional aged 14, taking to the stage as an all-round entertainer; dancer, singer, comedian, actor as his first advert in The Stage noted: “Bruce Forsyth: available for anything.” He was billed during his teenage years as ‘Boy Bruce: The Mighty Atom’.

Television came calling again when, aged 29, he appeared on ATV in a talent showcase for popular variety show stars.

In the same year, 1958, so impressed with his act and connection with an audience ATV boss Lew Grade brought in the ‘unknown’ Forsyth as the new host of Sunday Night at the London Palladium, a live hour-long variety show. This lead to further work with ITV including his own series The Bruce Forsyth Show and variety showcase New Look.

In 1964 he made his West End acting debut in the musical Little Me, which told the story of a fictional Hollywood acting star.

His made his big screen acting debut in 1968 alongside Julie Andrews in the movie Star. Other film roles followed including 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks which also featured Angela Landsbury.

He almost appeared in the Oliver! musical movie as Fagin, however being the reserve actor lined up for the part he was disappointed when Ron Moody didn’t pull out of the role.

Bruce spent most of the 1970s on BBC One hosting The Generation Game.

Despite never having chart success, Bruce released several albums – some serious some humorous – and pop singles too, including I’m In Charge, Coronation Street, Chin Up and I’m Backing Britain. This music venture saw him feature on Top of the Pops in 1975.

Music followed into television as he recorded the theme tune to his big BBC One hit The Generation Game. The title music Life Is The Name of the Game introduced the programme from 1971 to 1977 and a modernised version for the show from 1990 to 1994. The full theme was also released as a record.

In 1979 he tried to ‘crack America’ with his stateside one man show on Broadway. He later hosted a game show for ABC America, Bruce Forsyth’s Hot Streak produced by the famous Reg Grundy productions.

Forsyth was always in demand to front game shows; hosting Beat The Clock (Within the Palladium show), The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, The Price Is Right, Didn’t They Do Well and Takeover Bid. He was lined up to front the Australian version of Play Your Cards Right but due to Equity issues was unable to work on the Aussie series.

In 1986 he featured in ITV sitcom Slinger’s Day in the title role of supermarket manager Cecil Slinger.

One of many ridiculous decisions by former ITV boss David Liddiment saw Bruce axed from ITV in 2002. He was just one in a long list of casualties at the hands of the ITV executive. Other bad decisions included dropping News at Ten and Jeremy Beadle. Bruce made a rare public outburst about his treatment by the broadcaster.

Bruce guest hosted Have I Got News For You which relaunched his BBC career. The same year he was offered the role as lead host on Strictly Come Dancing, which he’d continue on for nearly a decade before semi-retiring.

Leader of the pack, Bruce on Play Your Cards Right for ITV/LWT.

 

Good game, good game…

We’ll leave this special edition celebrating the work of Sir Bruce Forsyth, with this great montage of Brucie moments by DJC Music.

 


The views expressed here are by the author and are not endorsed by ATV News, ATV Network Limited or Associated Television Network Limited. © Mike Watkins 2017
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