On Wednesday the 21st of February 2018, the day before what would have been his 90th birthday, BBC Studios is staging a special event at the London Palladium in tribute to the late Sir Bruce Forsyth.
“I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to our dear friend Bruce than this celebration at the Palladium – a theatre he so loved. Bruce was such a favourite with the BBC One audience who I know will savour this hour of entertainment, music and commemoration of a true showbiz legend.” – Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content
The beeb show will honour one of this country’s biggest and best-loved entertainers and broadcasters, Sir Bruce Forsyth. Recorded at the London Palladium – the theatre which helped propel Sir Bruce to stardom – via ATV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium – the hour long celebration will have music, dance, entertainment and comedy at its heart.
As well as featuring some of Sir Bruce’s favourite songs, the show will also include dance performances and onstage tributes and fond memories of Sir Bruce from guests with whom he shared a special connection. Dave Arch and his Strictly Come Dancing band, and vocalists, will be onstage to accompany performances. Bruce: A Celebration will air in an hour-long slot and broadcast on BBC One shortly after production in February 2018.
The entertainer died at the age of 89 on August 18th this year, after a run of ill health. The legendary singer, dancer, comedian and presenter became unwell following a fall in November 2015, which lead to him pulling out of hosting Bruce’s Halls of Fame for the beeb. At the time the veteran entertainer underwent keyhole surgery on an abdominal aortic aneurysm which was discovered after medical treatment for the tumble. Despite initial optimism that he would return to screens his health never fully recovered. He died at his home in Surrey surrounded by his closest family.
It was September 1958 when the relatively un-known became an ‘overnight telly celebrity’ after taking charge of entertainment show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. His sudden national fame had come after many years of stage work making a name for himself in theatre and revue.
Bruce first hit the stage aged 14 as ‘Boy Bruce – the Mighty Atom’. He made his television debut in 1939 on the BBC in a open audition talent series, but nothing came of that initial television broadcast. His popularity with ITV viewers however was sealed after only six weeks as host of the Palladium show. Fan mail poured in. Such was his connection with viewers ATV gave Forsyth his own entertainment series throughout the sixties, before he switched full time to the BBC in 1971 to front The Generation Game.
The 1980s saw him dabble in various projects including a sitcom and in the early 90s a chat show. It was during this time he returned to The Generation Game for a further five years from 1990, reprising his role as host for UKTV in 2007 in a ‘then and now’ special series of the Gen Game.
He also from 2004 to 2014 hosted the ratings banker Strictly Come Dancing, however the long schedule and time consuming production days saw Brucie retire from the show. He hosted a series of specials for BBC One in recent times, including Hall of Fame, however ill health forced him from TV screens nearly two years ago.
Brucie Bonus – his professional 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.
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.