Norman Wisdom during the 1950s and 60s was a familiar face on ATV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and was the star of his own ATV Network series, Nobody’s Norman Wisdom in the 1970s.
Born Norman Joseph Wisdom in the Marylebone, London, in 1915, he first started entertaining audiences aged 31 in 1946. However his original role was as the straight man to magician David Nixon.
A move to the west end lead him into movies and television. He made numerous ‘slap stick’ films over the course of a decade and won a BAFTA in 1954 as ‘best newcomer’.
Television also made Norman a favourite with audiences. Firstly with a couple of BBC appearances and series, and later switching to ITV – appearing on popular variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In 1966 he switched to America working on the respected Broadway stage.
In 1973 ATV gave Wisdom his own ‘sketch series’, Nobody’s Norman Wisdom which has been described as ‘Mr Benn without the fancy dress shop’. Each week Wisdom would don a different outfit and become ‘that character’ to amusing effect. From a policeman to a cowboy and so forth. Critics panned the series.
However in later years he appeared less and less, with appearances mainly on game shows or chat shows. Then in 1995 he became a semi regular in BBC TV’s Last Of The Summer Wine playing the part of Billy Ingleton until 2004. He also, in 2002, made a brief appearance in Granada’s Coronation Street as fitness fanatic pensioner Ernie Crabb [pictured below, right].
Norman decided to retire from show business five years ago, bowing out on his 90th birthday, February 4th 2005. In his final years his heath declined. Firstly with a heart problem and more recently it was revealed he was suffering from vascular dementia.
In 2008 SKY News broadcast an obituary in error stating that Wisdom had died on December 28th.
Wisdom actually died peacefully in his sleep today, having suffered a series of strokes in recent times. He was living on the Isle of Man and being cared for by staff at the Abbotswood Nursing Home.
In a statement, Norman was described as “a much loved father and grandfather.” And for millions of viewers he was also a greatly amusing talent. Charlie Chaplin described him as his favourite clown.