Norman Wisdom came from a broken home, was ill-treated by his father, slept rough on the pavements and stole food to survive. A rag to riches saga of the man Charlie Chaplin said would take his mantle and who went on to millions laugh around the world for nearly five decades, this is truth about the little man in the tight-fitted suit and cloth cap who could make people laugh and cry at will. Here are the hardships, tragedies and triumphs that gave him inspiration.
This paperback book published by Arrow Books Limited in 1992 copyright Norman Wisdom.
Previously on this blog Even though Norman is making over £100 now after being top for the last few jobs Billy Marsh was able to get him choose to take a job at £35 a week. So him and his wife Freda caravan in tour head to Scarborough, it being better than renting a house. Over the course of the months it become hard to keep up without needing new material, So him and fellow performer David Nixon work on the idea that, Norman could be called on when Nixon needs an audience member turning the whole thing into a comedy act which then leads them to another booking at the end of the season.
Eleven. For the Christmas season of 1948/9 Norman played Robinson Crusoe long last brother played by Betty Huntley Wright, were he met Eddie Leslie who was cast as the Dame, who became a natural foil. The pair of them were booked to repeat their act at th Grand Theatre, but with Lorna Dean. Also in that year Norman made a blink and you miss it film appearance, called A Date with a Dream, it would six years later when Trouble in Store hit the box office.
But now came a major blow to his pride, he was looking to take part in a new West End revue for the next step on the ladder, with it’s empressive roll call including Tommy Cooper, Bob Monkhouse, Moira Lister, Peter Glover, Douglas Byng and singer Muriel Smith. The director of the show decking him out in a 50 Guinea, dress suit, to which Norman didn’t agree with and despite the chorus line appearance of a very young dancer of Audrey Hepburn the show was a flop. But Audrey Hepburn did become the shining light of the whole thing.
Having his fingers burnt Norman turned back to the safety of television and was working slowly on making a name for himself. He has been in music hall in the July of 1950 with the merry Macs and now had another chance with wit and wisdom the following month. He now decided that would the West End such a hard nut to crack he merged his savings flew off to New York to try his luck in the States.
Now the New York gave him a universal reception in the order of a raspberry. So nursing his sore feet in the the hotel bar, he saw a show on television called the toast Of The Town which was full of international variety acts and hosted by America’s top presenter Ed Sullivan. The next morning he found himself an agent that would give him the address of the Ed Sullivan show, and then were Sullivan lived, and with the same brash arrogance that got him back into the army, within no time he was stood in front of a bemused Ed Sullivan still wearing his silk dressing gown and pyjamas. He apologised for the deception carried out his act. But this time he didn’t get the gig. So with his money running out he headed home.
He returned to work in the pantomime Cinderella, once again him and Freda was still using the caravan now parked on a site of Barnet bypass. Were producer Henry Hall came back to see him and invited to the summer show at the Grand Theatre Blackpool the show was to be called buttons and bows with Donald Peers it’s top of the bill. Normans job would be to shut the first half of the show. The problem was the Donald also was a singer and he didn’t like the sound of applause Norman as he finished his act, and in fact around at the end of the show to tell him in believing Norman with their just to make them laugh. Henry Hall stood his ground and so did Norman and two weeks later Dennis quit only to be replaced by the fastest ukulele player in the land in the shape of George Formby.
What I Think Yet again Norman is trying to build something, which will carry him though for the next few years. Even if that means taking less money. Taking the odd job now again has found him witness to the birth of the rise of Audrey Hepburn and several others who would later become TV stars over here in the United Kingdom. But this taking role like this doesn’t always work, and so he needs to cast he net wider and wider to cover the lost of money but like may people before him we went east to American which didn’t work out well but did get work once he came home. Now want seems to be missing in this chapter is David Nixon were or not the partnership they had lasted as long than the two or three bookings their had together I yet to find out and if Nixon went off to do his own thing and will return at some stage is not guaranteed.
But want is guaranteed is his marriage to Freda unlike his first is one going from strength to strength with them sharing a caravan as they travel around the country with Norman building up his act.
each week I try and find a photograph trying to illustrate what has happened in each chapter and this week as Audrey Hepburn and Ed Sullivan were mentioned I tried to find one with Norman. But Google has strange habit of not being able to distinguish between Norman Wisdom and Audrey Hepburn you can find single pictures of them both but no pictures together in fact you can even find the program for the show she was in with the names Audrey Hepburn and Norman Wisdom I like it so this week I have chosen to to focus on the other lady in Norman’s life and found quite interesting picture of him and his wife as they board a plane.
Once again reach the end of this week’s entry, thank you always for reading hope you will join me two weeks from now for chapter twelve in the life of Norman Wisdom as we see how Norman life will work out and if he have found a pattern he can use to follow he dream . Bye now and whoever you are whether I hope will see you then