On the 4th of February in 1915, Norman Wisdom was born in Marylebone. He commented later on his own birth: “I was born in very sorry circumstances. Both of my parents were very sorry.” He grew up in poverty and left school at 14, walking to Wales to work at the mines and from there taking a steamer bound for Argentina as a cabin boy. He finally found success as a bandsman in the military. His charity work led to him being encouraged to become a professional entertainer. It took a few more years for him to catch a break but after the war he became a West End star and by 1950 he was appearing regularly on television as well as on stage and in the cinema.
His success lasted over a decade but in the late 1960s, he began to struggle to portray the childlike innocence of his most famous character, The Gump.
It became apparent that Wisdom was valiantly trying to change his image.
This was vital for professional survival. Comedians whose stock-in-trade is childlike innocence – even those as great as Stan Laurel and Harry Langdon – or adolescent awkwardness, such as Jerry Lewis, generally encounter career problems in middle age. The clowning that seemed so enchanting becomes almost sinister when the face gets jowly and the hair recedes. Wisdom’s way of dealing with it – though it now seems brave – was utterly disastrous. In 1969 he made a fairly sophisticated sex comedy, What’s Good for the Goose, in which he did a bedroom scene with Sally Geeson. His public was not ready for the little Gump in bed with a woman, and Wisdom’s career as a top film comedian was over.
Despite this failure, he continued to tour until his retirement at the age of 90 and even after that produced another film. He died two years ago at the age of 95. His son commented that the entertainer’s grand send-off was not quite what Sir Norman had expected. “Nicholas Wisdom said his father was speaking to his wife about funeral arrangements a few years ago when he said: ‘Just chuck me off the end of the pier.’”
Meanwhile, on the 4th of February in 2012, the following photographs were featured on Saturday Scenes to the grand amusement of everyone:
And these are the stars that submitted them:
Would you like to be a SatScenes star? It’s easy to join in!
1) Take a photo on a Saturday and upload it to a photo hosting site or your blog so we can see it
2) Twitter the location for your photograph to @SatScenes
3) Watch for the next blog post and applaud the wondrous spectacle of all the photographs together.
I’m looking forward to seeing your scenes!