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Sir Norman Wisdom: Comedy Legend

Updated on November 18, 2017
Sir Norman Wisdom recieving his knighthood from the Queen
Sir Norman Wisdom recieving his knighthood from the Queen
Tribute to Sir Norman Wisdom
Tribute to Sir Norman Wisdom

Sir Norman Joseph Wisdom was born in Marylebone, London in 1915.

His Father, Frederick was a Chauffeur and his Mother, Maud was a dressmaker who once made a dress for Queen Mary. Maud also worked in the West End theatres.

He also had an older brother, called Frederick 'Fred' and the whole family all slept on one room.

When Norman was 9 years old, his parents separated, and he spent some time in a Children's home in Kent.

Norman Wisdom was a Actor and singer and songwriter among other things.

He was mostly known for his comedy films where he played his funny onscreen character Norman Pitkin. These films originally made more money than the James Bond movies and made Sir Norman Wisdom famous nation wide.

Charlie Chaplin famously referred to Sir Norman as his 'favourite clown.'

Sir Norman Wisdom had two children, Nicholas and Jacqueline, who he gained full custody of in 1969, when himself and his wife Doreen Brett divorced.

When Norman was just eleven years old, he ran away from the children's home he had been staying, but returned to become a errand boy in his local grocery store.

In 1929 he left school at thirteen years old and walked to Cardiff, where he became a cabin boy in the merchant navy. Norman had been kicked out of his home by his Father and since then had been a waiter, coal miner and page boy among other things.

He wen on to enlist as a Drummer Boy in the British Army, and in 1930 was posted to Lucknow in India as a Bandsman. While there he gained a education certificate, was the flyweight boxing champion of the British Army in India, and learned to play several musical instruments as well as learning to ride a horse.

He first realised he had a talent for entertaining, while preforming a comedy boxing routine in a Army gym, and so from there he began to develop his skills as a stage entertainer and musician.

After leaving the Army, he learnt to drive and became a private hire driver, and a night time phone operator. One evening Norman appeared at a charity concert at the Cheltenham Town Hall, and Actor Rex Harrison came back stage and urged Norman to become a professional entertainer.

Sir Norman Wisdom made his Comedy debut at the age of 31, he started of as the straight man to Magician David Nixon, and adopted the costume that was to be his trade mark, which was a tweed flat cap with peak turned up, a crumpled collar, a mangled tie, and of course a suit that was two sizes to tight, his character was known as 'The Gump' and was set to dominate Norman's film career.

Within two years he was a west end star and had also made his TV debut, he bought in a big audience, and his popularity as well as his career went from strength to strengths.

Norman Clowning Around
Norman Clowning Around
Norman and the Queen
Norman and the Queen

Norman went on to make several films for the Rank Organisation, beginning in 1953 with the film 'Trouble in Store' that saw him win a Bafta Award for the most promising Newcomer to the Film industry.

Norman's films became some of Britain's biggest Box office successes of their day.

The films would normally be based on Norman's Gump character 'Norman Pitkin' who would work in some manual position and come across as helpless and barely competent, one of his most memorable lines from these films were 'Mr Grimsdale' which he would shout out in his silly slapstick voice.

He then moved on to Broadway, and released a song called 'Don't laugh at me (cause I'm a fool) he has also appeared in many TV productions, including Coronation Street, Last of the summer wine, and This is your life.

Sir Norman Wisdom did a huge amount of charity work, for charities such as 'The Grand Order of Water Rats' the famous group of entertainers who raise money to help those in need.

The Macmillan Cancer Support, The Commonwealth Development Trust and Manx Mencap are just some of the other charities that Sir Norman Wisdom supported over the years.

Sir Norman Wisdom announced his retirement on his 90th Birthday, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family and play golf.

By the middle of 2006, he was flown to Liverpool hospital after suffering a irregular heart rhythm and was fitted with a pacemaker, and in 2007 he was residing in Abbotswood Nursing Home due to suffering from Vascular Dementia.

Sadly, the dementia progressed very quickly.

In the six months prior to his death Sir Norman suffered many strokes, and he sadly passed away at 6.46pm on 4th October 2010 at Abbotswood nursing home on the Isle of Man at the dear old age of 95.

I used to enjoy watching Norman Wisdom's old black and white movies with my Dad when I was young, and we went to see him on stage a few times.

Even though he had aged considerably, he was still falling around on the stage and full of life.

The audience was shouting 'Mr Grimsdale' so he would say it one more time.

The Comedian Lee Evans reminds me a lot of Sir Norman Wisdom, they both had the same look about them, and the same stage presence, with all the jumping around and funny facial expressions.

Sir Norman Wisdom will always be remembered as a comedy genius and as Charlie Chaplin once said 'Our Favourite Clown'.

Are you a fan of Norman Wisdom?

See results

Sir Norman Wisdom

Norman Wisdom's Filmography

A Date with a Dream
Trouble in Store
One Good Turn
As Long as They're Happy
Man of the Moment
Up in the World
Just My Luck
The Square Peg
Follow a Star
There Was a Crooked Man
The Bulldog Breed
The Girl on the Boat
On the Beat
A Stitch in Time
The Early Bird
The Sandwich Man
Press for Time
The Night They Raided Minskey's
What's Good for the Goose
Double X: The Name of the Game
Junfans Attic
Five Children and It

© 2010 Zoey


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    • Shinkicker profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Considering what he went through as a kid it was amazing how cheerful and full of fun he seemed throughout his life. I loved his films when I was young. They still stand up today.


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