Sir Norman Joseph Wisdom, OBE, was an English actor, comedian and singer-songwriter best known for a series of comedy films produced between 1953 and 1966. He was awarded the 1953 BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles following the release of Trouble in Store. Wisdom gained celebrity status in lands as far apart as South America, Iran and many Eastern Bloc countries, particularly in Albania.
About Norman Wisdom in brief
Sir Norman Joseph Wisdom, OBE, was an English actor, comedian and singer-songwriter best known for a series of comedy films produced between 1953 and 1966. He was awarded the 1953 BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles following the release of Trouble in Store. Wisdom gained celebrity status in lands as far apart as South America, Iran and many Eastern Bloc countries, particularly in Albania where his films were the only ones by Western actors permitted by dictator Enver Hoxha to be shown. Charlie Chaplin once referred to Wisdom as his \”favourite clown\”. Wisdom later forged a career on Broadway in New York City and as a television actor, winning critical acclaim for his dramatic role of a dying cancer patient in the television play Going Gently in 1981. After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a hospice was named in his honour. In 1995, he was given the Freedom of the City of London and of Tirana. The same year he was appointed OBE and was knighted five years later. Wisdom made his debut as a private hire telephone operator at the age of 31; his trademark costume would remain his tweed flat cap, with peak turned up suit at least two sizes too tight; a mangled tie and crumpled collar. He spent all of those years on the road as a theatre star in London and Brighton. A West End star within two years, he honed his performance skills between theatres in Brighton and London and spent virtually all of his years on road performing.
He died in a car crash in London in 1998. He is survived by his wife, two children and a step-grandson. He also leaves behind a son, a daughter and a son-in-law, and two step-great-grandchildren. The family lived at 91 Fernhead Road, Maida Vale, London W9, where they slept in one room. He and his brother were brought up in extreme poverty and were frequently hit by their father. Wisdom ran away when he was 11 but returned to become an errand boy in a grocer’s shop on leaving school at 13. In 1929 he walked to Cardiff, Wales, where he became a cabin boy in the Merchant Navy. He later also worked as a waiter. In 1930 he rode horses, became the flyweight boxing champion of the British Army in India and learned to play the trumpet and clarinet. Wisdom first enlisted into the King’s Own Royal Regiment, but his mother had him discharged as he was under age. In 1940 aged 25, at a NAAFI entertainment night, during a dance routine, Wisdom stepped down from his position in the orchestra pit, and started shadow boxing, and broke into a duck waddle, followed by a series-of facial expressions. Wisdom later said this was where he first patented his persona as ‘The Successful Failure’. After being demobilised in 1945, his routine included his characteristic singing and the trip-up-and-stumble.