Theme Times – Norman Wisdom

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Norman Wisdom By Jac. de Nijs / Anefo – Nationaal Archief, CC0

Sir Norman Joseph Wisdom, (4 February 1915 – 4 October 2010) was an English actor, comedian and singer-songwriter best known for a series of comedy films produced between 1953 and 1966 featuring his hapless onscreen character that was often called Norman Pitkin. He was awarded the 1953 BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles following the release of Trouble in Store, his first film in a lead role.

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. He toured Australia and South Africa. 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.
Dedicated to Di of Pensitivity 101
I never knew much of Norman Wisdom when l was a youngster and that’s because l wasn’t living in the UK for most of the years growing up. I came back in 1977, but the first time l saw him on the television was in 1979 in a black and white movie which was a repeat of The Square Peg 1959. I laughed so hard, l liked him instantly – l liked him for many things – l laughed his laugh and those who know me today can still detect traces of NW’s infectous laugh inside my own hyena.

Norman Wisdon helped me through my school years, unknown to me and my family was that l was on the spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome which alone would not be diagnosed until nearly 30 years later from the time l watched that first film of his. But what Norman made possible was the fact that everybody liked to laugh and l discovered that if l could make people laugh with me and at me then l could make my life a whole lot easier.

Norman specialised in a style that Charlie Chaplin had made famous which was ‘clown’, the ‘hapless one’, l adopted this very behaviour into my life and became known as the court jester when at school and college. When l was writing Dancing in the Grey – Life with my Asperger’s and decided to have my cover of a jester, it was Norman Wisdom who inspired me to do so – all those many years ago.
The Square Peg – 1959

An unlikely war hero who, as a manual worker under one Mr Grimsdale, is drafted into the army for his road-repairing skills but finds himself airdropped behind enemy lines. He is soon captured by the Nazis and quickly becomes a menace to both friend and foe alike.
Below are my Top 9 of his very best films – hope you enjoy the selection – and let me know below if you too were a huge fan of his work.
The Early Bird – 1965 A Stitch in Time – 1963 On the Beat – 1962
On the Beat – 1962 Trouble in Store – 1953 One Good Turn – 1955
The Night They Raided Minsky’s – 1968 The Bulldog Breed – 1960 Just My Luck – 1957
The Early Bird – 1965

A lone British milkman (Norman Wisdom) protects his boss’s (Edward Chapman) tiny business from a dairy tycoon’s (Jerry Desmonde) conglomerate.
A Stitch in Time – 1963

A bumbling butcher’s boy takes a shine to a recently orphaned girl while visiting his boss in hospital. He vows to return to see her again – only to be banned by the hospital administrator who sees him as a troublemaker. Not to be deterred, however, the hapless youth dreams up a number of devious schemes to regain entry.
On the Beat – 1962

A lowly car park attendant at Scotland Yard dreams of becoming a policeman like his father, but his determination to prove his worth – dressed in his father’s old uniform – only leads to chaos on the bobby’s beat.
Trouble in Store – 1953

Norman (Norman Wisdom) is a hapless stock boy at an opulent London department store, but he dreams of someday being promoted to be the designer of display windows. While his antics have caught the eye of pretty young shopgirl Sally Wilson (Lana Morris), he hasn’t yet garnered much notice from his superiors. But Norman is a man with a plan. Upon uncovering a thief’s plot to rob the store, Norman decides to thwart the heist himself, in hopes of becoming a hero to his bosses and the lovely Sally.
One Good Turn – 1955

A hapless handyman finds his good intentions leading to disaster when he tries to raise money for an orphanage threatened with closure. His chaotic antics include accidentally winning the London to Brighton walking race and a daredevil drive in a model car.
The Night They Raided Minsky’s – 1968

Rachel, an innocent Amish girl from the countryside, arrives in New York to become a dancer. Her dances are from Bible stories but the locals in New York are entertained by the bawdy shows.
The Bulldog Breed – 1960

Plucky Norman Puckle (Norman Wisdom) joins the British navy on the same ship and under the same admiral (Ian Hunter) he refused to yield to in the harbor.
Press for Time – 1966

The hapless grandson of the Prime Minister, a news vendor outside Parliament, is forced into a career change by his grandfather who arranges him a job as a reporter on a small seaside newspaper. However, things do not go according to plan when the rookie reporter sets off for the coastal town of Tinmouth.

Just My Luck – 1957

Jewelry store assistant Norman Hackett (Norman Wisdom) is attracted to Anne (Jill Dixon), who works across the street, but he doesn’t earn enough to feel comfortable courting her. After he learns about an unusual bet that pays a thousand to one if a jockey wins six races in a row, Norman invests a pound with small-time bookie Lumb (Leslie Phillips). As his chosen racer, Eddie (Vic Wise), racks up victories, Lumb and his partner worry they may have to pay Norman 16,000 pounds they don’t have.

Bonus Too

So, are you a fan, not a fan – like some or like all of his works – let me know below?

13 thoughts on “Theme Times – Norman Wisdom

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  1. My father loved his movies. I don’t recall having seen him in any movie, but then I can’t remember much at the spur of the moment.

  2. I hadn’t realised he’d made that many films. I remember being taken to see one of them and he was in a full body cast in an ambulance and I think he ended up on its roof somehow.
    I’d have to watch him again, I can’t remember much about his performances as a comedy actor, although I know he would sing those cringing sentimental self-pitying songs – I think he wrote them.

        1. You’ll have to let me know how you get on. i haven’t watched one of his films now for well on thirty plus years .. it will be interesting to see if they have aged well.

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