Wednesday, 4 February 2015

La Sagesse des Normands

I cannot let this day pass without marking the centenary of the birth of Norman Wisdom, who in his day was one of Britain's biggest film stars (as was George Formby - we have a funny idea of film stars here). Wisdom was one among many deeply unfunny comics who peaked in the Fifties and Sixties (something of a sub-speciality of this blog: see Charlie Drake, Bernie Winters, Dickie Henderson, etc). As with Charlie Drake, in my innocent boyhood I found Wisdom hilarious and would queue up with my brother to catch his latest film, which would invariably feature his Gump character, most often in the form of Norman Pitkin, a tiresome imbecile who was constantly falling over and creating mayhem, yet who always ended up getting the better of Mr Grimsdale or some other representative authority figure (usually played by Jerry Desmonde) and even getting the girl or, if not, treating us to some excruciating pathos, yet more painful to watch than his comedy - even as a boy I found that part of the package hard to take.
 There was not so much as a Google doodle to mark the centenary today, but they'll no doubt be marking the occasion with due ceremony in Albania, where Wisdom was a cult figure, largely because his films were among the few to reach Communist Albania from the capitalist West, being considered as fine embodiments of the triumph of  the proletarian little man (Norman Pitkin) over the capitalist ogre (Mr Grimsdale). Wisdom was treated as a national hero in Albania and on one occasion was in Tirana when the England football team were playing Albania's finest. The little chap duly ran out onto the pitch, wearing a half-English, half-Albanian shirt and executing one of his trademark trips, to universal hilarity. He also treated the Queen to one of his comedy trips while stepping up to collect his OBE at Buckingham Palace. Irrepressible he was.
 Norman Wisdom's theme song was Don't Laugh At Me. Not a great choice for a comedian really...

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