It seems every time I look at a news report another star from my misspent youth has passed away. When I say "star" I mean "star" and not what lamely passes for a "star" today - I am still trying to figure out who half these people are on "Dancing with the Stars"?
I'm talking about performers whose names went above the title, whose movies or plays or concerts you went to see because they were in it. Performers that you willing forked over your hard earned - making a bed can be onerous work for some - dime at the movies to see because you knew the minute they appeared you were going to be treated to the best.
Norman Wisdom was one of those "stars". His Pinewood films were what in Hollywood would have been labelled "B" movies and were meant to fill the bill in those days when for your 10 cents you got a travelogue, the news of the day, a cartoon, a western or thriller and a comedy plus the Trooping of the Colours with the National Anthem to end the afternoon's programme. His films were predictable but they were sweet, funny and had the little guy coming out on top. What more could you ask?
Norman always wore the same outfit - cap, slightly too small suit, rumbled shirt and tie - and ultimately the same big smile. He bumbled, stumbled and crumbled his way into the hearts of some lovely English rose and drove the same gang of upper crust snobs to distraction time and time again. And at some point he showed that he had a wonderful voice and a way with a song; as he did in Trouble in Store, his first film in 1953, singing what was to become his theme song: Don't Laugh At Me.
Despite his heartfelt plea we did laugh at Norman. His agility and brand of slapstick certainly appealed to our juvenile sense of humour at Saturday matinées. Sure the routines were as old a Plautus and maybe even older but Norman knew how to sell them and make them seem fresh. But I remember that my father loved his movies to - was it the little guy winning that made them so popular with a generation that had just come out of a war? Better not to over analysis but just sit back and enjoy.
Many thanks Norman, I laughed at you but you were nobody's fool.
Given how much Albania has figured in our lives the past three years - and believe me though I haven't written about it, it has - I was surprised to see that Norman Wisdom was one of the best loved stars in that previous isolated country. His passing is being treated as a national loss and tributes have come from all levels there.. Funny old world isn't it?
06 ottobre - San Bruno di Colonia