Dear old Norman Wisdom.
For many of us , this unsophisticated comic represented something inexplicably special. We grew up with him always on TV and in black and white films, low budget slapstick comedies that defined an era. At the age of 13, after a bad childhood, Wisdom was homeless and living on the streets. The army helped him to his feet; he became a boxer, drummer, acrobat, singer and comic, and continued in showbiz for 45 years. At his peak he looked alarmingly like Robbie Williams.
Although the US didn’t take to his films, he was a hit on Broadway in ‘Walking Happy’ (the musical version of ‘Hobson’s Choice’) and was nominated for an Oscar in ‘The Night They Raided Minsky’s, where he appeared with Jason Robards effectively playing Bruce Forsyth(!)
His films were hits from Iran to South American, but he became a superstar in Albania and was treated like royalty there, because his films displayed a strong streak of Marxism.
It took me years to work out why I enjoyed these films. I knew that admitting I liked Norman Wisdom to classmates would mark me out even odder than I was, because in my year you were only allowed to like Steve McQueen. The others were missing the point. The shrill, inarticulate little comic had his roots in the class war.
In ‘One Good Turn’ he made straight for the First Class train carriage for no other reason than to disturb its occupants, and this was a trend that continued throughout his films until it became open anarchy. He destroyed posh buildings, wrecked institutions, smashed up expensive cars and gleefully encouraged others to be drawn into fights; this was a schoolboy’s anarchist manifesto, a reaction against the ration-book restrictions of Post-war England that consistently attacked authority figures including mayors, corporate executives, government officials, police sergeants and politicians, and only caused destruction to status symbols – Rolls Royces, country mansions, gala dinners and state visits.’