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Monday, July 20, 1998 Published at 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK


Izzy Wizzy Sooty's 50

Harry Corbett took Sooty from a side show into the spotlight

What is bright yellow with black ears, likes jelly and ice cream and has managed to perform the same pranks for 50 years yet still pull a devoted audience?

Answer: Sooty. The little yellow bear is celebrating his golden anniversary.

But like the past five decades on stage and screen, the occasion will almost certainly pass by without a comment from the star himself.

A final word from Matthew Corbett as Sooty's right hand man
The mischievious bear who has entertained generations with his magic tricks and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the star of the longest running children's television show, has never uttered a single word.

According to Matthew Corbett, Sooty's "right hand man" for 25 years, the bear's appeal lies in his predictability.

"I think Sooty really is an institution. I have toured with him for the last 17 years and you have grandparents turning up with their own children and their children, so he is now entertaining three generations," Mr Corbett said.

Golden-eared bear

Sooty became a household name after a yellow bear glove puppet was spotted by Matthew's father, Harry Corbett in a novelty shop on Blackpool Pier in 1948.

[ image: The Corbetts both had a hand in Sooty's success]
The Corbetts both had a hand in Sooty's success
The amateur magician built "Teddy", as he was known then, into his act and promptly won a television spot through a talent show.

After an enthusiastic response from viewers the act was signed with the BBC on the condition that the bear was altered.

So Harry Corbett blackened the bear's golden ears with chimney soot and "Teddy" became "Sooty".

He practiced the gags on his children. "You can imagine what it was like having a dad who wanted to keep you amused all the time. . . my friends were pretty jealous," Matthew Corbett said.

Act changes hands

After enjoying 25 years of success during which time co-stars Sweep and Soo joined the act, Sooty was handed from Harry Corbett to his son Matthew.

It came about after Harry suffered a heart-attack in 1975. Matthew became the show's temporary presenter but eventually bought his father out.

However a row ensued when when Harry Corbett recovered and wanted to get back behind the Sooty Show.

Mr Corbett senior regained a few live shows while Mr Corbett junior continued the television shows as well as most of the live performances.

See clips of early Sooty magic and meet his new right hand man Richard Cadell
25 years on Sooty has changed hands again. Matthew Corbett has just handed over the reins to co-presenters Richard Cadell and Liana Bridges.

He says he has no qualms about ending the family connection. "I don't feel as though I have suffered a bereavement by retiring. Really it's time Sooty stood on his own two feet."

Izzy Whizzy... very busy

Sooty showed his own two feet for the first time two years ago as a cartoon character in Sooty's Amazing Adventures.

[ image: No longer legless - the cartoon version]
No longer legless - the cartoon version
Other career highlights include meeting royalty. He shook hands with the Queen in 1955 but chose to spray water on Prince Philip.

He once burst into tears when Prince Charles failed to wave at him during a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

His powers of persuasion have also been used to the fullest. Sooty has been involved in two advertising campaigns; for Oxo in 1955 and more recently in an ad for Walkers Crisps.

Now with two new presenters on hand, a full tour underway and a new television series in the making, those famous last words "Bye, bye, everybody, bye bye" will continue to be said on Sooty's behalf.

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