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Last Updated: Monday, 11 October, 2004, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Sir Norman Wisdom to retire at 90
Sir Norman receives his knighthood
Sir Norman receives his knighthood in 2000
Sir Norman Wisdom has announced plans to retire next year after a career spanning decades.

The comedy legend will call it a day after his 90th birthday on 4 February.

Sir Norman's stage and screen career has lasted for more than 55 years and includes a Bafta for a rare straight role in 1978.

But it is his slapstick routines, including his catchphrase "Mr Grimsdale", for which the veteran comedian is best known.

Comedy institution

Sir Norman, who lives on the Isle of Man, once described himself as a "short-arse who's been lucky" but he became a national comedy institution.

His agent and manager, Johnny Mans, said: "He has been thinking about it [retiring] for the past couple of weeks.

"His family may have also had an influence, and he wanted to see more of them.

"He thought that 90 was a good cut-off point."

Norman Wisdom in his younger days
A vintage shot of Sir Norman in action
Sir Norman, who was knighted in 2000, also wants to spend more time playing golf.

He has a performance on a Caribbean cruise-liner and a variety show at the Theatre Royal in Norwich to take part in before he retires.

Working life

Mr Mans said: "He's got two kids and two grandsons and it will be nice for them to see a bit more of him.

"He has worked all his life, and has been in the business for over 50 years.

"He wants to play golf, drive around the Isle of Man, where he lives, and pop across to see his kids now and again."

His health was not a factor in his decision - he still enjoys walking, jogging and riding his bicycle - Mr Mans said, adding Sir Norman's love of comedy remained undiminished.

Sir Norman has described his childhood as "straight out of a Charles Dickens' novel".

His mother left home and his "brutal" and drunken father put his boys into care.

In his youth, he went from job to job, and learnt how to box as a cabin boy on a boat bound for Argentina.

Sir Norman, who has been divorced twice, joined the Army, where he discovered, by chance, that he could make people laugh.

Laurel and Hardy

Rex Harrison spotted his talent during a charity performance and the story began.

I still regard myself as a short-arse who's been lucky, although I've worked for it.
Sir Norman Wisdom
He took part in pantomimes and charity shows at the Victoria Palace with Vera Lynn and Laurel and Hardy.

Variety gave way to television, followed by films and Broadway acclaim.

Sir Norman, whose big screen career began in 1948, made a string of films.

His 1953 film, Trouble In Store, and hit records such as Don't Laugh At Me, became classics.

His films have been shown all over the world and he is especially popular in Albania, where they were among the few western films allowed to be shown during the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha.

More recently, television roles included a stint in Casualty and an appearance earlier this year in Coronation Street.

He won a Bafta for his performance as a terminally ill cancer patient in the 1978 play Going Gently.

Sir Norman was set to appear in the British film These Foolish Things, starring Lauren Bacall, Anjelica Huston and Terence Stamp, but it was announced on Monday that he had pulled out.

In recent years he said: "I still regard myself as a short-arse who's been lucky, although I've worked for it."


SEE ALSO:
Sir Norman: Nobody's fool
06 Jun 00  |  Entertainment
Plaque marks comic's time in forces
06 Sep 03  |  Gloucestershire
Wisdom set for Coronation cameo
05 May 04  |  Entertainment


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