Hanging up his cloth cap

Sir Norman Wisdom to retire at 90

Sir Norman Wisdom has announced that he plans to retire from comedy at the age of 90.

He has decided to make no more appearances after his next birthday, on February 4, ending almost 60 years in the business.

Sir Norman’s manager, Johnny Mans, announced: “He has been thinking about it 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.”

His final performances will be on a Caribbean cruise and at a variety show at the Theatre Royal in Norwich this Sunday.

But he has pulled out of a film, These Foolish Things, in which he was due to star alongside Lauren Bacall and Anjelica Huston. Producers have recast Joss Ackland in his role, as a stage hand in the Thirties.

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.”

 He said the decision had nothing to do with Sir Norman’s health, adding: “He still walks twice a day, rides a bike and goes jogging. You wouldn’t believe he’s that age.”

Sir Norman – who was knighted in 2000 - began his film career in  1948 after a childhood he described as “straight out of a Charles Dickens novel”.

His mother left home when he was nine, leaving him in the charge of his  alcoholic father – who then gave him away to another family.

As a youth he slept rough on the streets – until a friend suggested he join the army, where he discovered his ability to make people laugh.

With his cloth cap, pratfalls and cries of ‘Mr Grimsdale’, he became a comic icon of the Fifties and Sixties. Famously, his films are the only Western movies allowed in Communist Albania, where he is a huge star, because they depict the noble triumphs of the working man.

He said recently: “I still regard myself as a short-arse who’s been lucky, although I’ve worked for it.”

Published: 30 Sep 2004

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