Tributes paid to a 'beloved icon' as comedy legend Wisdom dies at 95
Norman Wisdom was a beloved comic genius and true icon of the entertainment world, the agency which discovered the comedian and actor said today.
The 95-year-old died peacefully at the Abbotswood Nursing Home on the Isle of Man yesterday, having suffered a series of strokes in the last six months.
Jan Kennedy, managing director of Billy Marsh Associates, the agency which discovered Sir Norman in the early 1950s, paid tribute to his "remarkable" career.
She said: "Norman was simply a beloved comic genius. His whole personality projected a childlike warmth and innocent appeal that touched the hearts of everyone.
"We all loved and admired him as a true icon of the entertainment world."
Wisdom, at 5ft 4in, was the ultimate slapstick artist, toppling his pint-sized frame to the floor time and time again.
From a poverty-stricken childhood, he starred in 32 sitcoms, 19 films and won royal approval with a string of Command Performances. His success also made him a multi- millionaire knight of the British realm.
But in the last six months his mental and physical health had declined before he passed away yesterday, his family said.
In a brief statement, they added: "He had maintained a degree of independence until a few days ago. However, over the last few days his condition rapidly declined."
The family asked for time to grieve a "much loved father and grandfather".
Following his death, many of Wisdom's friends and colleagues paid tribute to the actor.
Phil Day, who had been his publicist since 1969, said: "He never turned down any request. He never threw a tantrum. He was 100pc professional all of the time.
"I've been with him with members of the Royal Family and the hairs on the back of my neck have stood up at things he's said. I can't think of anyone else who could get away with it."
Born Norman Wisden on February 4 1915, the young Wisdom had a tough upbringing in Marylebone, London. The son of a chauffeur and a dressmaker, he had one older brother Fred. His parents divorced when he was nine and he was brought up by his father.
Wisdom left school at 13 and took a job as an errand boy for Lipton's Teas for 50p a week.
His first break into showbiz came in 1946 at a music hall, and he won a place in his first Royal Command Performance in 1952. Rank soon snapped him up for a contract.
He married showgirl Freda Simpson when he was 27 but they divorced in 1969. They had two children, Nick and Jacqui.
Despite Wisdom's woebegone image, the keen Arsenal supporter had a sharp business mind and dealt in stocks and shares, laughing all the way to the bank.
Kevin Powis, who directed Sir Norman in the film Expresso in 2007, said: "It was a great honour to have even been in a room with him, let alone direct him on the film Expresso in what now turns out to be his last film role - just as he had said it would be."