Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Godspeed Sir Bruce Forsyth

Sir Bruce Forsyth, the legendary presenter of the British variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium and many game shows over the years, died on August 18 2017 at the age of 89.

Sir Bruce Forsyth as born on February 22 1928 in Edmonton, Middlesex. He attended the Latymer School in Edmonton. When he was eight years old he became obsessed with tap dancing after seeing Fred Astaire movies at his local cinema. He then trained in dance in Tottenham and later Brixton. Mr. Forsyth began performing while still a child. He made his television debut when he was still very young, appearing on the TV show Come and Be Televised in 1939. He appeared on stage at the Theatre Royal in Bilston, billed as "Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom". He played the accordion, ukulele, and banjo.

Mr. Forsyth spent many years in music halls around the United Kingdom, interrupted only by two years of national service in the Royal Air Force. He made his first appearance as an adult on television in 1954 on Variety Parade. Over the next few years he appeared on Music-Hall, The Winifred Atwell Show, and Spectacular. It was while performing at Babbacombe in Devon in 1957 that a fellow dance act recommended Mr. Forsyth to their agent, Billy Marsh. It was through Mr. Marsh that Sir Bruce Forsyth landed an appearance on the TV show New Look. This led to Sir Bruce Forsyth becoming the host of the variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. He hosted the show from 1958 to 1960. After a year-long break he returned as its host and remained until 1964.

In the Sixties Mr. Forsyth continued to host Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Along with Frankie Howard he was one of the two hosts of the show Frankie and Bruce. In 1965 he appeared in his own television special, The Bruce Forsyth Show. He appeared on such shows as That's for Me, Thank Your Lucky Stars, Showtime, Two of a Kind, and It's Lulu. He also did a bit of acting during the decade. He guest starred on Mystery and Imagination in an adaption of The Canterville Ghost. He appeared in the films Star! (1968) and Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969).  He also appeared in Royal Variety Performances.

In the Seventies Sir Bruce Forsyth was the host of his own show, The Bruce Forsyth Show as well as Big Night. He hosted his first game show, The Generation Game. He guest starred on such shows as Cilla, Rolf Harris Show, The Morecambe & Wise Show, and The Muppet Show. He appeared in the TV specials Frankie and Bruce and Sammy and Bruce. As an actor he appeared in the films Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971). He also appeared in Royal Variety Performances.

In the Eighties Mr. Forsyth acted as a regular in the TV series Anna Pavlova and as the star in the TV series Slinger's Day. He guest starred in an episode of Magnum P. I. He hosted the game shows Play Your Cards Right, Hollywood or Bust, Hot Streak, and You Bet. He starred in the TV specials Forsyth Follies and Bruce and Ronnie. He also appeared in Royal Variety Performances.

In the Nineties Sir Bruce Forsyth hosted the game shows Takeover Bid, Bruce's Price is Right, and a revival of The Generation Game. He also hosted the variety show Guest Night and Tonight at the London Palladium. He appeared in the movie House!.  From the Naughts into the Teens he was the host of Strictly Come Dancing.

For my fellow Americans it may be hard to understand the importance of Sir Bruce Forsyth in the history of British television. We simply don't have any figure that quite corresponds to him. One could describe him as a British Ed Sullivan, but Mr. Sullivan could not sing or dance and wasn't nearly as warm and friendly. One could describe him as a British Bob Barker, but Mr. Barker can not sing and dance and has never hosted variety shows. The simple fact is that Mr. Forsyth could do it all. He could sing. He could dance. He could act. He could be a comedian. None of this should come as any surprise as Sir Bruce Forsyth was one of the last music hall entertainers. Before his success on television he spent years entertaining people in music halls across the United Kingdom. And like many music hall entertainers, he developed a number of different talents.

Of course, Sir Bruce Forsyth was never a favourite with critics. Even when he became famous in the late Fifties he was a bit old-fashioned, a sharp contrast to the Angry Young Men of the era. He was first and foremost an entertainer. He was not there to educate his audience, to enlighten his audience, or to persuade them to take a stand on any particular issue. Sir Bruce Forsyth was there to make them laugh, to make them smile, to make them escape the troubles of their days for a while. This probably explains his popularity for six decades. When one watched Sir Bruce Forsyth, they were guaranteed a half hour or hour of pure escapism. It is something that is sometimes missing from entertainment today. Sir Bruce Forsyth really was one of the last of his kind.

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