Slapstick British comedian Norman Wisdom dies at 95

Tue Oct 5, 2010 6:26am EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - British comic actor Norman Wisdom, who played bumbling characters in slapstick films of the 1950s and 60s, has died at the age of 95, his agent said on Monday.

Wisdom, whose fame spread as far as Stalinist Albania, usually played the underdog who eventually triumphs over adversity to win success and the girl. Charlie Chaplin is said to have called Wisdom his favorite clown.

"Norman was one of the family, and although he was my client he was probably my best friend," Johnny Mans, his agent for over 30 years, told Reuters. "I thought he'd live to 100."

In his later years, Wisdom also won acclaim for straight stage and television roles.

His films included "Trouble in Store," which earned him a BAFTA Award, and in 1966 he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway musical "Walking Happy."

In a bizarre twist to his career, he became an icon in hardline communist Albania, where his movies were among the few Western cultural products permitted. After the overthrow of communism he visited the country and was warmly welcomed.

"It was like Beatlemania in Albania," Mans said, recalling their visit to the country in 1995. "Even the men would come up to him and kiss him."

British media quoted his family as saying he had passed away peacefully after a series of strokes in recent years.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; editing by David Stamp)