Bruce's amazing entertainment career
The giant of entertainment, Sir Bruce Forsyth, who has died aged 89, had musicality in his veins – his parents both played in the Salvation Army brass band in Edmonton, North London where Bruce grew up. He soon fell in love with show business and at just 14, billed as Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom, he toured Britain – singing, dancing and playing the accordion and ukulele. But success took its time and in the Fifties, Bruce was even thinking of jacking it all in. By this time he was married to fellow entertainer Penny Calvert and had a family. Then in 1958 he got his big break – hosting ITV's Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Initially booked for a two-week stint he was such a success he stayed for five years. His secret was a unique rapport with an audience, especially during the 15 minute quiz show, Beat the Clock. And it was this that was to drive his career from now on.
Bruce and the Generation Game
The BBC were looking for a host who could think on his feet for their new Saturday night entertainment show, The Generation Game. Bruce was the obvious choice. It was a huge success and gave 'Brucie' a huge number of catchphrases, including the one voted the nation's all-time favourite, “Nice to see you, to see you nice.” Bruce also married the show's hostess, Anthea Redfern, in 1973. He and Penny had finally divorced, after Bruce's roving eye (including affairs with Miss World Ann Sidney and singer Kathy Kirby) put too much of a strain on their marriage.
A switch in 1978 to ITV for Bruce Forsyth's Big Night didn't go so well but hosting hit game shows Play Your Cards Right and The Price is Right, amongst others, meant Bruce was seldom off TV. He was always clear though, that he was an entertainer, not a game show host – and he said the highlight of his career was working with Sammy Davis Junior on a Special in 1980. In addition he made records, acted in films and had his own one-man show at the London Palladium, aged 70.
Bruce's beautiful wife
In 1983, Bruce married for the third time, to a former Miss World, Wilnelia Merced, 32 years his junior. They had a son, Jonathan Joseph – to add to his now five daughters.
Bruce and Strictly Come Dancing
Aged 76, Bruce was offered a show that was to become as big as The Generation Game – Strictly Come Dancing. For nine years Bruce was the show's linchpin, always telling the underdog each week, “You're my favourite”. After he stood down in 2013, Bruce admitted it was the most difficult show he had ever done, as he actually had very little chance to do what he did best – interact with either audience or contestants. It seemed he would go on forever, as that same year he performed to rapturous crowds at Glastonbury.
But in 2004, he admitted in an interview, “It's sad when you see most of your friends in the business gone, like Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd, Eric Morecambe, Roy Castle, Les Dawson. They were very dear to me... there's still Ronnie Corbett, of course.” Then his dear friend and golfing buddy Ronnie died in 2015 and Bruce wasn't well enough to go to the funeral. Ill-health finally forced the evergreen entertainer to retire from public life.
As Bruce finally joins his friends, after one of the longest careers in showbusiness, we can all agree, “Didn't he do well”.