English television presenter and entertainer Sir Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson CBE sadly died 18 August 2017. Forsyth was born 22 February 1928 in, Edmonton, Middlesex. His family owned a car repair garage in Victoria Road, Edmonton, and were members of the Salvation Army Playing brass instruments his mother also sang. His great-grandfather Joseph Forsyth Johnson was a landscape architect who worked in Russia, Ireland, and the United States. His great-great-great-great-grandfather William Forsyth was a founder of the Royal Horticultural Society and the namesake of the plant genus Forsythia. Forsyth attended the Latymer School. After watching Fred Astaire in films at age eight, he trained in dance in Tottenham and then Brixton. He started in show business aged 14, with a song, dance, and accordion act called “Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom”. His first appearance was at the Theatre Royal in Bilston, with The Great Marzo at the top of the bill. Forsyth made his television debut in 1939 as a child, singing and dancing on BBC talent show Come and Be Televised, broadcast from Radiolympia, and introduced by Jasmine Bligh. Forsyth continued to perform through the Second World War, during which his brother John, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, was killed in 1943, during a training exercise, at Turnberry, Scotland.
After the war, he travelled the UK working seven days a week, doing summer seasons, pantomimes and circuses, where he became renowned for his strong-man act. His act was interrupted by call-up papers for National Service when he was drafted into the Royal Air Force. In 1958, an appearance with the comedian Dickie Henderson led to his being offered the job of compère of Val Parnell’s weekly TV variety show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. He hosted the show for two years, followed by a year’s break, then returned for another year. During his spell of hosting Sunday Night at the London Palladium as part of the show he hosted the 15-minute game show “Beat the Clock”.
He appeared alongside Julie Andrews In the musical film Star! (1968), a biopic of stage actress Gertrude Lawrence, portraying Lawrence’s father. In January 1968 Pye Records issued the single “I’m Backing Britain”, supporting the campaign of the same name, written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, and sung by Forsyth. Forsyth also topped the bill on the opening night of the Golden Garter nightclub, Wythenshawe. In 1970, he played Swinburne in the Disney fantasy film Bedknobs and Broomsticks and In 1976, he appeared on The Muppet Show, alongside Statler and Waldorf.
Forsyth’s next success was Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game (BBC1, 1971–1977, 1990–1994) which proved popular and attracted huge Saturday evening audiences. It was on this show that Forsyth introduced his “The Thinker” pose, emulating Rodin’s sculpture, appearing in silhouette each week after the opening titles. This pose is reminiscent of the circus strong-man attitude. He also wrote and sang the theme for the show “Life is the Name of the Game.” He left the BBC in 1978 to present Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night, which was also transmitted on Saturday evening, but on rival broadcaster ITV. However, the show was not a success and lasted for just one series. He was replaced on The Generation Game by Larry Grayson.
Forsyth remained with ITV, hosting the game show Play Your Cards Right, which was the UK version of the US original Card Sharks (1980–87, 1994–99 and a brief period in 2002–03 before the show was axed mid-run due to low ratings). In 1986, he went to the United States to host a game show on ABC, Bruce Forsyth’s Hot Streak, which ran for 65 episodes from January to April that year. Shortly after, Forsyth was considered by Mark Goodson to be a candidate for hosting the revival of Card Sharks; ultimately the jobs went to Bob Eubanks (for the daytime version that aired on CBS), and Bill Rafferty (who hosted the nighttime syndicated version). Forsyth starred in the Thames Television sitcom Slinger’s Day in 1986 and 1987, a sequel to Tripper’s Day which had starred Leonard Rossiter, whom Forsyth replaced in the new show. His television appearances since the 1960s have included variety, comedy and light entertainment shows. He was the original host of You Bet! (1988 to 1990) before the show reached mainstream success under the stewardship of Matthew Kelly. Forsyth fronted the third version of The Price Is Right (1995 to 2001). Forsyth’s unsuccessful gameshows include Takeover Bid (1990 to 1991), Hollywood Or Bust (1984) and Didn’t They Do Well! (2004). During the 1970s Bruce featured in the “Stork Margarine” adverts on television and then during the 1980s and 1990s he appeared in advertising for the furniture retailer Courts, in which he dressed as a judge. Forsyth celebrated his 70th birthday in 1998 and appeared in a week-long run of his one-man show at the London Palladium, culminating in a 90-minute edition of Sunday Night at the London Palladium live on ITV. In 2000, Forsyth hosted a revived series called Tonight at the London Palladium.
In 2003, and again in 2010, Forsyth was a guest presenter on the news and satire quiz show Have I Got News for You. During the first of these appearances, he presented a parody of his Play Your Cards Right format entitled Play Your Iraqi Cards Right. He co-presented Strictly Come Dancing from 2004 to 2013. In 2010, Forsyth became one of the first three celebrities to be subjected to the British version of the American institution of a comedy roast, on Channel 4’s A Comedy Roast. Forsyth was the subject of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? and also appeared on the autobiography-interview programme Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. In 2011, Forsyth released a collection of songs on CD called These Are My Favourites. He chose the songs for their personal and musical importance, including a duet with his granddaughter, Sophie Purdie. These Are My Favourites also includes a recording of “Paper Moon” with Nat King Cole. In 2014 He stopped hosting Strictly Come Dancing to reduce his workload and for the preparation of pre-recorded specials.
Forsyth’s showbiz awards include Variety Club Show Business Personality of the Year in 1975; TV Times Male TV Personality of the Year, in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978; and BBC TV Personality of the Year in 1991.In 1987, the Great Bruce Forsyth Social Club was created. They would later go on to assist Forsyth in singing his opening number, “It’s Never Too Late”, at his Audience With show. He repaid this favour by adding the society to his busy schedule in June 1997 and appeared at their 10th AGM in Plymouth and also mentioned them in his autobiography. Forsyth was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2006 New Year Honours. On 27 February 2005, the BBC screened A BAFTA Tribute to Bruce Forsyth to mark the entertainer’s 60 years in show business.He had a bronze bust of himself unveiled at the London Palladium in May 2005. The sculpture was created by his son-in-law and is on display in the theatre’s Cinderella Bar.In 2007, Forsyth’s catchphrase, “Nice to see you, to see you, nice”, was voted the most popular UK catchphrase by the British public. In 2008, the BBC featured an 85-minute programme, celebrating his 80th birthday, entitled Happy Birthday Brucie! Forsyth was also made a Fellow of BAFTA. In 2009, he was awarded the Theatre Performer’s Award at the annual Carl Alan Awards. Hosted by the International Dance Teachers’ Association in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the world of dance and theatre. In 2009 Forsyth received a Royal Television Society Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2011 he received the National Television Awards special recognition award. Forsyth was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to entertainment and charity. In 2012, Forsyth was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flame through London, as it finally reached the city on the penultimate day of the London 2012 Torch Relay. In 2013 Forsyth earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the male TV entertainer having had the longest career. Forsyth also appeared at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival on the Avalon stage, becoming the oldest performer to ever play at the festival. . His most recent TV appearance was on the Strictly Children in Need Special in November 2015.
Sadly On 8 October 2015, Forsyth was rushed to hospital after falling at his home, tripping over a rug and hitting his head. He suffered cuts and a minor concussion but was otherwise unhurt. On 12 November he underwent surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, but was expected to make a speedy recovery. As a result of his surgery, Forsyth had to pull out of his expected hosting of the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special. In 2016, it was reported that Forsyth was recovering after undergoing “life-saving surgery”. He paid tribute in a telephone interview on BBC News to his long-time friend Ronnie Corbett on the day of his death (31 March 2016), but was too frail to attend his funeral on 16 April. In 2017, Forsyth was rushed to hospital with a severe chest infection and spent five days in intensive care. He returned home on 3 March 2017. In August 2017, his friend Jimmy Tarbuck said he was frail and unlikely to perform again. Sadly On 18 August 2017, Forsyth died at his home, aged 89. He is survived by his wife and children.