Wednesday, 3 December 2014

26 The Sooty Show

First  watched  : Uncertain

We'll  switch  to  ITV  for  a  moment  as  the Christmas  1969  edition  of  TV  Times  is  available  to  peruse - there's  a  very  nice  picture  of  Diana  Rigg  in  a  bikini  in  there - although  I've  only  identified  two  shows  that  I  may  have  been  watching  at  that  time.

The  first  was  The  Sooty  Show  which, like  Tales  From  The  Riverbank,  was  originally  on  the  BBC, running  from  1955  to  1967. It  was  one  of  the  shows  axed  by  incoming  controller  Paul  Fox  but  was  quickly  snapped  up  by  the  infant  Thames  Television  in  1968.

Sooty  was  the  creation  of  Yorkshireman  Harry  Corbett  ( no  relation  to  the  Steptoe  and  Son  actor  who  added  the  "H"  to  his  name  to  avoid  this  confusion ) who  was  the  nephew  of  chip shop  magnate  Harry  Ramsden. The  original  glove  puppet  was  bought  from  a  stall  on  Blackpool's  North  Pier  in  1948; Corbett  added  soot  to  his  ears  and  nose  to  make  him  more  distinctive.

On  the  show  Corbett  was  the  perpetual  fall  guy; on  the  end  of  every  mischievous  trick  played  by  Sooty  and  his  mucker  Sweep. Sooty  was  mute  to  all  but  Corbett  who  related  what  Sooty  had  whispered  in  his  ear. Sweep  could  only  communicate  with  high  pitched  squeaks. Corbett's  ally  was  the  female  panda  Soo  who  could  speak  normally  and  often  brought  her  friends  into  line. Other  puppets  were  introduced  in  later  years  but  I'd  tuned  out  by  then. Besides  the  slapstick  humour, Sooty  was  a  budding  magician  who  performed  simple  tricks  with  his  wand. It  was  endearing,  innocent  fun.

 Corbett  suffered  a  heart  attack  in  1975  and  as  a  result  his  son  Matthew  took  over  the  show  although  Corbett  charged  him  a  hefty  sum  for  the  rights. Corbett  senior  continued  performing  in  theatres  until  his  peaceful  demise  in  1989,

This  second  incarnation   of  the  show   went  down  with  Thames  Television  in  1992  but  was  soon  resurrected  by  Granada  as  Sooty  &  Co,  still  with  Corbett  junior  at  the  helm.  Around  this  time  there  was  a "World  of  Sooty"  museum  in  Shipley  ( near  Corbett's  birthplace )  which  I  saw  signposted  when  I  was  walking  the  Settle-Carlisle  Way  in  1992. Charles  Jennings  gives  a   melancholic  account  of  a  visit  in  its  last  days  in  Up  North.  In  1998  Matthew  Corbett  himself  retired  and  sold  his  rights  to  Richard  Cadell  who  re-booted  it  as  Sooty  Heights. After a  couple  of  further  makeovers  Cadell  remains  at  the  helm  to  this day  and  there's   a  movie  out  soon  so  Sooty  seems  indestructible.

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