Sir Norman Wisdom: Local Connections
There Was a Crooked Man
Nearly everybody knows of Sir Norman Wisdom’s connection with Darwen, when in 1960, he starred in the film "There Was A Crooked Man" which was filmed in and around Darwen. This is the only Norman Wisdom film that has not had national television viewing or been released on video/DVD. It was, however, according to the website “https//sites.google.com/site/ukchristmastv/itv1965” shown in the then ATV region on Christmas Sunday in 1965. In 1960, it was also briefly shown in cinemas on general release throughout the United Kingdom (U.K.) before being withdrawn by United States (U.S.) interference in UK culture and was unceremoniously wiped. The offending film featured Wisdom masquerading as an arrogant U.S. General requisitioning British land for the US Air Force. The subject of U.S. forces on British soil was deemed too sensitive even for comic treatment. Fortunately, a private collector who acquired the only known copy agreed that it could be shown in Darwen where it was filmed. The film was shown in Darwen Library Theatre in 2008. Many of the extras in the film, who were young children at the time, came to see it. Please see letter and newscutting below.
Letter post marked Darwen, 8 June, 1960 from Evelyn Greaves to Mr & Mrs W. A. Greaves who worked for the Borough Treasurer describing the activities around the filming of “There Was a Crooked Man” which she could see from her office window. Kindly donated by Valerie Greaves.
Reverse of above Evelyn Greaves letter
The following cutting was inserted into the letter from one of the local papers. Evelyn has marked on the image the position of her "office" (the Borough Treasurer's, Darwen) and the Millstone Public House.
Darwen Days have more images of Sir Norman Wisdom's visit to the town : Darwen Days
Norman’s other connection with the area was with the Grand Theatre in Blackburn. In 1946 he appeared in a touring review called, “New Names Make News". The show started in Blackburn; it was the first house on Monday and Norman had just finished his comedy act and though the audience were a little quiet he thought he had done well when the manager appeared and said, “they don’t like that sort of stuff here, you'll have to do summat different next house, or else you’re out". It was going to be an early night for Norman, who began to pack his bags when he came across two sheets of music; "They didn’t believe Me" and the other was a Frank Sinatra song, "Some Other Time", so he went to see the manager and apologised and told him he was really a singer who was mad on comedy and thought he would try it out. “Well you’re obviously not a comedian, just go out there and sing” said the manager. He went on and stopped the show but unfortunately the star, who was on last, was a singer and he said, "how am I supposed to follow that”? When they looked around Norman had beat a hasty retreat. I wonder if the manager remembered this, when within a few years Norman was a big star. I bet he was embarrassed. The above story was taken from Norman Wisdom’s autobiography, "My Turn" by William Hall.
Article researched and compiled by Jeffrey Booth (Community History Volunteer), 2015.