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Fatmir Terziu’s fascinating study

Richard Dacre writes, lectures and broadcasts on cinema, specialising in British cinema. He wrote Trouble In Store: Norman Wisdom - A Career In Comedy, a ground-breaking, well-received book about the great British slapstick clown which was published in 1991. In 2012 he returned to the subject for a section in the book British Comedy Cinema. In-between, he wrote a key piece about comedy films, Traditions of British Comedy, for The British Cinema Book, the full version of which is contained in its 2009 third edition. In addition to writing, lecturing and broadcasting about cinema, Richard also works as a tour guide, sharing his love of his home city of London. He occasionally gets the chance to combine the two activities notably, in 2011, doing a series of tours around locations of Ealing comedies. One of these, for The Lavender Hill Mob, was filmed by the Guardian for their website, and another - Passport to Pimlico - was the basis for an ongoing series of location featurettes commissioned by Studio Canal for inclusion on their DVD/BluRay restorations of films made in London. He is currently based at Royal Albert Hall, writing and conducting tours as well as researching this iconic venue's rich history as both a film location and a film exhibition site and is currently updating their souvenir brochure.

By Richard Dacre

One of my key childhood memories is laughing uproariously at the inspired cinematic antics of Norman Wisdom. His wonderful blend of comic characterisation and skilled slapstick kept me, and much of my generation enthralled and the coffers of his production company, the Rank Organisation, well stocked.

By the late 1960s, when I was a student, the cinematic renaissance being felt throughout Europe plus a renewed theoretical interest in the medium inspired by structuralism and semiotics had a curious effect - I became aware of how little was known about my native cinema. British cinema was indeed, as the celebrated 1969 essay by Alan Lovell indicated, an unknown cinema.  

I remembered my childhood admiration for Wisdom and in due course researched his career, and the comic traditions into which his work can be placed. I knew little about Wisdom’s work outside the cinema and to find out more I interviewed the great man and subsequently we became firm friends

Norman Wisdom, like most British cinematic slapstick clowns, received little critical praise after he stormed the citadel with TROUBLE IN STORE in 1953. In 1991 when I finally published my book - the first on the great man - he was still largely dismissed in critical circles. The gulf between the negative critical orthodoxy and the public affection for the man was pronounced. But at least my book was now sitting amongst scores of serious and well-researched volumes on British cinema which was now becoming “known”.

Richard Dacre Author TROUBLE IN STORE: Norman Wisdom – a career in comedy and Sir Norman Wisdom

Recognition of Wisdom’s importance in British cinematic history is now secure and official honours - most noticeably with his Knighthood in 2000 – have been belatedly forthcoming. These days, with most of his films readily available on DVD, people can more easily make their own assessment of his achievements. They can also study the work in detail and apply more stringent theories to this body of work. My emphasis was on placing Wisdom’s work into traditions of British comedy and the strategies used to take a comic persona developed in short sketches into feature-length stories. Fatmir Terziu’s fascinating study has taken a radically different approach with his analysis of the Parametric Narration in Wisdom’s oeuvre. Wisdom was always immensely proud of his following in Albania - he will be gratified that this pioneering thesis shows that he is still remembered with affection by a new generation. 

Author TROUBLE IN STORE: Norman Wisdom – a career in comedy.


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