Brucie was born Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson on 22 February 1928, but his first on-stage billing (at the tender age of 14) was as ‘Boy Bruce, the mighty atom’. This was most likely nicked from an Oxo cube advert of the time. Another possibility is that, like the scientists of the Manhattan Project watching the first nuclear bomb, theatre owners were terrified by the awesome force of entertainment they had unleashed on the world.
2. Old Man Television
He has been on TV almost as long as television has existed. His first appearance on screen was in 1939, on the BBC’s bluntly named talent show Come and Be Televised. Think about that. 1939. Before there was BBC2 or colour or the Second World War, there was Brucie. He went on to present Sunday Night at the London Palladium from 1957 to 1961, and has barely been off-screen since.
3. Nice to see you…
The man speaks almost entirely in catchphrases. The first was “I’m in charge,” from his time as compere at the London Palladium, but other classics include “Good game, good game”, “Give us a twirl” (said to future wife Anthea Redfern on the Generation Game), “Points mean prizes”, “You don’t get anything for a pair”, “Didn’t he/she/they do well?”, “Nice to see you, to see you…nice” and “Here pussy pussy!”
Forsyth rivals Shakespeare for phrasemaking, but the bard never presented quizzes.
While mostly known for hosting, Bruce has also turned his hand to acting. He appeared in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks as the shifty Swinburne, and on American detective show Magnum PI as… a game show host, which must have been a stretch. Incidentally, he briefly presented a word association game in the US: the hilariously named Bruce Forsyth’s Hot Streak. Back on British TV, he narrated a cartoon about the “Fiddley Foodle Bim Bam Boodle Oo Diddley-Doodle Oodle Bird”. Dennis Waterman voiced the bird himself.
5. Music Man
Brucie has a tendency to burst into song at the slightest provocation, so it’s no surprise he has made a few attempts on the charts. As well as novelty songs based around his catchphrases (Didn’t He Do Well has verses congratulating Admiral Nelson and Phyllis the stripper), there were a couple of more straightforward releases. Why not have a listen to the patriotic I’m Backing Britain?
6. Political Animal
He may be the king of light entertainment, but Bruce has a real nose (and chin) for politics. In an interview with Radio Times, he revealed that he tapes PMQs every week: “Prime Minister’s questions, that’s two guys getting it on there. At times it’s pure variety, pure vaudeville.” His first stint hosting Have I Got News For You might have been the most hallucinogenic episode ever filmed.
7. Mister Entertainment
Bruce grew up on the variety stage, and no-one is more various than Bruce Forsyth. He plays the ukulele, the banjo and the accordion. He can dance tap, ballroom or just the night away. He can sing and even tell jokes (sort of). Surely it’s time he had his own series?
8. The Forsyth Saga
Appearing on Who Do You Think You Are, Bruce discovered that his great-grandfather Joseph Forsyth Johnson was not only a famous landscape gardener, but most likely a bigamist who had abandoned two families.
9. Face down, chin up
What is that pose he does? Well, while it looks vaguely like the flexing of a circus strongman, it actually has a more highbrow origin. Brucie calls it ‘The Thinker’, after Rodin’s sculpture of the same name. He first adopted the pose on The Generation Game in 1971, where he would appear in silhouette at the beginning of every show.