Norbert Smith – A Life (Channel 4, 1989)
This was one of the earliest comedy successes for Harry Enfield, who by this point had already discarded of Loadsamoney and Stavros, the characters that made him a big name. Norbert Smith – A Life, was a one-off special that looked back at the very nearly interesting career of the veteran British actor who had been in the business for five decades, which was made in the style of an edition of The South Bank Show.
To celebrate his 80th birthday, Sir Norbert (as he is now) took a look back at his home at his theatre and film work, well what he could remember of it, and he shared some stories about some of the famous people that he had known. He was born in London, and he never looked back. His acting career started in the 30s, and by the 40s, he had gone off to America for further success in musicals.
A lot of the archive clips of Smith at work were specially made for the show, and they featured parodies of real films and actors. And a lot of these seemed to be rather similar to the films that have recently been shown on the London Live channel in the afternoon. Whether it was musicals or comedies, you name it, he was probably in it. And one of the characters in a parody would later reappear as the black and white Mr Greyson in his BBC2 sketch series.
There were also contributions from from several of the actors that he worked alongside, who help to put a picture together of his career. As the years progressed, we see that he really has done the lot, from appearing on stage in Uncle Vanya (although nobody threw a pie), he even appeared in a Carry On film, how versatile. It’s no wonder he was considered by many to be one of the actors of his era.
Norbert Smith – A Life did well enough to win some awards and raise Enfield’s profile, and the great attention to detail in the parodies would also feature in some of his later shows, including Smashie And Nicey – The End Of An Era, and The Story Of The 2’s. There was a VHS release, but I don’t think that there was ever a DVD release, it’s very frustrating that a lot of Enfield’s sketch shows aren’t available to watch anywhere now really.