Bruce Forsyth dead: TV entertainer dies aged 89

TV veteran Sir Bruce Forsyth has died at the age of 89.

His manager confirmed that he died peacefully at his home surrounded by his family.

A statement read: “It is with great sadness that the Forsyth family announce that Sir Bruce passed away this afternoon, peacefully at his home surrounded by his wife Wilnelia and all his children.

“A couple of weeks ago, a friend visited him and asked him what he had been doing these last eighteen months.

Sir Bruce was knighted in 2011

“With a twinkle in his eye, he responded “I’ve been very, very busy… being ill!” Unfortunately, not long after this, his health deteriorated and he contracted bronchial pneumonia.

“The family would like to express their thanks to the many people who have sent cards and letters to Bruce wishing him well over his long illness and know that they will share in part, the great, great loss they feel.

“There will be no further comment at the moment and it would be much appreciated if the privacy of Sir Bruce’s family is respected at this most difficult time.”

Sir Bruce with his wife, Lady Wilnelia.

Tributes have flooded in from those who worked closely with him.

Claudia Winkelman described him as the ‘King of TV’.

Zoe Ball, former contestant and one-time co-host of Strictly Come Dancing said:

Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli said he was a “national treasure”.

Sir Bruce, who was knighted in the Birthday Honours of 2011, was one of the most talented, versatile and popular TV entertainers of his generation.

With his witty asides, his cheeky smile and his displays of mock outrage, he topped the bill wherever he went for well over half a century.

He rose to fame in the 1930s and was a staple on British TV for decades.

He found a new audience in the past 10 years hosting Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1, with the catchphrase “Keeeeeep dancing”.

Sir Bruce Forsyth on Play Your Cards Right

In that show, which became a national Saturday-night institution, he regularly drew attention to his age, modifying one of his already famous catch-phrases to “I’m not doddery – doddery I am not …” inciting the audience to join in.

His principal claim to fame before that was probably his hosting of the long-running and highly-successful TV series The Generation Game. But he was no less popular in Play Your Cards Right and in Bruce’s Price is Right.

Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson was born into a Salvation Army family in Edmonton, north London on February 22 1928. He attended the Higher Latimer School, Edmonton, but his heart, even as a small boy, was in show business.

Sir Bruce Forsyth, striking a familiar pose, at Glastonbury in 2013.

At the age of 14, he left the family home and was touring Britain as The Boy Bruce – The Mighty Atom. He made his broadcasting debut in 1942 and was an instant hit. He told one BBC interviewer: “I want to be famous and buy my mum a fur coat.”

When he received the call in 1958 to host Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Sir Bruce was on the verge of leaving showbusiness. He was booked for two weeks, but stayed for five years, by which time he was Britain’s highest-paid entertainer, earning £1,000 a week.

One of his Palladium roles, refereeing the Beat the Clock feature, gave a hint of Sir Bruce’s future TV career: he went on to host some of the most popular TV game shows of the entire 1970s and 1980s.

Sir Bruce nearly left showbusiness before he was booked to host Sunday Night at the London Palladium

He appeared with many top names, including Tommy Cooper, Dudley Moore, Harry Secombe and Frankie Howerd. This last partnership developed into a series known as Frankie and Bruce. Sir Bruce also regularly appeared in sketches with sports stars, including boxer Henry Cooper, jockey Scobie Breasley, swimmer Anita Lonsborough, former tennis champion Fred Perry and snooker player Joe Davis.

Subsequently, he was to reign supreme at the helm of the BBC flagship show, The Generation Game, from 1971 to 1977 and again at the beginning of the 1990s. At its peak, the show attracted more than 20 million viewers.

His ITV series Play Your Cards Right was a huge success, although it ended with an uncharacteristic sour note, when he accused his bosses of taking the show off without telling him, even though it was drawing audiences of around the 14 million mark.

But Sir Bruce had never been more popular. And in 1995, the year after his final Generation Game appearance, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Variety and three years later he was awarded an OBE. He was to be awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, 2005.

Sir Bruce and fellow Strictly host Tess Daly

Sir Bruce never allowed the arrival of cult and alternative comedians, with their often coarse material, to influence his own traditional type of comedy which continued to draw in viewers by the millions. He remained a sure-fire, non-stop ringing cash register for the TV companies, particularly the independent ones.

Sir Bruce announced he was leaving Strictly Come Dancing in April 2014.

His wife, Lady Wilnelia, later said that the TV veteran was finding it difficult to walk and that an operation had sapped his energy, but that he was in “incredible shape mentally”.

The star once gave his thoughts on death, saying: “As I get nearer to it, I fear it less because with the tiredness one gets at times, you think, ‘Is it just like having a nice long sleep?’ I wouldn’t say I fear it.

“I think I’ll be completely at peace when it does happen to me because I’ve been so lucky. I’ve had a wonderful career,” he told Radio Times.

Brucie’s catchphrases in full:

“Nice to see, you see you… nice.” – The Generation Game/Play Your Cards Right/Strictly Come Dancing

“Didn’t he do well?” – The Generation Game

“Cuddly toy! Cuddly toy!” – The Generation Game

“Keeeeeeep dancing!” – Strictly Come Dancing

“I’m in charge.” – Sunday Night at the London Palladium

“Good game, good game.” – The Generation Game

“What do points make?” – Play Your Cards Right

“You’re my favourites.” – Strictly Come Dancing

“You get nothing for a pair.” – Play Your Cards Right

“Give us a twirl.” – The Generation Game

“I’m the leader of the pack which makes me such a lucky jack. And here they are, they’re so appealing, OK dollies do your dealing.” – Play Your Cards Right.