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Norbert Smith: A Life (1989)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Melvyn Bragg arrives at Sir Norbert Smith's country residence. He interviews Sir Norbert in the week of his 80th birthday, reviewing his distinguished acting career.

Norbert is born in South London, 1909. After school, Norbert frequently visits the Peckham Empire, falling in love with the music hall.

1936. Norbert plays sidekick to Will Silly in the comic film Oh, Mr. Bankrobber!

1937. Norbert stars in a shocking tale of juvenile delinquency, Rebel Without a Tie.

Isle of Wight, 1938. Norbert works for nine months in twice-weekly rep, alongside lifelong acquaintance Sir Donald Stuffy.

1939. War in Europe. Norbert sails for America, serving the war effort by making Hollywood musicals, such as Lullaby of London (1940).

1941. America enters the war. Norbert returns to England to make government propaganda films.

Post-war. Norbert directs and stars in a series of Shakespeare plays and films, collaborating with Noƫl Coward on Hamlet (1949). The productions establish Norbert as one of the leading actors of his generation.

Norbert lands a coveted role in the Sudso washing powder commercials, alongside Cecilia Johansen. Norbert marries Mazie Mitford, the youngest of the famous Mazie sisters.

1955. Norbert Studios are established, making British Westerns, including They Called Him Stranger (1955). A series of comedies follow, such as Passport to Puddlewitch, with Dick Dotty, and Whimsy Galore.

Norbert embarks on a series of historical costume dramas, including Mozart: Man of Music (1957), and Beethoven: Man of Music (1958).

Norbert is knighted. He appears in Norbert Studios' final production, the social realist It's Grim Up North (1962).

Sir Norbert turns to drink. Cyril Freebody interviews the drunkenly depressed Norbert on Head to Head.

Sir Norbert plays Davy Throbb's father in Keep Your Hair on Daddio (1962). He also appears in Rover Returns Home (1964), a British imitation of the Lassie series.

Sir Norbert stars with Richard Smashed, Dick Booze, Oliver Guinness, and Peter O'Pissed in the WWII film, Dogs of Death, before seeking treatment for his drink problem.

Due to his support for the peace movement, Norbert agrees to star in Carry On Banging. After nearly 40 years absence, Sir Norbert returns to Hollywood to play a foul-mouthed butler.

In his final role, Sir Norbert portrays Nelson Mandela, since Alec Guinness was unavailable.

Present day. A doddering Sir Norbert reveals that a television company wishes to make a documentary about his life. He confesses, "I don't think it's really me."