time when string puppets ruled the puppet world, Harry
Corbett bucked the trend by making a glove puppet the
most famous and enduring puppet character on British
Working as a part-time conjurer in 1948, Harry Corbett
happened to spot a teddy bear glove puppet for sale in a
shop in Blackpool and decided to buy it as an amusing
addition to his magic act.
bear made its first TV appearance with Harry in 1952 on
a BBC show called ‘Talent Night’ and was an immediate
hit with viewers. So much so, that Harry decided to
re-style the bear (then just called “Teddy”), by
blackening the ears and re-naming him “Sooty”.
his new name and individual personality, “Sooty” was
soon back on TV in “Saturday Special” and so started one
of the longest-running TV careers in British TV
1957, a second puppet character “Sweep”, a dog with
black ears and red nose was added, followed seven years
later by a female panda – “Soo”, “Ramsbottom” the snake,
“Kipper” the cat and “Butch” – another dog, but of a
much fiercer breed than Sweep.
Sooty Show was tremendously popular on both stage and
TV, surviving a cancellation by the BBC in 1968, by
transferring to Thames TV with even greater success.
1975, following a heart attack, Harry decided to take
things easier and handed over Sooty’s TV appearances to
his son Matthew Corbett, although Harry did continue to
make an occasional stage appearance. Sooty’s fame
continues unabated well beyond Harry’s death in 1989 and
Matthew Corbett's subsequent withdrawal from the Sooty
phenomenon on Sooty's 50th birthday in 1998.
Update: June 2008 marked
not only Sooty's 60th birthday, but also the acquisition of the rights to
Sooty by Richard Cadell, Sooty's presenter since 1998.
A bright future of Pantomime, National Tours and TV is