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Bruce Forsyth, 89, Cheeky Fixture of British TV, Is Dead


Bruce Forsyth performing in 2013.

Olivia Harris/Reuters

Bruce Forsyth, an English entertainer, host and quizmaster whose career spanned the history of television, died on Friday at his home in London. He was 89.

The BBC announced his death.

Dapper and mustachioed, with a toothy smile and cheeky charm, Mr. Forsyth was a television presence for 75 years. Guinness World Records recognized him in 2012 as the male entertainer with the longest television career.

He was most recently a host of “Strictly Come Dancing,” a popular dance competition that premiered on BBC One in 2004. On show, he delivered such crowd-pleasing catchphrases as “Nice to see you, to see you nice” and “Give us a whirl!” He retired in 2013.


Bruce Forsyth and his wife Wilnelia Merced at a British awards show in 2013.

Daniel Deme/European Pressphoto Agency

Born the son of a garage owner in a suburb of London on Feb. 22, 1928, Mr. Forsyth took up tap dancing as a boy after seeing a Fred Astaire movie. He first appeared on TV in 1939 as a child dancer on a show called “Come and Be Televised.” He made his stage debut at age 14 with the act “Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom.”

Mr. Forsyth’s first major TV success came in 1958, when he was signed to host a weekly variety show, “Sunday Night at the London Palladium.” It drew a remarkable audience of 10 million viewers a week, and was said to cause pubs to empty out as airtime approached and patrons headed home to watch it. At the time, he was said to be Britain’s highest-paid entertainer.

Mr. Forsyth hosted a number of game shows, including “Play Your Cards Right,” “The Price Is Right” and “The Generation Game,” which at its peak attracted 20 million viewers. After experiencing a career lull, he had a professional renaissance decades later with “Strictly Come Dancing.”

He was knighted in 2011.

Survivors include his wife, Wilnelia Merced, and several children.

Mr. Forsyth’s success in England did not translate to the United States. When he appeared on Broadway in a one-man show in 1979, Mel Gussow, reviewing it in The New York Times, dismissed him as a performer who would “do almost anything for a laugh.” He suggested that two hours of Mr. Forsyth was “a bit much by anyone’s standards.”

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