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Norman Bird

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With his doleful looks and toothbrush moustache, Norman Bird was one of Britain’s most recognisable character actors. He appeared in a string of classic sixties films including The League of Gentlemen (1960), The Angry Silence (1961), Victim (1962) and Sky West and Crooked (1966). On television he had leading roles in Up Among The Cuckoos (1970) and Worzel Gummidge (1979-81).

A lifelong friend of the director Bryan Forbes and his wife Nanette Newman, Bird appeared in several Forbes films including Whistle Down the Wind (1961), The Wrong Box (1966), The Raging Moon (1970) and The Slipper and the Rose (1976).

Bird described himself as “the man with the cardigan” and throughout his career he was usually cast as henpecked husbands, petty officials or interfering busybodies.

Born in Coalville, Leicestershire on October 30, 1924, Bird studied at RADA where his fellow students included Bryan Forbes and Richard Attenborough. He served in the RAF and after being demobbed, worked in repertory in Northampton and Dundee. He met his future wife Nona Blair, who later played Joan Hood in The Archers, in Northampton rep.

Bird made his West End debut in Peter Brook’s production of The Winter’s Tale (Phoenix Theatre, 1951). He went on to make nearly 70 films and in 1990 the comedy series Stay Lucky, with Dennis Waterman, marked his 200th television appearance. One of his last film appearances was as a taxi driver in Richard Attenborough’s Shadowlands (1993).

He died on April 22, aged 80 and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Patrick Newley

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