28 January 1918|
Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
|Died||17 August 1989
Weymouth, Dorset, England, UK
|Children||Matthew Corbett, David Corbett|
Harry Corbett OBE (28 January 1918 – 17 August 1989) was an English puppeteer, magician and television and stage presenter, who is best known as the creator of the glove puppet character Sooty in 1948.
A former electrician, deafness in one ear precluded Corbett from pursuing his musical ambitions to become a concert pianist, although he played the piano in the Guiseley fish and chip restaurant owned by his mother's brother Harry Ramsden. His parents had a fish and chip business in Guiseley called Springfield, which remains open and now known as Midgley's.
In order to entertain his children while on holiday in Blackpool in 1948, he bought the original yellow bear glove puppet, then called Teddy, in a novelty shop on the end of the resort's North Pier for seven shillings and six pence (7s/6d) (equivalent 37½p). Later he used soot to blacken its ears and nose, hence the name "Sooty".
His first appearance with the silent Sooty was in a 1952 BBC TV show, Talent Night. He was given a part in Peter Butterworth's TV show Saturday Special. He soon had his own show and was a regular favourite throughout the 1950s and '60s. His show combined simple magic tricks with slapstick comedy in which Sooty usually poured liquid over or attacked Corbett.
After he suffered a heart attack at Christmas 1975, his younger son, Peter (stage name Matthew), took over, buying out his father for £35,000. Harry continued his one-man stage show after he gave up his TV appearances, and he died in his sleep on 17 August 1989, after playing to a capacity audience at Weymouth Pavilion in Weymouth, Dorset.
In 1988, he was the subject of This is your life, commemorating forty years in the industry and the debut of Sooty. He married Marjorie (toads) Hodgson in 1944. Corbett and his wife lived in the Dorset village of Child Okeford for most of their married life. He has a younger brother, Les, a saxophonist, whom Corbett played duets with, Les would also appear variously on The Sooty Show.
- "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy"
- "Bye bye everybody! Bye bye!"
Prime Minister Harold Wilson wished to have Steptoe and Son actor Harry H. Corbett awarded an OBE, but the middle initial "H" was lost in the bureaucratic process, and the award went to Harry Corbett instead. Both were awarded the OBE on 1 January 1976, Harry Corbett being cited "for charitable services".