Harry Corbett (1918 - 1989)

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Birthplace: Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died
Managed by: Michael Rhodes
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About Harry Corbett

<The Times, August, 21, 1989>

<HARRY CORBETT>

<Creator of Sooty and Sweep>

Harry Corbett, creator of the glove puppet Sooty, whose antics delighted millions of children over thirty years, died on August 16 at the age of 71.

Corbett was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, and worked as an electrical engineer before the little bear puppet dominated his life. He was also then an amateur magician and in 1949 bought the original glove puppet for less than 40p from a toyshop on the North Pier at Blackpool to amuse his own children. After appearing on an amateur talent show, Corbett was offered a run of six fortnightly programmes on BBC television. He took a gamble and gave up his job when Sooty made his television debut in 1952. The programmes were an instant success and other puppet characters were added ton the cast - his friend Sweep and later, a girl friend Soo. The characters became known internationally and a business built up around them through the sale of thousands of Sooty, Sweep and Soo glove puppets, together with childrens books and videos, and a fan club.

Sooty was later adopted as a mascot by Corbett's native city and a Sooty museum created in the nearby town of Shipley.

Corbett himself was frequently the butt of his characters' mischievous antics, being soaked by water pistol or pelted with flour. Physical violence such as being hit on the head with a hammer in the good old tradition of Mr Punch had to be toned down when a young admirer followed his example and hit his own father "because Sooty does it."

The introduction of Sooty's girl friend Soo had an element of controversy: she was banished for a time because her arrival was thought to introduce a suggestion of sex in a childrens' programme but after protests were received officials relented provided she and Sooty never touched. Feminists also protested that Soo was too often seen atv the kitchen sink washing up or cooking meals.

Corbett departed from the BBC in 1968 when it was suggested that he should not himself appear in the programmes. He moved across to the then new commercial channel, Thames Television. In 1975 Corbett suffered a serious heart attack and his son Matthew, who had assisted him, took over.

Corbett engaged in much charitable work which was recognised in 1976 by his appointment as OBE. He is survived by his wife Marjorie and two sons.

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Harry Corbett, OBE's Timeline

1918
January 28, 1918
Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
1989
August 16, 1989
Age 71