I remember watching Norman Wisdom's old films on British television. My parents were fans of his wholesome, slapstick comedy, but apparently missed the ideological significance of Pitkin's relationship with Mr Grimsdale. Pitkin, the downtrodden and oppressed representative of the workers, triumphed every time over his capitalist oppressor, Mr Grimsdale - and he got the girl. It took a theorist of Hoxha's insight and profundity to discern this deeper political message.
It always seemed tremendously unlikely, yet the story of Sir Norman's fame in Albania has been reported in worthy sources like the BBC, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. According to the Guardian, when Wisdom visited Tirana in 1995 the then President and current Prime Minister Sali Berisha was there to greet him. The BBC story, reporting his return to the city in 2001, claimed he was a bigger draw than David Beckham, in the country at the same time with the England football team.
Another story from the Telegraph covers his visit in 2002 with British comedian, Tony Hawks. Together they performed a song, 'Big in Albania', written by Tim Rice. Hawks had taken a bet that he could get a song into the top 20 somewhere in the world and calculated that Sir Norman's status in Albania might help him into the local charts.
Despite all of this, I have never come across any indication of Wisdom's popularity in the country. While Albanian filmmaker and writer Fatmir Terziu has written about Sir Norman on his blog, I have never met anyone here who knows anything about him. I assume that this is because most of the Albanians I know tend to be in their twenties, while those who watched Sir Norman's films during the bleak years of communism would be much older.
Have any of my Albanian readers ever heard of Norman Wisdom? Do any of you remember going to see any of his films? Maybe it's time for the Millenium to run a Norman Wisdom retrospective. Or perhaps one of the many unnamed streets in the city could become Rr. Norman Wisdom (or would that be Uisdom?), or Rr. Pitkin.