Bruce Forsyth: Tragic response after star’s wife tried to mend marriage exposed

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Bruce Forsyth rose to fame on ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ in 1958, after starting his career as a dancer under the name ‘Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom’. Prior to this, he had spent numerous summer seasons on the stage and had stints in pantomimes and circuses. His success was later recognised through a Guinness World Record, as he had the longest entertainment career of any man in showbiz. But during those years, the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ star’s life was also mired with controversy including claims and admissions of numerous affairs during his three marriages. Unearthed accounts reveal the struggles with his first wife Penny Calvert and how she attempted to save their relationship.

The TV star admitted he and Penny got married “very, very quickly” in his 2001’s book ‘Bruce: The Autobiography’.

While they were “in love”, their initial motivation for tying the knot was to be able to share a cabin while travelling to performances overseas.

He wrote: “Penny and I thought this was a marvellous solution – much better than being separated every night and having to share a cabin with a complete stranger.”

The pair had their “ship-gun marriage” in 1953 at a Methodist Central Hall because they “couldn’t get into any of the other churches in time”.

They went on to have three daughters together – Debbie, Julie and Laura – but after Bruce’s career took off their relationship was put under pressure.

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Unearthed accounts reveal how Bruce Forsyth’s first wife Penny Calvert tried to save their marriage (Image: GETTY)

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Bruce Forsyth had a successful career as a TV entertainer for more than seven decades (Image: GETTY)

He wrote: “Sadly, such prolonged absences eventually did put a great strain on our marriage.

“There are always temptations. Whether you take them or not is up to you. It depends how happy your private life is.”

By 1964, while performing in a summer season show in Bournemouth he claimed to know his “marriage was over”.

Bruce admitted this was further reinforced by his decision to start an affair with “an exceptionally beautiful girl” named Ann Sidney.

She was a 19-year-old hairdresser at the time and later that year would go on to become Miss World.

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Bruce Forsyth explained that he married Penny Calvert ‘very, very quickly’ to share a cabin (Image: GETTY)

Soon after that affair, Penny recalled trying to “rekindle their youthful passion” according to a 2009 MailOnline article.

It was claimed that she wore “flimsy negligee, sprayed herself with seductive perfume and prepared a champagne and candlelit supper” but it didn’t go to plan.

Penny recalled: “Bruce came back from the Palladium and said ‘It was a terrible audience tonight . . . I’m going to bed.’ He didn’t even notice.”

After news of Bruce’s flings hit the headlines, his wife told reporters their marriage was “over” and that she was heading to Bournemouth for “a showdown” with the star.

No longer known as a “happily married family entertainer”, his image was described as being “irrevocably tarnished” by the reports.

Bruce recalled the pair meeting in a hotel around that time to discuss their marital problem over lunch – but it only lasted a few short moments.

He wrote: “I’ve never forgotten this occasion. Our marriage had really turned sour – Penny was up and gone from the table in a flash.”

After they divorced in 1973, Bruce would go on to find love again – marrying his ‘Generation Game’ co-host Anthea Redfern and 1975 Miss World winner Wilnelia Merced.

Aged 89, the star died from bronchial pneumonia in 2017 following a lengthy struggle with ill health after more than seven decades in the entertainment industry.

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