Al Debbo (1924-2011) Afrikaans comedian, singer and film actor. One of the most famous artists of his generation, one who made an enormous contribution to Afrikaans music and culture.
Born in Bloemfontein, of immigrant Lebanese parents. His parents owned a grocery store and he originally trained as a plumber after matriculating.
Singer and entertainer
In school concerts he had displayed a knack for making people laugh, and singing and comedy remained his hobbies after school, as he performed at functions and weddings.
During WWII he thus became a full-time entertainer, doing a magician and ventriloquist act under the auspices of the Red Cross, then - on his return he continued his part-time career as a singer-entertainer. However, in 1947 he participated in a countrywide talent competition, associated with the South African Industries Fair, and won. He now became a nationally recognized entertainer and singer and a household name with his recordings of comic songs such as Sonbrilletjies, Hasie, Tantes van Nantes, Brakke van Turffontein and Bolandse nooientjie.
The competition also led to his first (very brief) film role in Die kaskenades van Dokter Kwak (Pierre de Wet, 1948). In later films (between 1947 and 1959) he was often partnered with actor-comedian Frederick Burgers, with whom he also did numerous stage shows - the pair were often billed as "the South African Laurel and Hardy".
Debbo eventually appeared in 20 films, among which:
Die Kaskenades van Dokter Kwak (1948); Kom saam, vanaand ("Come along tonight", 1949); Hier’s ons weer ("Here we are again", 1950) ; Alles sal regkom ("Everthing will turn out right", 1951); Altyd in my drome ("Always in my dreams", 1952); Die avonture van Kammie Kamfer (1954); Dis lekker om te lewe ("It is wonderful to live", 1957); Donker Afrika ("Dark Africa", 1957); Fratse in die vloot ("Pranks in the navy", 1958); Hou die Blink Kant Bo ("Keep the shiny side up", 1960); Boerboel de Wet (1960); Gevaarlike Spel ("Dangerous game", 1962); Tom, Dirk en Herrie (1962); Die geheim van Onderplaas (The secret of Onderplaas", 1962); Die wonderwêreld van Kammie Kamfer (The wonderful world of Kammie Kamfer", 1964); Stadig oor die klippe ("Take it slowly", 1969); Pens en pootjies ("Stomach and feet", 1974); Kniediep ("Knee deep", 1975); Haak Vrystaat ("Hook Free State", 1976); and Oh Shucks I’m Gatvol (2004).
Van Delen 1991.
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