Plans to give Sooty a girlfriend sparked sex row at the BBC in the 1960s

Plans to introduce a female puppet to TV show Sooty were so controversial that the BBC's director-general had to announce a "no touch" rule, it has emerged.

Harry Corbett and his sons David and Peter (right, better known as Matthew Corbett) with Sooty
Harry Corbett and his sons David and Peter (right, better known as Matthew Corbett) with Sooty

Sooty creator Harry Corbett wanted to launch a female puppet on the famous children's TV show in the 1960s.

But according to BBC News, a new documentary has revealed that the show's producer and a BBC governor were against Sooty having a girlfriend.

Producer Trevor Hill dismissed the idea, which also caused controversy in the press, on the grounds that "sex would be creeping into the programme".

Sooty with creator Harry Corbett

BBC director-general Hugh Carleton Greene intervened to allow it and the panda Soo was introduced in 1965.

In order to entertain his children while on holiday in Blackpool in 1948, Corbett 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".

Matthew Corbett, the son of the Sooty creator who took over from his father as Sooty, Soo and Sweep's handler in 1976, told the documentary: "My father was called into the head office and the director-general of the BBC said he had made a decision."

He said Greene had ruled that Sooty having a female friend "was to be allowed - but they must never touch".

Sooty with creator Harry Corbett

The documentary, Sooty Ungloved, will have its premiere in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, on Saturday, with profits from the screening going towards providing a defibrillator for the area, where Corbett and his family lived for 35 years.

The Sooty Show was cancelled by the BBC in 1967 and was later broadcast by ITV.