Seventies Programme - part 2
Feature from 2009continued...
“We cornered a BBC producer in a bar at the Tivoli Theatre, Hull, and before we were through with him we had earned a spot in ‘Workers’ Playtime’.” said Ernie. Things really began to move for them after that. Before long the comics had their own radio series in the North called You’re Only Young Once, and this met with such success that they went on to do three more series.
Television was the next obvious medium. They did their first BBC TV show in 1953. Ronnie Waldman saw it, was impressed with their performance, and offered them a series of their own.
The series, called Running Wild was, in Eric and Ernie’s own words, a “disaster”. After the first show on April 21, 1954, it was given a “right slating” by the newspapers. One newspaper critic wrote... “The definition of a TV set – the box they buried Morecambe and Wise on.” And the late Gilbert Harding said that watching the show felt like “a snake transfixed by a rabbit”.
Looking back on it now Eric recalls: “We don’t think it was such a bad show. We were new boys to TV and we just did what we were told. There were five scriptwriters, as I recall, but we still hadn’t developed the style we use today.” Television was forgotten for a while as Eric and Ernie returned to the stage before going to Australia in 1958.
When they returned to Britain six months later they were fired with determination and began a determined campaign to get some television coverage. It did not meet with immediate success. There were one or two television appearances, but it was not until the spring of 1961 that they did their first ATV series – and this was to be the turning point.
The series topped TV popularity polls and went on to run for seven years. It was, of course, called The Morecambe and Wise Show and it brought them fame, not only in this country, but all over the world. As well as TV, Eric and Ernie moved into films. They completed three major colour comedies for the Rank Organisation – The Intelligence Men, That Riviera Touch and The Magnificent Two. They also pioneered TV shows in colour which were sold direct to the American TV networks.
Eric and Ernie switched channels to the BBC in 1968 and starred in the first colour series for British television on BBC2. Once again it was a tremendous success, so much so that they have now become a permanent fixture with BBC TV. Their latest series started at the beginning of the year.
The 30-year partnership of Morecambe and Wise is now at its zenith as they constantly gather praise for their television work and its high standards.
Both Eric and Ern are happily married. Eric met his wife Joan – an ex-beauty queen – in 1952 while she was a dancer in a show in Edinburgh. They now live in an elegant house in the country at Harpenden. They have two children, Gail and Gary.
Ernie, and his attractive wife, Doreen, live in a contemporary cottage-style home in Doreen’s home town of Peterborough and they also have a home in London.
View complete programme.
© Billy March 2009