We Interview: Sir Bill Cotton - Page 2
When you were later promoted again to Head of Light Entertainment, did that give you more freedom to work with shows that you wanted?
No, not really. I was mainly dealing with variety, but when Tom Sloan died Frank Muir became the Head of Comedy and I became the Head of Variety.
After that I became the Head of Light Entertainment, but still maintaining variety as part of my job.
Did you prefer main stream comedy or the newer style such as Monty Python?
I probably preferred the main stream comedy, more than variety style. Monty Python was done by the Head of Comedy department, although as Head of the group I did cover that show too. I was quite a fan of Monty Python style at all, but just preferred the more variety based humour.
How did you get Morecambe & Wise from ATV?
I used to watch them on ATV, the half-hour programme, and I thought they were very good. With their writers Hills and Green though, it looked like they were pretty much tied in.
One day I received a phone call from Michael Grade, who at the time was acting as their agent. I’d known Michael for a long time; his father was my father’s agent. He asked me if I would be interested in the Morecambe & Wise show, of course I said yes. I then asked why?
He said it was about money. I had a meeting with him and fixed a three year contract which included Hills and Green. That was one of the conditions stipulated by Eric and Ernie.
After the first series though, Hills and Green’s agent took me to lunch to discuss the second series. He told me that Sid and Dick would only do it if they were in control of the programme. They wanted full control, to be executive producers, make all the decisions and that kind of thing. I told him that was out of the question.
He told me that they had been offered another show by ATV in which they appear themselves. Subsequently they took it, but it was just a mini-Morecambe & Wise show.
Having said no to their agent then meant that I had nobody to write for Morecambe & Wise. At the time there was quite a lot of good writers about but they only wanted to contribute and not actually write it.
A week after that meeting I heard that Eddie Braben had left Ken Dodd. I phoned up Ken Dodd’s agent and asked him if he was also Eddie’s agent. He wasn’t but I finally got in touch with Eddie and asked him if he would like to write for Eric and Ern.
He said he didn’t think he could. That Morecambe & Wise’s style was not the same as his or that of Ken Dodd. Eventually though I managed to persuaded him to meet the boys, only though if I paid for the train fare down from Liverpool.
© morecambeandwise.com 2008