Importance of being Ernie
On the television...This BBC documentary, part of the Forty Minutes series, was first shown in April 1993, ten years after his partner Eric passed away. Concentrating on Ernie, he talks frankly about his life before, during and after the forty plus years of Morecambe and Wise.
Although the three separate periods are contrasting and very different, they are mixed together seemingly at random, with clips and stories hurling the viewer from the 1930’s to 1993 with hardly any reason.
One minute Ern will be discussing how he felt when Eric died, and how the public reacted to him, the next we see him laughing with the cast of a new pantomime he is appearing in.
He looks back at the time before he and Eric met, touring with his father, who clearly meant a lot to him. He talks about how he was a great song and dance kid and how his career could have been so much different. Confessing that now, some ten years after Eric’s death, he is finally beginning to feel himself again as apposed to half of a double act.
Bill Cotton and Eddie Braben add comments and remarks, with Eddie talking about how he changed his role in the act, and giving him more of a character.
There are clips of classic material with Ernie stating he hates being called a stooge. Eddie backs him up explaining that Morecambe and Wise consisted of two comedians, and it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without this mixture.
Flipping into the present, we also follow Ernie as he prepares to appear in Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal Windsor. He discusses his work and how, from the age of six, he has kept busy despite the public branding the show as his ‘come back’. As he points out, he hasn’t actually been anywhere and has always been working, just not as much in the public eye as he had done previously.
At the age of 67 he was as spritely as ever, cracking jokes with the cast members, but making he point that he would never be part of a double act again. Instead he is happy to be performing, either doing theatre or interviews, or even moving behind the camera to try directing or producing.
His one regret is not making it big in America. He would have loved to have been in Hollywood and be a big star, famous the world over. Together with Eric, he did try, but it was not to be, and he is still ‘on his way to Hollywood’.
What would he be doing if Eric was still here? Probably not as much television. They would still be doing their Christmas show, but he admits that Eric was looking to move away, maybe into books, as none of them were getting any younger after all.
The show, despite the annoying era jumping, is good to watch, with Ernie not only narrating but also talking on camera about his life and work. There are sad moments, like any documentary, but it leaves us with a sense of would could have been.
It seems that Ernie himself was not pleased with the show, in a letter to a fan he wrote;
"The programme 'Forty Minutes' I didn't like. I fell out with the director. In the end it was just a put down".
© morecambeandwise.com 2008