Review from 2011
It was great to hear that finally, Ernie Wise would be getting his first real autobiography, and that the driving ambition behind it was to address the disparity between him and his fellow comedian, Eric Morecambe.
|Publisher||Sidgwick & Jackson|
|Buy||Go to AMAZON|
The book achieves this well, sometime pushing the point too often though, but the end result is the full, chronological story of Ernie’s life.
His early life in the slums of Leeds is the starting point, covering his early childhood, school days and of course his early introduction to show business by his Father Harry. The material includes many facts initially brought to the fore by our own work, with census dates and previous homes all covered and set in writing. Sadly there are a few inaccuracies which I suppose would creep into any biography, and in fact I have yet to read a book on Morecambe and Wise that does not contain errors.
From Ernie’s early life we move to the meeting with Eric, the radio days, television and the great failure that was Running Wild. On to the ATV days with Eric and Ernie finally getting the break and through to the glory days of the BBC. Much of the content in these sections were previously known or published, but at last we get them together in a complete time line. This makes the story more readable as each stage of Ernie’s career is unravelled.
Throughout the book we get glimpses of how other people saw Ernie from the likes of Glenda Jackson, Angela Rippon and Eddie Braben. Placed in context and in small doses, these do not detract from the narrative, instead adding to the points being raised within.
Doreen, Ernie’s widow, is of course covering her side of events giving an insight into the private life of her husband and his feelings at each stage. This has been done to a huge degree about Eric, but never about Ernie. Small snippets of details emerge that cast an often different light onto Ernie, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.
As the book progresses we come to the end of Morecambe and Wise with Eric’s sad death, but not the end of Ernie. For many, Ernie simply vanished and yet nothing was further from the truth. He was born to be on stage and this drive never left him. He worked at whatever he could; giving 100% to any project he was engaged with.
Inevitably we come to the end of his life and this is where the book becomes, strangely, more interesting. The events of his later life have never been uncovered or publicised and we get see at last how this great showman lived out the remainder of his life.
His part in Edwin Drood is covered along with other roles he played both on television and in the theatre. The way the press made outrageous comments and his sad decline of health, still managing to hold a smile and let slip a joke.
Despite the inaccuracies and sometimes over powerful ‘Ernie deserves more’, Little Ern
is a good read that finally brings it all together. Of course there are things that don’t get a mention, but it would be impossible to cover every single aspect of someone like Ernie anyway. I am not sure if it was just because my copy was a ‘review copy’ but the Americanisation sometimes grated, even on the cover, authorised is spelt with a z.
Fan or not, if you like biographies, this will not disappoint.
© morecambeandwise.com 2011