Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Knorr Corporate Film

Feature from 2012

Eric and Ern on set.

Ernie taking the cash

The hard sell
It was late 2011 and Michael Ingram was sorting through his loft when he came across an old VHS tape that grabbed his attention.

Michael had set up his own Sales Promotion and Marketing Agency in 1976 and amongst his remit was the creation of marketing films for various well known UK brands. The films were only ever meant to be shown at corporate conferences to emphasise a new product or to get an initiative across. They were not meant for public consumption.

The VHS tape now in his hands brought back a flood of memories as it contained what he believed to be the only remaining copy of a film he had made featuring Morecambe and Wise. “I had just set up”, recalls Michael, “and had been lucky enough to have been appointed by Mike Sommers at CPC UK (now Ingredion) – the then owners of brands such as Mazola, Gerber Baby Foods and Knorr Soups.”

“They were looking for a theme for the trade launch of an innovative ‘twin-pack’ range of Knorr packet soups for their up-and-coming national sales conference.”

Driving back from the meeting Michael found himself mulling the situation and going through possible themes he could come up to do with ‘twin-pack’. His mind drifted to that night’s television and one of his favourite shows, The Morecambe and Wise Show.

“That was it!” he says, “Two of a Kind, Morecambe and Wise, Knorr Twin-Pack. But could I get them and if I could would the CPC budget stretch enough to secure the top UK comedians?”

CPC agreed tentatively, and Michael set up a meeting with Eric and Ernie’s legendary agent, Billy Marsh. The day arrived and along with Mike Sommers, he was ushered into the great man’s flock wallpapered office.

“You couldn’t see much of the wallpaper though,” Michael remembers, “the walls were covered with hundreds of pictures of Billy Marsh shaking hands with every known Royal and celebrity of the day.”

The office was full of smoke; in those days there were no laws or health and safety, and Billy Marsh was smoking Dunhill Internationals at a furious rate. It was only a ten minute trade film they wanted but Billy still wanted the highest price for ‘his boys’.

“He launched into the usual routine,” Michael says, “how the boys are very popular, how they are very busy and all the time the room was getting full of this smoke. It was then we noticed the flames coming from his wastepaper basket on the floor. He must have used it for his discarded Dunhills, presumably still lit!”

“His secretary quickly arrived, opened the window and casually poured water over the flames. Turning to us she explained; ‘Oh, he does this all the time!’”

Once the office had become slightly less full of smoke, the meeting continued and Billy then tried another ruse to get more money.

“Seemingly on cue, the phone rang,” explains Michael, “Billy picked it up and went into the time honoured tactic of pretending to have a rival company bidding for the same thing. He said he had a higher bid from them – what an agent!”

Eventually they came to an agreement and secured Eric and Ernie to produce a ten minute corporate film on behalf of Knorr. The VHS contained this film, and now he had to find out who, if anyone, owned the copyright.

Michael traced the original company through several buy-outs, arriving finally at Unilever. By this time many months had passed and digging deeper into his loft he had uncovered a professional U-Matic version. This would, hopefully, be of a higher quality but it had been sitting in his loft for over 30 years.

Unilever offered to get the film transferred to a digital format and would provide Michael with a DVD. The legal situation was still under scrutiny, and was so for what seemed like months. All the time Michael was eager for the film to be seen by the public and had contacted us with a view to getting put on the website.

Finally, much to everyone’s relief, Unilever very kindly allowed the film to be used. “Mike and I are delighted,” he says, “that a much wider audience can finally enjoy these ten minutes of unseen Morecambe and Wise. A big thank you to Unilever, owners of the Knorr brand, for getting it transferred and allowing it to be seen.”

“The film is testament not to my writing skills but owes everything, every nuance, every use of props, every look to camera, to the remarkable skills of Morecambe and Wise. They gave as much effort and professionalism to this one-day shoot as they would a full television production.”

“Not everything,” Mike Sommers jokes, “The line ‘stick to making chocolates’ was mine. We didn’t like Cadbury getting into the soup market!”

A selection of photographs courtesy of Michael, can be found in our Gallery. We would like to thank everyone involved in getting this gem to the public. Michael Ingram, Mike Sommers, Sian Williams and the people at Unilever.

© 2012

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