What’s it like being married to a comedy man?
Ernie.... at first I didn't like him…
Ernie and Doreen
Mrs. Doreen Wise is pretty, with auburn hair and a figure that hallmarks her as an ex-dancer. Ernie married her a month alter the wedding of Joan and Eric Morecambe.
In recent weeks in order to be near Pinewood Studios where the comedy twosome were making The Magnificent Two, Ernie and Doreen lived in the same road as Bert Weedon and Jimmy Gould in an exclusive part of Harrow. At weekends they travelled to their other home in Peterborough.
They have no children, but a lovable Scottie called Boots stands high in their affection. And it was with Boots enjoying the flavour of my shoes that we sat in the front room of their Harrow home and Doreen told me how she came to meet Ernie.
They were working in Sangers Circus touring the South of England.
“Eric and Ernie were doing their act and there were four girls dancing in the show, including me." said Doreen.
“At first I thought he was a wolf and didn't like him, but he would set out on his bike to hunt out food for the circus -he was great at organising and catering and I guess a sort of cupboard love grew between us. He used to say ‘Do you think you could wash this shirt for me ?’' and some sweets would sail through the window.”
“Then, when I knew him better, I found that he wasn't a wolf, it was just that he liked people. He really would have been a marvellous social worker.”
“Anyway, he invited me to the cinema. I didn't enjoy it very much. It was an early Margaret Lockwood film and every now and again someone would dash on and say ‘There's trouble at the mine !’ So for the rest of the show, that became our pet phrase.”
“It was purely platonic though. He had another girl-friend he was always talking about and I had other boy-friends.”
“But all at once it wasn't platonic any more. He had just come back after entertaining the Americans in Germany for five weeks, and when I told him I was going to Canada to do a dancing act he seemed very annoyed that I was going."
She chuckled at the memory and ruffled the fur on Boots' back.
“We were engaged on St. Valentine's Day and married in January. We got married by special licence because it was a Sunday and that was the only day he wasn't working. My mother often reminds me of the letter I wrote her. It said: ‘We're coming home on Sunday. Plenty of food and water’."
Before they married. Ernie and Doreen would often walk down a certain street in Peterborough, look at the typical suburban houses, and he would turn to her and say ‘ Now when I get married I will take the woman I marry to a house like this and it will all be paid for.’ He insisted that he was not going to get married until he had a sound bank account.
But it didn't turn out that way. Recalled Doreen: "When he had £990 in the bank he drew it all out to buy a car and when we married we had to stay in my mother's back bedroom. What a honeymoon ! I spent the rest of that Sunday freezing to death in Sheffield and the next afternoon I was sitting in a theatre box watching the boys in a pantomime."
Like Joan Morecambe, Doreen never doubted that her husband would one day be famous.
“He's always been terribly ambitious," Doreen told me. "rather like a donkey with a carrot in front of his nose. The first time I realised how well-known they were, was when they did their first television show and the critics gave them a panning. Well, at least people seemed to know who was so bad !”
“He loves dabbling in shares," she went on. "In fact I think he really sees himself in Patrick Wymark's role in ‘The Power Game’ on television.”
“He's always worrying about investments for the future and he'll never throw old clothes away. And this is really the only thing I disagree with him about. I always think that you should live for the moment, the day, the week, because I've seen so many people who have scrimped and saved and put their money in the bank for their retirement, who have just about made it and then died."
I left her to get tea ready for her famous husband- a Wise man and nobody's fool.
© Photoplay 1967