We Interview Ann Hamilton
InterviewAnn Hamilton could be classed as the third person in the great double act of Morecambe & Wise. She played in so many sketches throughout the BBC years and was described by Eddie Braben as ‘Ann of a thousand sketches’. He went on to say if Ann wasn’t in a show he thought he was in the wrong studio. In August 2007 she agreed to give us the following interview.
How did you get started in show business?
I trained from a very early age – three - as a dancer, and went through all the usual aspects of dance - classical ballet, tap, modern, jazz etc. When I was sixteen I went to a dance stage school. At eighteen I figured I knew enough about dance and took a scholarship for acting. From then on it seemed sensible to combine what talents I had which took me into comedy, drama and musical theatre.
What was your first job?
Do you really want to know? I thought I was going to do cabaret in a hotel, but it turned out to be a working men’s club in Wombwell in the North of England and apart from the club all I remember are two slag heaps and horrendous digs. It was quite a rude awakening. I spent two days there over a weekend. It was a double booking so after the working men’s club I had to cross over the slag heaps and do a whole week at another club. That was my blooding!
And you still wanted to carry on after that?
Well yes, because my parents didn’t want me to do it. When you’re a teenager, all your parents have to say is “don’t do that dear” and that’s it – you have to do it. After the working men’s club I did a summer season in Guernsey and that was respectable.
Was that as a dancer?
No, I was booked as a soubrette which is a Jill of all trades who has to sing, dance, do her own spot and appear in comedy sketches.
Is that what you always wanted to do?
Well, when I was confirmed, around the age of eleven, the bishop asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said a musical, comedy star. Note the ‘star’ bit! When you are eleven, you always aim for the top don’t you.
How long did you continue with the clubs, on the circuit, until you met with Eric and Ern?
No more clubs - that was it. After the summer show I went to the famous Windmill Theatre in London and was the five hundredth Windmill girl employed there. Because I could dance I didn’t have to take my clothes off, which was rather gratifying.
Yes, it had quite a reputation didn’t it....
Well yes. But compared to what they do now it was nothing, absolutely nothing. It was quite risqué then because some of the girls posed on pedestals at the back of the stage, during the musical numbers, with just a headdress and a pair of high heels. Luckily if you could dance, you didn’t have to do that. I was there for eighteen months. Before my time there Eric and Ernie were sacked.
Yes, they lasted a week apparently…
That’s right. Better than some. Charlie Drake, Spike Milligan, Norman Wisdom, Roy Castle and Benny Hill were turned down at their auditions. Benny Hill was a great Windmill fan and used to send me fan letters.
What happened after the Windmill?
After that, I went off to do another summer show in Babbacombe, in Devon where the second comedian was a very thin young unknown called Roy Hudd. That was hard work – seven days a week and we even found time to do concerts in Dartmoor and Exeter Prisons. Ken Dodd who was appearing in Torquay came with us.
The year after that I went back to Torquay and worked with Jewell and Warriss at the Pavilion. Just down the road at the newly opened Princess Theatre, Eric and Ernie were fourth on the bill. Even Tommy Cooper didn’t get top billing. That is when I first met Morecambe and Wise when the casts from the two shows got together for late night parties.
It was when Eric and Ernie were in Torquay that they were offered a TV series and were a bit reluctant after their first unhappy series. Ben Warris advised them they needed a good director and good writers and suggested Syd and Dick and that’s how that relationship began. Funny that I was on the scene at the time.
What were your first impressions?
They were very funny people. But don’t forget I was working with Jewell and Warriss who had been big, big, big and Eric and Ernie were still on the way up. It was a party with lots of people there, so I didn’t get to know them that well. I didn’t even see their show because our shows were on at the same time.
© morecambeandwise.com 2007