Features

TV Legends: Morecambe and Wise

morecambe-and-wise

Who were Morecambe and Wise?
A double act who were even funnier than Mike and Bernie Winters. Then again, so were Burke and Hare. Eric died in 1984, and Ernie passed away on March 21st, 1999.

What were their backgrounds?
Eric Bartholomew (Morecambe – the tall one with glasses) and Ernest Wiseman (Wise – the one with the short fat hairy legs) first appeared together in 1941. Their first TV series, Running Wild, was panned by the critics. One wrote: ‘How dare they put such mediocre talent on television!’

Wasn’t there an embarrassing story about the Beatles?
Funny you should ask that. The Fab Four were booked on the show in 1963 but the producer had so little faith in their future that he told an aide: ‘I know we’re recording six of these shows but we’d better get the one with the Beatles out early in case they don’t last!’

Didn’t Eric and Ern have a daft song in the 1960s?
Yup. It went Boom Oo Ya-Ta-Ta-Ta and involved Sid and Dick (their first scriptwriters Sid Green and Dick Hills).

What was the joke Eric was never allowed to finish?
About the two old men sat in deckchairs.

So what was the missing punchline?
One old man said: ‘It’s nice out today’. And the other one said: ‘Yes, I think I’ll leave mine out too.’ Well, it was daring for 1966.

Who were the most famous guests on their shows?
Andre Previn (or Andrew Preview as Eric called him), Eric Porter, Peter Cushing (who was always waiting to be paid), Diana Rigg, Shirley Bassey (resplendent in hiking boots) and Glenda Jackson who called it the highlight of her career. Few would disagree.

Who watched it?
Nearly everyone. 28 million tuned in for their 1977 Christmas show.

Eric, Ern and Des

Eric, Ern and Des

What were the running gags?
Des O’Connor’s singing ability (or lack of it), Luton Town Football Club (Eric was a director), Ern’s hair (‘you can’t see the join’), Ern’s plays (‘wot I wrote’), ‘Go and make the tea, Ern’ etc etc.

What was the worst thing about the show?
It boosted Des O’Connor’s career.

What was Eric’s favourite trick?
Putting his hand under Ern’s chin and saying, ‘Get out of that – you can’t, can you?’ We laughed at the time.

Anything odd about the show?
Eric and Ern were seen sharing a bed each week and nobody batted an eyelid.

Distant cousins?
Reeves and Mortimer. Vic is a big fan of Eric Morecambe’s.